Patti Smith on Bob Dylan Nobel Prize performance: “I felt the humiliating sting of failure”

Smith performed 'A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall' at the prize ceremony

Patti Smith has spoken of her Nobel Prize Award Ceremony appearance, which saw her perform Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’.

Bob Dylan received the Nobel Prize for Literature last week (December 10). He was announced as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature in October, but appeared to be unwilling to publicly acknowledge the prize for over two weeks. He deleted a mention of the prize on his website, but later told the Telegraph it was “an amazing [and] incredible” honour and he would attend the ceremony “if at all possible”. However, he later confirmed he wouldn’t attend due to other commitments.

Taking place in Stockholm, Patti Smith performed at the Nobel Prize Award ceremony, performing Dylan’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ on his behalf. The performance saw Smith stop the orchestra as she forgot the lyrics.

Bob Dylan Nobel Prize acceptance speechGetty

Appearing in the New Yorker, Smith wrote of her experience: “After a moving speech dedicated to him was read, I heard my name spoken and I rose. As if in a fairy tale, I stood before the Swedish King and Queen and some of the great minds of the world, armed with a song in which every line encoded the experience and resilience of the poet who penned them.”

She continues; “The opening chords of the song were introduced, and I heard myself singing. The first verse was passable, a bit shaky, but I was certain I would settle. But instead I was struck with a plethora of emotions, avalanching with such intensity that I was unable to negotiate them. From the corner of my eye, I could see the the huge boom stand of the television camera, and all the dignitaries upon the stage and the people beyond. Unaccustomed to such an overwhelming case of nerves, I was unable to continue. I hadn’t forgotten the words that were now a part of me. I was simply unable to draw them out.”

She goes on to write; “As I took my seat, I felt the humiliating sting of failure, but also the strange realization that I had somehow entered and truly lived the world of the lyrics.”


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