Patti Smith on singing at Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize ceremony

She asks, "Was I qualified for this task?"

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Patti Smith has written about her experiences of singing Bob Dylan‘s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony.

Dylan had previously confirmed he wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony – held in Stockholm, Sweden on December 10 – due to other commitments.

Dylan’s acceptance speech was read aloud by United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji, while Smith sang Dylan’s 1962 song accompanied by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra orchestrated by Hans Ek.


Smith has now written about the experience in a piece for The New Yorker – a performance which she describes as “a last important duty for 2016”. Smith reveals she was approached to perform at the ceremony in September – a month before Dylan was announces as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“But when it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the prize and accepted, it seemed no longer fitting for me to sing my own song,” she writes. “I found myself in an unanticipated situation, and had conflicting emotions. In his absence, was I qualified for this task? Would this displease Bob Dylan, whom I would never desire to displease? But, having committed myself and weighing everything, I chose to sing ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’, a song I have loved since I was a teen-ager, and a favorite of my late husband.

As the performance took place, Smith recalls, “I thought of my mother, who bought me my first Dylan album when I was barely sixteen. She found it in the bargain bin at the five-and-dime and bought it with her tip money. ‘He looked like someone you’d like,’ she told me. I played the record over and over, my favorite being ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’. It occurred to me then that, although I did not live in the time of Arthur Rimbaud, I existed in the time of Bob Dylan. I also thought of my husband and remembered performing the song together, picturing his hands forming the chords.”

You can read the complete piece on The New Yorker’s website, by clicking here.

The January 2017 issue of Uncut is now on sale in the UK – featuring our cover story on the Rolling Stones, plus a free CD of the year’s best music featuring Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Wilco, Bon Iver, Angel Olsen, Margo Price, Teenage Fanclub and more. Elsewhere in the issue, there’s Uncut’s review of 2016 – the 75 Best Albums and 30 Best Reissues alongside our films and books of the year. Plus Gillian Welch, Drive-By Truckers, Phil Collins, Ryley Walker, Chuck Berry, Neil Young, Kate Bush, Frank Zappa, 75 Dollar Bill, Dave Mason and more plus 108 reviews


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