Patti Smith appeared at Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden on Saturday, where she sang “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” off of his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.
Her rendition of the song was beautiful, made especially so when she accidentally repeated a line, apologized and asked to start the verse again. It was a deeply human moment from one of music’s most cherished icons, a woman seemingly untouched by the hardness and bitter cynicism that’s enveloped much of the country, especially lately.
“I’m sorry,” she said, smiling. “I apologize, I’m so nervous.” She began the song again, all the better for her fumble, and received a standing ovation.
Smith is no stranger to performance, though something tells me it’s not the formality of the venue that flustered her, but the enormous pressure of doing right by Dylan, who famously opted not to attend. She begins at the 1:03 mark.
As she told Rolling Stone:
“I had planned to perform one of my own songs with the orchestra,” Smith told Rolling Stone. “But after Bob Dylan was announced as the winner and he accepted it, it seemed appropriate to set my own song aside and choose one of his. I chose ‘A Hard Rain’ because it is one of his most beautiful songs. It combines his Rimbaudian mastery of language with a deep understanding of the causes of suffering and ultimately human resilience.
“I have been following him since I was a teenager, half a century to be exact,” Smith added. “His influence has been broad and I owe him a great debt for that. I had not anticipated singing a Bob Dylan song on December 10th, but I am very proud to be doing so and will approach the task with a sense of gratitude for having him as our distant, but present, cultural shepherd.”
Patti Smith is a national treasure. We’re lucky to have her.