Music by VICE

Watch Patti Smith's Stunning Performance from Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize Ceremony

Smith stumbled over the words to "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" in Dylan's absence. But that's not what's important here.

by Alex Robert Ross
Dec 10 2016, 7:11pm

Bob Dylan wasn't at the Stockholm Concert Hall to accept his Nobel Prize in Literature today. He's been toying with the Nobel Committee since the day they announced his award back in October, first suggesting that the committee simply hadn't called him despite having his phone number, and later saying outright that he'd be "busy" during the event.

In his stead, Patti Smith was in the Swedish capital today to perform Dylan's Freewheelin' classic "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall." Smith stumbled over the lyrics, repeated a line, and then asked to repeat the verse, explaining that she was "very nervous," prompting applause from the audience.

That isn't the priority in what was a stunning performance, though. Smith inflected her voice with Dylan's twang, bringing out the common poetic lyricism that the two share. She performed a song that feels more important now than ever, written from a point of cultural crisis in 1963, addressing racial inequality, misinformation, and the eventual destruction that those things bring. 

The orchestra rises around the slide guitar as the song begins to crescendo while Smith's voice remains a trembling force, both fearsome and fearful. Her performance was everything that makes Patti Smith a wonder and everything that makes Bob Dylan one of our greatest poets.

Watch the performance below.

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Bob Dylan
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Nobel Prize in Literature
a hard rain's a-gonna fall
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