Patti Smith Sings Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rains Gonna Fall” at Nobel Prize Ceremony & Gets a Case of the Nerves

Bob Dylan didn’t make the trip to Stockholm to accept his Nobel Prize in Literature. Instead, Patti Smith went on his behalf and performed a cover of his 1963 classic, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.” And midway through a beautiful performance, she simply forgot the words, paused, and said, “I apologize. I’m sorry, I’m so nervous,” and asked to start the section of the song again. Which she did.

The lyrics for “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” are difficult, by no means easy to remember. Add a case of nerves (which can beset even the most experienced musician) and you have the makings for a very human moment. Watch the video the whole way through. It’s touching on many levels.

You can read the text of Bob Dylan’s acceptance speech, presented by the US Ambassador to Sweden, here. And if you’re wondering why Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in the first place, you can pick up his handsome, new book, The Lyrics: 1961-2012.

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Comments (20)
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  • Carmel Finnan says:

    Human, beautiful and so touching – the whole performance!

  • Ligia Zissu says:

    About human dignity ….so necessary nowadays. Wonderful !

  • Melissa says:

    What a stupid headline, emphasizing Patti’s pause. Superficial sensationalism. A beautiful performance. Meaningful on so many levels. Patti Smith is brilliant covering Dylan’s genius to an audience of laureates, royalty & prestige – much of the establishment Dylan critiqued & called out. I cried watching, listening, seeing & understanding very little has changed.

  • Clarice says:

    Patti Smith / Bob Dylan.

  • B Rei says:

    ith a tear, and a lump in my throat, I thank Patti Smith for a powerful, poignant rendition. Positively beautiful.

  • Ducklady says:

    How I wish these words of my youth were not so timely today.

  • rafe says:

    In tears over here

  • SimplyFred says:

    A Nobel Prize in Literature for Bob Dylan! What’s next? A Nobel Peace Prize for Phil Spector?

  • sally nakamoto says:

    For those who questioned a singer/songwriter winning a nobel prize for literature, don’t know great literature.

  • Kimberly Treger says:

    Patti Smith, Bob Dylan. All I needed was Arthur Rimbaud to return from the grave for The Holy Trinity.

  • Jim says:

    I agree with Melissa. Beautiful performance by a human being who brought out some beautiful nuances. Beautiful guitar and orchestral accompaniment.

  • Judy Rattner says:

    Patti did not do Patti
    She respectfully say (wonderful) Dylan song
    Loved you both

  • Julie Mills says:

    What a darling you are Patty. Very fitting song for the current time. What a hard yet beautiful struggle life can sometimes be. Thank you for representing our wonderful poet, Bob Dylan. Superb!!! I am in tears
    Gratefully yours
    Julie Miller

  • Rose says:

    Absolutely beautiful….. can’t get it out of my head…

  • Anne says:

    Dylan’s speech is lovely

  • Martha Reis-Richter says:

    What a luminous, transcendent performance by Patti Smith – of an apocalyptic wail which we, the listeners, heard newly in this, no ordinary time.

  • JimPritchard says:

    A truly moving performance, have played it over several times. Very nice guitar playing as the accompaniment. Also lovely pedal steel. (Who was the pedal steel player, does anyone know ?)

  • Rafe says:

    Moved to tears. Too damned timely. The times they were a changin’ and now we’re back to where we started. Yes, the pedal steel was a beautiful touch.

  • John West says:

    I’ve never before heard a song get flubbed so very, very well. It showcased both honest human imperfection and musical mastery, a true tour de force. Her performance added to the depth and meaning of one of the deepest, most meaningful songs ever written, and actually brought me to tears. As far as I’m concerned this will forever be the definitive version of “A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.” A mistake that achieved perfection.

  • TONI HENDRIX says:

    I want to say Greg Leisz, and apologies to the extremely talent player if not. Gre up with pedal steel, so perfectly in place here.

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