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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Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith’s List of Favorite Books: Camus, Shake­speare, Woolf, Wilde & More

Pat­ti Smith’s Cov­er of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spir­it” Strips the Song Down to its Heart

Watch Pat­ti Smith Read from Vir­ginia Woolf, and Hear the Only Sur­viv­ing Record­ing of Woolf’s Voice

Pat­ti Smith Reads Her Final Words to Robert Map­plethor­pe

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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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