Patti Smith states when she stumbled over the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song during the Nobel Prize ceremony last week, it had been because she had been overwhelmed with nerves by the enormity of this encounter, not since she forgot the words to A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
Smith writes in an essay published Wednesday by the New Yorker that after enjoying the song since she was a teen and rehearsing it in the days and months leading up to the service, its lyrics “were now a part of me.”
“I hadn’t forgotten the words that were now part of me,” she writes. “I was simply unable to pull out them.”
The singer-songwriter explains that she had picked one of her songs when she was invited to perform in honor of this literature laureate at the Nobel ceremony. However, when Dylan was announced as the recipient, she chose one of her favorites.
Smith writes that on the afternoon of the service, “I thought of my mother, who bought me my first Dylan album once I was barely sixteen.”
“It happened to me then that, though I didn’t reside in the time of Arthur Rimbaud, I was in the time of Bob Dylan,” Smith writes. “I also thought of my husband remembered performing the song together, imagining his palms forming the chords.”
Smith abruptly stopped singing during her operation at Stockholm’s Concert Hall on Dec. 10 and requested the orchestra to start again. “I apologize. I’m sorry, I am so nervous,” Smith said at the time.
In her candid, poetic piece published Wednesday, she says guests at the ceremony received her kindly and informed her that her operation “seemed a metaphor for their struggles.” She says the experience made her “come to terms with all the truer nature of my duty.”
“Why do we commit our job? Why do we work?” She writes. “It’s above all for the entertainment and transformation of these people. It is all for them. Nothing was asked for by the tune. Nothing was requested for by the inventor of the song. So why should I ask for anything?”