Patti Smith states when she stumbled across the lyrics of a Bob Dylan song during the Nobel Prize ceremony last week, it had been because she had been overwhelmed with nerves from the enormity of the encounter, not because she forgot the words to A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall.
Smith writes in a article published Wednesday by the New Yorker that after enjoying the song because she was a teen and rehearsing it incessantly in the days and months leading up to the ceremony, its lyrics “were now a part of me.”
“I had not forgotten the words which were now a part of me,” she writes. “I was simply not able to draw them out.”
The singer-songwriter explains that she’d picked one of her own songs when she was invited in September to play at the Nobel ceremony in honour of their eventual literature laureate. But when Dylan was declared as the receiver, she picked one of her longtime favorites from his catalogue.
Smith writes that on the afternoon of the ceremony, “I thought of my mom, who bought me my first Dylan record when I was barely sixteen.”
“It happened to me then , although I didn’t reside at the time of Arthur Rimbaud, I existed in the time of Bob Dylan,” Smith writes. “I also thought of my husband remembered performing the song together, picturing his hands forming the chords.”
Smith suddenly stopped singing during her performance at Stockholm’s Concert Hall on Dec. 10 and asked the orchestra to start again. “I apologize. I am sorry, I am so nervous,” Smith said at the moment.
In her candid, poetic piece published Wednesday, she says guests at the ceremony received her and advised her that her operation “appeared a metaphor for our own struggles.” She says that the experience made her “come to terms with all the truer nature of my duty.”
“Why can we commit our job? Why do we perform?” She writes. “It’s above all for the entertainment and transformation of the folks. It is all for them. The tune requested for nothing. The inventor of the song requested for nothing. So why should I ask for anything?”