Patti Smith Covers Bob Dylan’s ‘Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ at Nobel Ceremony

Patti Smith delivered an emotional rendition of Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden Saturday. Watch the performance starting at the 1:03:00 mark in the video here.

Smith sang The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan classic from the Nobel lectern, where she was backed by acoustic guitar, a pedal steel guitar and orchestra.

Midway through the song, Smith repeated a lyric, forcing her to briefly pause and recompose before resuming with the rendition at the start of that section. "I'm sorry. I apologize, I'm so nervous," Smith told the audience, who applauded Smith's honesty.

Smith's rendition followed the Swedish Academy's Nobel presentation speech where they said Dylan "changed our idea of what poetry can be."

With Dylan not in attendance for the Nobel ceremony, on Monday it was announced that Smith would perform "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" during the Nobel Prize in Literature portion of the gala.

"I had planned to perform one of my own songs with the orchestra," Smith told Rolling Stone. "But after Bob Dylan was announced as the winner and he accepted it, it seemed appropriate to set my own song aside and choose one of his. I chose 'A Hard Rain' because it is one of his most beautiful songs. It combines his Rimbaudian mastery of language with a deep understanding of the causes of suffering and ultimately human resilience.

"I have been following him since I was a teenager, half a century to be exact," Smith added. "His influence has been broad and I owe him a great debt for that. I had not anticipated singing a Bob Dylan song on December 10th, but I am very proud to be doing so and will approach the task with a sense of gratitude for having him as our distant, but present, cultural shepherd."

Related Content:

Nobel Committee: Bob Dylan ‘Changed Our Idea of What Poetry Can Be’

Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature at a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden Saturday, where the Swedish Academy's Horace Engdahl explained in the presentation speech why the legendary singer-songwriter was given an award usually reserved for authors, poets and playwrights.

In the speech, Engdahl said Dylan "dedicated himself body and soul to 20th century American popular music, the kind played on radio stations and gramophone records for ordinary people, white and black: protest songs, country, blues, early rock, gospel, mainstream music."

"Recognizing that revolution by awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize was a decision that seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious. But does he get the prize for upsetting the system of literature? Not really," Engdahl said. "There is a simpler explanation, one that we share with all those who stand with beating hearts in front of the stage at one of the venues on his never-ending tour, waiting for that magical voice."

The Swedish Academy concluded their speech by taking note of the critics who opposed Dylan's Nobel Prize win. 

"By means of his oeuvre, Bob Dylan has changed our idea of what poetry can be and how it can work," Engdahl said. "If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don't write, they dance and they sing."

Following the speech, Patti Smith performed Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."

Read the Nobel committee's award presentation speech for Dylan below:

What brings about the great shifts in the world of literature? Often it is when someone seizes upon a simple, overlooked form, discounted as art in the higher sense, and makes it mutate. Thus, at one point, emerged the modern novel from anecdote and letter, thus arose drama in a new age from high jinx on planks placed on barrels in a marketplace, thus songs in the vernacular dethroned learned Latin poetry, thus too did La Fontaine take animal fables and Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales from the nursery to Parnassian heights. Each time this occurs, our idea of literature changes.

In itself, it ought not to be a sensation that a singer/songwriter now stands recipient of the literary Nobel Prize. In a distant past, all poetry was sung or tunefully recited, poets were rhapsodes, bards, troubadours; 'lyrics' comes from 'lyre'. But what Bob Dylan did was not to return to the Greeks or the Provençals. Instead, he dedicated himself body and soul to 20th century American popular music, the kind played on radio stations and gramophone records for ordinary people, white and black: protest songs, country, blues, early rock, gospel, mainstream music. He listened day and night, testing the stuff on his instruments, trying to learn. But when he started to write similar songs, they came out differently. In his hands, the material changed. From what he discovered in heirloom and scrap, in banal rhyme and quick wit, in curses and pious prayers, sweet nothings and crude jokes, he panned poetry gold, whether on purpose or by accident is irrelevant; all creativity begins in imitation.

Even after fifty years of uninterrupted exposure, we are yet to absorb music's equivalent of the fable's Flying Dutchman. He makes good rhymes, said a critic, explaining greatness. And it is true. His rhyming is an alchemical substance that dissolves contexts to create new ones, scarcely containable by the human brain. It was a shock. With the public expecting poppy folk songs, there stood a young man with a guitar, fusing the languages of the street and the bible into a compound that would have made the end of the world seem a superfluous replay. At the same time, he sang of love with a power of conviction everyone wants to own. All of a sudden, much of the bookish poetry in our world felt aenemic, and the routine song lyrics his colleagues continued to write were like old-fashioned gunpowder following the invention of dynamite. Soon, people stopped comparing him to Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams and turned instead to Blake, Rimbaud, Whitman, Shakespeare.

In the most unlikely setting of all - the commercial gramophone record - he gave back to the language of poetry its elevated style, lost since the Romantics. Not to sing of eternities, but to speak of what was happening around us. As if the oracle of Delphi were reading the evening news.

Recognizing that revolution by awarding Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize was a decision that seemed daring only beforehand and already seems obvious. But does he get the prize for upsetting the system of literature? Not really. There is a simpler explanation, one that we share with all those who stand with beating hearts in front of the stage at one of the venues on his never-ending tour, waiting for that magical voice. Chamfort made the observation that when a master such as La Fontaine appears, the hierarchy of genres - the estimation of what is great and small, high and low in literature - is nullified. “What matter the rank of a work when its beauty is of the highest rank?" he wrote. That is the straight answer to the question of how Bob Dylan belongs in literature: as the beauty of his songs is of the highest rank.

By means of his oeuvre, Bob Dylan has changed our idea of what poetry can be and how it can work. He is a singer worthy of a place beside the Greeks' ἀοιδόι, beside Ovid, beside the Romantic visionaries, beside the kings and queens of the Blues, beside the forgotten masters of brilliant standards. If people in the literary world groan, one must remind them that the gods don't write, they dance and they sing. The good wishes of the Swedish Academy follow Mr. Dylan on his way to coming bandstands.



Related Content:

Isaac Hayes’ Remastered Stax Catalog Digitally Released

Twelve of soul legend Isaac Hayes' most iconic albums, spanning his work with Stax Records from 1969 to 1976, were remastered entirely from the original analog tapes and reissued on iTunes Friday.

Among the albums now available in 192/24 and 96/24 high resolution audio formats are Hayes' landmark 1969 LP Hot Buttered Soul, its 1971 follow-up The Issac Hayes Movement, his 1971 epic Black Moses and his legendary Shaft soundtrack.

The remastering was overseen by engineer Dave Cooley, who attempted to recapture the analog tapes' sound for the Mastered for iTunes editions.

"Every effort was undertaken to retain both the original production team's intent, and the most natural and truthful spatial imaging of Isaac's voice and instrumentation." Cooley said in a statement.

"For the first time you can plainly hear details as small as the subtle coloration variations between the original studio setups and tape formulations from album to album. There's renewed resolution around instruments. But you can also dive into the zoned-out atmospherics, and listen comfortably for hours as an entire body of work."

In addition to the newly remastered digital albums, 2017 will see the reissue of Hayes' catalog on 180-gram vinyl as well as a retrospective box set. Details of those releases will be announced in early 2017.

Issac Hayes' remastered digital albums:

Hot Buttered Soul, 1969
The Isaac Hayes Movement, 1970
...To Be Continued, 1970
Black Moses, 1971
Shaft (Music From The Soundtrack), 1971
Joy, 1973
Live At The Sahara Tahoe, 1973
Truck Turner (Original Soundtrack), 1974
Tough Guys (Original Soundtrack), 1974
Chocolate Chip, 1975
Groove-A-Thon, 1976
Juicy Fruit (Disco Freak), 1976

Related Content: