Patti Smith Performed A Hard Rain's A Gonna Fall as Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech

Posted on December 10, 2016

1500 guests wearing black tie attended the ceremony at the Stockholm Concert Hall in Stockholm, Sweden to preset the 2016 Nobel Prizes. The Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to singer songwriter Bob Dylan, who did not attend. Patti Smith accepted the award on behalf of Dylan.

Patti Smith performed Dylan's song "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" accompanied by a guitarist at first and later by the full orchestra. Patti had a bit of a stumble and forgot the words of the second verse. She stopped singing and apologized profusely. She explained that she was "just so nervous" and asked if she could start that section again. The crowd applauded her and she began to sing again. She stumbled another time, but was able to finish the heartfelt performance with no other problems. The crowd was clearly moved, some to tears.

You can watch the video of the entire Nobel ceremony here. The Academy's speech about Dylan and his work begins at 55:40: the entire audience gave Dylan a standing ovation, which was a bit of a surprise. Patti Smith begins to sing at 1:02.

Dylan wrote an acceptance speech which was read at the banquet by United States Ambassador to Sweden Azita Raji. In the speech, Dylan expressed his honor and surprise at receiving the prestigious award, noting that "If someone had ever told me that I had the slightest chance of winning the Nobel Prize, I would have to think that I'd have about the same odds as standing on the moon."

He discussed his favorite writers, including Shakespeare, and pondered the nature of literature. He said, "I began to think about William Shakespeare, the great literary figure. I would reckon he thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn't have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I'm sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: "Who're the right actors for these roles?" "How should this be staged?" "Do I really want to set this in Denmark?" His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. "Is the financing in place?" "Are there enough good seats for my patrons?" "Where am I going to get a human skull?" I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare's mind was the question "Is this literature?"

It was a thoughtful, humorous and introspective speech that raised some interesting issues and showed his deep appreciation for the honor awarded to him. You can read his speech in its entirety here.

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