Patti Smith to Perform at Nobel in Place of Dylan

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Bob Dylan and Patti Smith in an undated photo from Smith's Facebook page

Bob Dylan and Patti Smith in an undated photo from Smith’s Facebook page

Update (Dec. 5): Since Dylan can’t find the time to pick up his Nobel Prize in Literature, the committee that hands out the prizes went ahead and got someone who was tremendously influenced by him instead: Patti Smith. The punk poet revealed on her Facebook page that she was actually asked to perform at the ceremony before the announcement was made that Dylan would receive this year’s prize. She plans to sing Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the event.

Here’s Smith’s complete statement:

“In September while attending the opening of my photographic exhibition at the Stockholm House of Culture, I was approached by a member of the Nobel Committee to sing at the ceremony.

At that time the laureates were not announced and I had planned to perform one of my own songs with the orchestra. But after Bob Dylan was announced as the winner and he accepted, 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. 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 10, 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.”


Watch a 1995 performance of Dylan and Smith…

And here is our original news item on Dylan’s skipping the ceremony…
If you’ve been following the seesawing story of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize in Literature win—first he didn’t acknowledge the honor for a couple of weeks, then he sort of did, then he ignored it again, then he finally said he was honored—you might have thought this story was a done deal. Well, guess what? The saga continues.

When we last left off, Dylan had finally thanked the Nobel committee and noted that he would try to make it to Sweden to pick up his prize on Dec. 10. It now appears he has something better to do: Dylan has informed the Swedish Academy—who hands out the prize—that he has a previous commitment and won’t be in Stockholm to receive the award.

According to an article syndicated by the Associated Press, “The Swedish Academy said Wednesday that Dylan told them ‘he wishes he could receive the prize personally, but other commitments make it unfortunately impossible.’”

Related: When we last heard from Dylan on the Nobel, he was thrilled to receive it

As for what could possibly be more important than accepting Nobel Prize—Does he have a gig in Idaho? Does he need to get his dog groomed that day?—Dylan didn’t say.

The AP article offered more details about the award, writing, “The 75-year-old American singer-songwriter was awarded the prize on Oct. 13 ‘for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.’”

But AP had no information on why Dylan was staying away from Sweden on that day: “Details about who would accept the award on Dylan’s behalf were unclear—more information on that was expected Friday.”

Permanent Secretary Sara Danius told the Swedish news agency TT the academy received “a personal letter” from Dylan and that he “underlined that he feels extremely honored by the Nobel Prize,” the AP reported.

The Academy said it “respects Bob Dylan’s decision,” adding that not traveling to the Swedish capital to personally pick up the prestigious award was “unusual, but not exceptional. The award is still theirs, as it now belongs to Bob Dylan,” the Academy said. “We are looking forward to Bob Dylan’s Nobel lecture, which he must hold, according to the requirements, within six months” from Dec. 10.

We hope the Academy isn’t holding its breath waiting for that lecture.

Watch Dylan play guitar for the first time in four years…

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