On Saturday, December 10, 2016, the extraordinary Patti Smith accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature on behalf of Bob Dylan in Stockholm, Sweden. In a transcendent performance, Smith was overwhelmed with emotion when she stopped mid-performance only to begin again and drive home her powerful rendition of Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” to a stunned audience. Today we celebrate the artistry of Smith and the profound impact she has had on modern music, as 41 years ago this week, the groundbreaking album Horses was released.
The Nobel Prize Committee said about their decision to honor Dylan that his poetry had “changed our idea of what poetry can be.” Indeed, this writer believes that the same could be said of Smith. A blend of punk and beat poetry with rock and roll structures, Smith’s first studio album was a revelation of how poetry could be infused with a hard driving rock sensibility that defied boundaries and rules. Her artistry awakened a generation to the possibility of new meaning in pop culture.
Influenced by, and friends with Bob Dylan, she took rock and roll to heights that made her audience both think and feel at the same time; much in the same way Dylan’s poetry hit us within the folk music figures he utilized to shake our senses.
Smith’s beautiful rendition of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” can be viewed here.
And the brilliant text of Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech can be found here.