Patti Smith performed an emotional rendition of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” at the 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony, honoring the 75-year-old singer-songwriter and award recipient, who was unable to attend.
During the prestigious event, held Saturday at the Stockholm Concert Hall, Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In his absence, Smith took the stage to sing Dylan’s 1963 ballad to represent the artist’s decades of music, which you can see below.
Several lines into the song’s second verse, though, Smith stopped performing after forgetting some of the song’s lyrics, holding her hands to her head before asking to start over. “I apologize,” she said. “I’m sorry, I’m so nervous.” The audience supported her efforts, encouraging the 69-year-old with a rousing round of applause.
Prior to the performance, literary historian and Swedish Academy member Horace Engdahl delivered a speech chronicling the decision behind awarding Dylan the literature prize. Noting literature and music’s close ties, through the early beginnings of poetry and spoken fables, Engdahl stated: “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.”
On Dylan specifically: “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 anemic, and the routine song lyrics his colleagues continued to write were like old-fashioned gunpowder following the invention of dynamite.”
A speech written by Dylan is set to be read during the banquet ceremony after the prize awarding.