Patti Smith reveals how Bob Dylan made her lose her composure on stage

Smith says she has only experienced such blunders twice in her career

Clémence Michallon
New York
@Clemence_Mcl
Thursday 19 September 2019 22:33
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Patti Smith performs the 17th Annual A Great Night In Harlem at The Apollo Theater on 4 April, 2019 in New York City.
Patti Smith performs the 17th Annual A Great Night In Harlem at The Apollo Theater on 4 April, 2019 in New York City.

Patti Smith isn’t usually one to lose her composure on stage – in fact, she says it has only happened to her twice, each time in circumstances involving Bob Dylan.

Smith shared the anecdote while discussing her inclusion in Martin Scorsese’s documentary Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story, which chronicles Dylan’s Seventies tour of the same name, with Variety.

She said Dylan had asked her to come perform at a venue in New York City (she couldn’t recall with certainty, but it might have been Gerdes Folk City, the Greenwich Village haunt where many musicians including Dylan began their careers).

”All of a sudden there are all of these people there, and a lot of them are well known [Dylan, Ginsberg, Joan Baez, Robbie Robertson], and was asked to go up onstage and do something,” Smith said.

“Now, I don’t play anything — I don’t [really] play guitar and I had nothing prepared, so I just went up and took a breath and did what I did. And right in the middle of it I lost the thread of my improvisation – which I found again – and I went ‘Oh what a mess it is!’”

Smith said she’s “only seen [herself] do that twice” and mentioned that the other time was when she sang a Dylan song during the 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony.

Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature that year but famously didn’t pick up his award during the December event in Stockholm.

He eventually went to receive the award in April 2017.

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Smith, on the contrary, attended the 2016 ceremony, where she performed Dylan’s song “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”. About two minutes into the tune, she appeared unable to continue, pausing and telling the crowd: “I apologise. Sorry, I’m so nervous” before resuming her performance.

“I was like, ‘What is it about Bob?’” Smith told Variety. ”’It’s another fine mess he got me into!’”

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