Belfast Telegraph

Patti Smith comes to terms with 'humiliating failure' of Nobel Prize performance

The other Nobel Prize ceremony attendees felt her imperfect performance represented their own struggles.

Rocker Patti Smith has opened up about the "humiliating sting of failure" she felt after botching her Bob Dylan tribute at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden on Saturday (10Dec16).

Dylan was named the recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature in October (16), but decided against attending the ceremony in Stockholm over the weekend.

Patti, who had been booked to perform one of her own tracks at the event, had a change of mind after learning she would be honouring Dylan, and settled on a rendition of his tune A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall instead.

But despite the fact she had been singing the song since her youth, and after weeks of rehearsals, Patti stumbled over the lyrics throughout her performance, and ended up apologising to the audience of dignitaries and members of the Swedish royal family for her nerves as she restarted the track.

Patti has since shared her thoughts about her embarrassment in a candid article for The New Yorker, in which she reveals her nerves started to get the better of her the moment she hit the stage, despite "a perfect rehearsal".

"The opening chords of the song were introduced, and I heard myself singing," she recalled. "The first verse was passable, a bit shaky, but I was certain I would settle. But instead I was struck with a plethora of emotions, avalanching with such intensity that I was unable to negotiate them.

"From the corner of my eye, I could see the the huge boom stand of the television camera, and all the dignitaries upon the stage and the people beyond. Unaccustomed to such an overwhelming case of nerves, I was unable to continue. I hadn't forgotten the words that were now a part of me. I was simply unable to draw them out."

Patti recognised the irony of the lyrics she had been singing, noting, "It was not lost on me that the narrative of the song begins with the words 'I stumbled alongside of 12 misty mountains,' and ends with the line 'And I'll know my song well before I start singing'."

But living the lyrics did little to ease the "humiliating sting of failure" she experienced after the performance, and it wasn't until the following day that the other Nobel Prize attendees helped her realise her set wasn't that bad.

"They showed appreciation for my very public struggle," she continued. "They told me I did a good job... (They said), 'For us, your performance seemed a metaphor for our own struggles'. Words of kindness continued through the day, and in the end I had to come to terms with the truer nature of my duty: Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform? It is above all for the entertainment and transformation of the people. It is all for them. The song asked for nothing. The creator of the song asked for nothing. So why should I ask for anything?"

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