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Because The Night - why Patti Smith fluffed Bob Dylan's lyrics

Patti Smith has said she stumbled over the lyrics of Bob Dylan's A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall because she was overwhelmed with nerves by the enormity of the Nobel Prize ceremony, not because she forgot the words to the song.

In an essay published by the New Yorker, Smith said that after loving the song since she was a teenager and rehearsing it incessantly in the months and days leading up to the ceremony, its lyrics "were now a part of me".

"I hadn't forgotten the words that were now a part of me," she wrote. "I was simply unable to draw them out."

The singer-songwriter said she had chosen one of her own songs when she was invited in September to perform at the Nobel ceremony in honour of eventual literature laureate Dylan. But when he was announced as the recipient, she chose one of her long-time favourites from his catalogue.

Smith writes that on the morning of the ceremony "I thought of my mother, who bought me my first Dylan album when I was barely 16.

"It occurred to me then that, although I did not live in the time of Arthur Rimbaud, I existed in the time of Bob Dylan. I also thought of my husband and remembered performing the song together, picturing his hands forming the chords."

Smith suddenly stopped singing during her performance at Stockholm's Concert Hall on December 10 and asked the orchestra to begin again. "I apologise. I'm sorry, I'm so nervous," Smith said at the time.

In her candid, poetic piece published on Wednesday, she said guests at the ceremony received her kindly and told her that her performance "seemed a metaphor for our own struggles". She says the experience made her "come to terms with the truer nature of my duty".

"Why do we commit our work? Why do we perform?" she writes. "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?"

AP

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