Patti Smith sang “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall” in Bob Dylan’s place at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm

Patti Smith steps into Dylan’s shoes.
Patti Smith steps into Dylan’s shoes.
Image: Reuters/Erik Refner/Scanpix Denmark
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Nobel laureates gathered on a stage in Stockholm today to receive their awards, but one of this year’s winners was notably missing from the award ceremony: Bob Dylan.

The American singer-songwriter has been mostly silent since the Nobel Committee surprised many in making him one of the first musicians to win the prize for literature. He did not respond to the award for some days, and then said he had “pre-existing commitments” and wouldn’t attend the award ceremony.

An acceptance speech he wrote will be read out at the Nobel banquet this evening, and during the awards ceremony today the singer Patti Smith performed Dylan’s song ‘A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall’ in his place. (Performance starts at 1 hour 3 minutes.)

At one point during the performance Smith briefly paused the song, apologized and explained that she was nervous. Still, it was a flawless performance of the foreboding protest song, that Dylan reportedly wrote in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Dylan was awarded the prize for “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Earlier today in Oslo, the Peace Prize was presented to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos for his efforts to end the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war. The prize was awarded to the president alone but should be considered a a tribute to the people of Colombia, the committee said. Last week, the government approved a revised peace deal with the FARC rebel group.

During the ceremony, Santos gave his Nobel lecture and made a small tribute to Dylan, quoting from “Blowin’ in The Wind.” He said:

Historians estimate that up to 187 million people died during the 20th century alone because of war. 187 million, each one of them a precious human life, loved by their families and dear ones. Tragically, the death toll keeps climbing in this new century.

“How many deaths will it take ’till he knows that too many people have died? The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.”

The other Nobel prizes this year went to Yoshinori Ohsumi in medicine for his research on how cells recycle their own parts; David Thouless, Duncan Haldane and Michael Kosterlitz in physics for transforming our understanding of matter; Fraser Stoddart, Ben Feringa and Jean-Pierre Sauvage in chemistry for their work on molecular machines. The Sveriges Riksbank prize in economics went to Oliver Hart and Bengt Holmström for explaining a lot of what we know about how contracts work and why we make them the way we do.

Dylan will have to get over his shyness at some point: He is expected to give his Nobel lecture by June next year.