Patti Smith to stand in for Bob Dylan at Nobel Prize ceremony

The Nobel Foundation said Monday that Dylan has written a speech to be read at the banquet in Stockholm’s City Hall, and that Smith will perform 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall.'

Vince Bucci/Invision/AP/File
Bob Dylan accepts the 2015 MusiCares Person of the Year award in Los Angeles, in February 2015.

Bob Dylan won't be at the upcoming Nobel Prize celebrations on Saturday, but his words will be. 

The singer-songwriter and winner of this year's Nobel Prize in Literature declined the invitation to the awards ceremony and banquet this weekend, saying he had other commitments to attend. But, the Nobel Foundation announced Monday, Mr. Dylan has written a "speech of thanks" to be read by musician and writer Patti Smith at the banquet. Ms. Smith will additionally perform in Dylan's place at the awards ceremony earlier in the day.

Dylan is the first singer-songwriter to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, as the award typically goes to authors of poems, short stories, or novels.

"If you look far back, 5000 years, you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts which were meant to be performed, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan," Sara Danius, the academy’s permanent secretary, told The Guardian in October. "We still read Homer and Sappho, and we enjoy it."

"Bob Dylan writes poetry for the ear," she added. "But it’s perfectly fine to read his works as poetry."

Dylan was awarded the prize on Oct. 13 "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition," as Amanda Hoover reported for The Christian Science Monitor at the time. But the 75-year-old was initially silent after the announcement was made, waiting two weeks to acknowledge the award. His silence didn't sit well with some, including one member of the Swedish Academy who called the behavior "impolite and arrogant."

Later in the month, when asked during an interview with The Telegraph whether he planned to attend the awards ceremony in Stockholm, Dylan replied that he "absolutely" would attend "if it's at all possible."

In mid-November, the Nobel academy announced that Dylan would not be able to make it to the awards ceremony due to "pre-existing commitments." On Monday, it was revealed that Smith has been asked to fill in for Dylan at the ceremony with a tribute performance of his song "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."

"I have been following him since I was a teenager, half a century to be exact," Smith told Rolling Stone. "His influence has been broad and I owe him a great debt for that. I had not anticipated singing a Bob Dylan song on December 10th, but I am very proud to be doing so and will approach the task with a sense of gratitude for having him as our distant, but present, cultural shepherd."

This report contains material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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