Patti Smith looks back at a heartbreaking year

By | 2019-09-19 | including 1 item |
At the December 2016 Nobel Prize ceremony, Patti Smith stepped before the king and queen of Sweden, the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra and a host of tuxedoed and gowned dignitaries and began to sing “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan, that year’s laureate for literature. As Smith later wrote in a piece for the New Yorker, “I had it in my mind to sing the song exactly as it was written and as well as I was capable of doing. I bought a new suit, I trimmed my hair, and felt that I was ready.” And then, two minutes into her performance, catastrophe: Smith forgot the lyrics. She appeared to, anyway. “I was simply unable to draw them out,” she wrote. Visibly nervous, and with her voice carrying every wounded note of Dylan’s song, Smith faltered, asked the conductor if she could begin again, and apologized with a crushing, worried smile. The sympathetic audience applauded, and Smith returned to the song. That extraordinary moment is noticeably absent from Smith’s new memoir, “Year of the Monkey,” but it’s illustrative of how masterfully the writer and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer can rescue beauty from disaster. Beginning on New Year’s Day 2016 and ending a few days after Donald Trump’s inauguration the following January, “Year of the Monkey” is a moving account of the emotional stumbles, physical and intellectual wanderings and deep losses Smith experienced in her 70th year.