Audio: Patti Smith Talks About Singing With Bob Dylan – ‘like drinking the purest water’

At the Bottom Line, 1976. Photo by Chuck Pulin.

Jaan Uhelszki: Did you perform the poem that you wrote about Dylan’s dog having wings?

Patti Smith: No, because we had very little time. I did do one of his songs, we did “Wicked Messenger” which we also recorded for the album. Anyway, he’s heard the poem before, he knows it. I did “Piss Factory,” and I occasionally did a poem. I don’t think I did that one, I might have. I really can’t remember. I was really concentrating on really doing a positive strong set to set things up for him.

Jaan Uhelszki: Do you feel easy with him, given that he was such a hero of yours. I remember in an interview you did, you said after you met him, you didn’t have much to say, because you’d been having conversations in your head with him for the past twelve years, and you didn’t think that you needed to stop.

Patti Smith: We didn’t talk a lot. I still find myself a little school-girlish talking to him. I’m hoping in time will change. I think we had some fine conversations and we sang together almost every night. We did “Dark Eyes” together and I felt that, that for me, was a timeless experience. I feel that we both communicated very well performing together. I really felt that we both took it seriously and performed in a way to support each other and make each other comfortable. And I really felt an extreme amount of dignity and happiness singing with him. I allowed myself to think about how important he’s been to me, and what a hero, and to glean a certain amount of joy. But beyond that I felt as two people working, I felt when we were on stage working, I felt very proud. In the end we were two people both with our own struggles and our gifts, trying to accommodate each other.

Michael Goldberg: I always felt watching you perform that a spirit would come through you sometimes. Is that how it feels to you sometimes up there?

Patti Smith: Sometimes. It’s different than it was before. I was intense in a different way, so it was a more frenzied spirit. I sort of demanded that a spirit enter me. Demanded it. Now I just do my work and sometimes feel blessed by just feeling a certain thing, I can’t say what it is. I just feel…. I think the best way…. It’s hard to articulate it except when I feel it, at least the aspect of it that I like the best, is that I’m 100 percent in the present and feeling what’s happening. I noticed that, for instance, when we did the Dylan tour and he asked me to sing a song with him and we did “Dark Eyes,” every night it’s not quite exactly the thing you’re talking about, but I sort of shifted what you said. That feeling of complete, completely–which is hard for an artist because artists are always back into the past, moving into the future, redesigning every moment that’s happening and I’ve always had that difficulty because I never felt like I relaxed and could feel the present. And I can really say that doing that one song each night with him was almost like drinking the purest water or where I felt completely alive and in the present and grateful to be so.

It’s a different thing than what you’re talking about, but that’s the kind of thing I feel more now than before. The thing that I used to feel before was more like a visitation from some whatever I perceived it to be: angel, demon, muse, the energy of the people even. Because I as a performer am also very affected by the energy out there or I was more when I was younger. Now I control that more or I just choose not to be affected. I do it with humor but sometimes I have my own moments. I’m willing to be sort of a mouth piece for whatever entity or the energy of the people but only to a certain extent. These days more it’s my territory.

Bob Dylan and Patti Smith, “Dark Eyes,” the Beacon Theater, New York, December 14, 1995:

This one has video:

Patti Smith, “Wicked Messenger”:

– A Days of the Crazy-Wild blog post –

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