A beautiful moment of grace last night, in between news of Aleppo’s tragedy, suicide bombs in Istanbul, merchants and vacuous celebrities preparing to take over America, polluted Paris coughing and gasping: Patti Smith singing Bob Dylan’s « A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall » at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Stockholm.

Winner of the Nobel Literature prize, Dylan declined to attend the ceremony. He sent a speech, read by the American ambassador to Sweden, and he sent Patti Smith. So before a rarefied assembly of royalty, academy members and laureates who were formally dressed in finest evening attire and decked in jewels and tiaras, the great punk-rock queen with the flowing white hair performed Dylan’s anthem for him.

What a moment! Patti, elegant and fierce and free, stumbled at one point, forgetting the lyrics and apologizing to the audience, who applauded her. How moving, how appropriate: She is a true artist, a human being, performing the work of a true artist, with a depth and conviction that has become so very rare in these dark times of ours. Like some in the audience, I was brought to tears by the performance. At times, the scene looked so surreal; but in fact, it was something else altogether: real.

If you have a few minutes to watch, you won’t regret it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVXQaOhpfJU