The great Bob Dylan and Patti Smith have had a strong relationship ever since their first meeting in 1975, a mutual respect for their lyrical talents and an admiration for their stylistic approach to music.
While sitting down in an interview with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, Smith once explained that her first meeting with Dylan was a fearsome one, a performance wrapped in nerves as the folk legend sat in the audience waiting to watch a pre-fame Smith perform live. “Somebody told us he was there. My heart was pounding,” she explained. “I got instantly rebellious. I made a couple of references, a couple of oblique things to show I knew he was there. And then he came backstage which was really quite gentlemanly of him. He came over to me and I kept moving around. We were like two pit-bulls circling. I was a snot-nose. I had a very high concentration of adrenaline. He said to me, ‘Any poets around here?’ And I said, ‘I don’t like poetry anymore. Poetry sucks!'” and from that moment on the two remained close.
From then on in their careers had almost become intertwined, with similar beliefs and approaches to writing music, the two would share the stage on more than one occasion, as Jeff Buckley once said: “Dylan and Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, all dark, all romantic. When I say ‘romantic’, I mean a sensibility that sees everything, and has to express everything, and still doesn’t know what the fuck it is, it hurts that bad. It just madly tries to speak whatever it feels, and that can mean vast things. That sort of mentality can turn a sun-kissed orange into a flaming meteorite, and make it sound like that in a song.”
And, as aforementioned, these romantic forces have collided more than once over the years, Smith famously covering Dylan’s hit ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ in 2005 and, perhaps more iconically, when the pair joined forces for a duet rendition of ‘Dark Eyes’.
Smith has never been shy to point her admiration for Dylan—and other major sources of inspiration—a trait in her character which led to the formation of Twelve, Smiths’ tenth studio album which was released in 2007. Made up entirely of 12 different cover versions, Smith puts her own unique spin on Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, George Harrison, Nirvana and more. The stand out track though, appearing slap bang in the middle of the track list, was a rendition of Dylan’s 1978 single ‘Changing of the Guards’.
As Dylan once said: “It means something different every time I sing it. ‘Changing of the Guards’ is a thousand years old'”. It certainly means something when Patti Smith sings it.