Patti Smith may well be one of the few people in the world to cover the iconic Bob Dylan tune and do it justice. Whether it’s because of her lasting friendship with the icon, or her admiration of poetry, somehow Smith covers ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ like nobody else.
The cover comes from Smith’s concert film released in 2012, Live in Montreux 2005, and sees her in fine form at the gig in Switzerland. The unique rendition is a plush and velvety offering not only a slick product but Smith’s incredible vocal power and her connection with the song.
On this tour, Smith was joined by none other than original Patti Smith Group members, guitarist and vocalist, Lenny Kaye, and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, as well as Television guitarist Tom Verlaine. On top of that, Smith’s longtime bassist, keyboardist, and vocalist Tony Shanahan joined. It meant the stage was full of landmark musicians who understood the purity of the music they were playing.
Smith and Dylan’s friendship dates way back to 1975 and continues to be going strong to this day, although their first meeting had Smith acting a little too cool for the icon. She described in an interview with Thurston Moore: “I really acted like a jerk,” she said. “I thought: that guy will never talk to me again. And the day after there was this picture on the cover of the Village Voice. The photographer had Dylan put his arm around me.”
However, at the time, Smith was still very much in the nucleus of bubbling New York scene and, while it “was a really cool picture. It was a dream come true, but it reminded me of how I had acted like a jerk.”
Luckily, Dylan wouldn’t hold it against the poet for too long, “And then a few days later I was walking down 4th Street by the Bottom Line and I saw him coming. He put his hand in his jacket—he was still wearing the same clothes he had on in the picture, which I liked—and he takes out the Village Voice picture and says, ‘Who are these two people? You know who these people are?’ Then he smiled at me and I knew it was all right.”
Smith continued: “To me, Dylan always represented rock’n’roll—I never thought of him as a folk singer or poet or nothing. I just thought he was the sexiest person since Elvis Presley—sex in the brain, y’know? Sex at its most ultimate is being totally illuminated, and he was that he was the King. And he still has it. I don’t think his true power has been unleashed.”
The pair still find a strong connection and this 2005 cover of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ shows not only Smith’s admiration for Dylan’s work but the warmth she holds for his character. Smith again produces a sensational cover.
Take a listen below to Patti Smith covering Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.