In 1975 Patti Smith wasn’t quite the punk-poet behemoth she would become, but one person knew talent when he saw it, that person was Bob Dylan. Dylan and Smith would form a friendship over a mutual love of poetry and music that continues to this day. One pinnacle moment of their relationship coming in 1995 with the duet of the brilliant song ‘Dark Eyes’.
As Rolling Stone points out, the two first met in 1975 when Dylan was on the hunt for new talent and Patti Smith was just beginning to find her feet in the music business. Smith described their first meeting back in 1996 in an interview with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. She remarked that they met backstage at one of her gigs but “We didn’t have a drummer yet. It was just the four of us, we hadn’t been signed yet.”
When asked if she had spotted Dylan in the audience Smith responded “No. Somebody told us he was there. My heart was pounding. 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!”
“I really acted like a jerk. 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. It was a really cool picture. It was a dream come true, but it reminded me of how I had acted like a jerk.”
“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.”
“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 song ‘Dark Eyes’, originally recorded in 1985 and released on Empire Burlesque, offered the pair the chance to come together over a few nights in new york some 20 years after that first meeting.
On the Paradise Lost tour, Patti Smith supported Dylan with Bob always offering the singer his utmost respect it seemed fitting that he performs this song as a duet with her. He said, “a lot of girls have started since Patti’s started, but Patti’s still the best.”
Having only played the song a handful of times before (once at a rehearsal for Live Aid, and once a badly attempted shot in Australia) the pair went on to perform the duet 7 times on this tour.
Al Giordano says of the performance: “Dylan calls Patti onto the stage. She stands beside him, humble and proud. She sings the verses, and Dylan joins her for the taglines. He gazes into her eyes while singing from the same microphone, smiling ear to ear”
Without further ado, let’s take a look at this beautifully touching performance of a gorgeous song shared between two lifelong friends.
Thanks to William Henry Prince, without which this article would not have been possible