Released in 2004, Trampin’ is Patti Smith’s ninth album, released nine years after she had returned to life as a working musician. At the time, Smith was more focused on completing her memoir of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe, Just Kids, as well as her visual art, which slowed down her songwriting process. There’s less of a thematic arc in this release as compared to her previous records, but Trampin’ nonetheless contains two of the strongest songs in Smith’s post-1990s repertoire. “My Blakean Year” was written as an inspirational message from Smith to herself, derived from her love for the English artist William Blake, whose life and career Smith had studied. Blake was a prolific poet, painter, and printmaker who did not let his lack of success or recognition deter him from doing his work. For Smith—a musician who refers to herself as a “worker” and to her performances as “jobs”—it’s not a rhetorical connection. Elsewhere on the album, the life and death of the peace activist Rachel Corrie serves as the inspiration for “Peaceable Kingdom,” which is both a tribute and a protest song. There’s a dotted line between that track and “Radio Baghdad,” one of the record’s improvisational numbers, based on the experience of an Iraqi mother trying to sing her child to sleep at night while American planes are dropping bombs overhead. The album closes with a version the traditional song “Trampin’,” which Smith chose because of its connection to Marian Anderson, the exceptional contralto singer who performed the song on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. That performance was organized when Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall refused to allow Anderson to appear on their stage because she was a Black woman (at the time, Washington, D.C. was segregated). The incident became a defining moment in the Civil Rights movement. Smith’s version of “Trampin’” features her daughter Jesse Smith performing piano on the track, the first time the two were recorded playing together.

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