Patti Smith

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About Patti Smith

Poetry, protest music, and punk rock synergize in Patti Smith. Born in Chicago in 1946, Smith grew up mainly in New Jersey before moving to Manhattan in 1967 and forming close artistic and personal relationships with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and playwright Sam Shepard. She wrote lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult (“Career of Evil”) and criticism for Creem before channeling her experience of working in a baby-buggy factory into the free-jazz poetics of “Piss Factory,” the B-side to “Hey Joe,” released in 1974. The Patti Smith Group—consisting of guitarist Lenny Kaye and several others who would follow her into the 2020s—released their glorious debut, Horses, the following year. The record opens with Smith’s menacing interpretation of the Them/Doors garage standard “Gloria,” then explores the alienated yet ambitious spirit of Jim Morrison more deeply during the nine improvisational minutes of “Birdland” (1976’s Radio Ethiopia features an even longer title track). While Smith famously declared her desire to be “outside of society,” a cowriting fling with Bruce Springsteen yielded “Because the Night,” a Top 20 single from 1978’s Easter. After meeting and marrying the MC5’s Fred “Sonic” Smith, who contributed to 1979’s Wave, she retreated to Michigan for a domestic decade before releasing Dream of Life, containing “People Have the Power,” in 1988. She reignited her career after Smith’s death in 1994. Touring regularly again, she contemplated international politics on 2004’s Trampin’, paid tribute to her rock heroes on 2007’s Twelve, and found a subtle vehicle for her more spiritual impulses in 2020s alliances with the Soundwalk Collective.

Chicago, IL, United States
December 30, 1946
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