Patricia Lee “Patti” Smith (born December 30, 1946) is an American singer-songwriter, poet and visual artist who became a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses.
Photo Johnny Leo Johansen(c) Månefestivalen Gamlebyen Fredrikstad 2014
Called the “Godmother of Punk”, her work is a fusion of rock and poetry. Smith’s most widely known song is “Because the Night”, which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen and reached number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1978. In 2005, Patti Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture, and in 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
On November 17, 2010, she won the National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids. She is also a recipient of the 2011 Polar Music Prize.
In 1967, she left Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and moved to New York City. She met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe there while working at a book store with a friend, poet Janet Hamill. She and Mapplethorpe had an intense romantic relationship, which was tumultuous as the pair struggled with times of poverty, and Mapplethorpe with his own sexuality. Smith considers Mapplethorpe to be one of the most important people in her life, and in her book Just Kids refers to him as “the artist of my life”.
Mapplethorpe’s photographs of her became the covers for the Patti Smith Group LPs, and they remained friends until Mapplethorpe’s death in 1989. In 1969 she went to Paris with her sister and started busking and doing performance art.
When Smith returned to New York City, she lived in the Hotel Chelsea with Mapplethorpe; they frequented Max’s Kansas City and CBGB. Smith provided the spoken word soundtrack for Sandy Daley’s art film Robert Having His Nipple Pierced, starring Mapplethorpe. The same year Smith appeared with Wayne County in Jackie Curtis’s play Femme Fatale. As a member of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project, she spent the early 1970s painting, writing, and performing. In 1971 she performed – for one night only – in Cowboy Mouth, a play that she co-wrote with Sam Shepard. (The published play’s notes call for “a man who looks like a coyote and a woman who looks like a crow”.) She wrote several poems, “for sam shepard” and “Sam Shepard: 9 Random Years (7 + 2)” about her relationship with Shepard.
Smith was briefly considered for the lead singer position in Blue Öyster Cult. She contributed lyrics to several of the band’s songs, including “Debbie Denise” (inspired by her poem “In Remembrance of Debbie Denise”), “Baby Ice Dog”, “Career of Evil”, “Fire of Unknown Origin”, “The Revenge of Vera Gemini” (on which she performs duet vocals), and “Shooting Shark”. She was romantically involved at the time with the band’s keyboardist, Allen Lanier. During these years, Smith also wrote rock journalism, some of which was published in Rolling Stone and Creem.