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Smith, Patti

Patti Smith

Singer, songwriter

Ronettes, Rimbaud and the Rock Life

Hampered by Band, Injury

Followed Mainstream Success with Retirement

Re-Emerged With Occasional Albums

Selected discography

Selected writings

Sources

My design was to shake things up, Patti Smith proclaimed in a 1996 Rolling Stone interview, to motivate people and bring a different type of work ethic back into rock & roll. The period she was referring to, the mid-1970s, had seen the demise of immmediacy and artistic fire in mainstream rock, which was becoming overrun by spectacle. The birth of what would come to be known as punk, the raw, revolutionary music that challenged rocks complacency, is often traced to Smith and a handful of other pioneers. Hearing Smiths classic album Horses, said alternative rock hero and REM singer Michael Stipe in Spin, was for him a virtual rebirth. Id never heard anything like it in my life, Stipe recalled, like someone had torn my head off and slapped it back on for me. From then on my life was changed. Stipes experience was typical; many of alternative rocks leading lights were strongly influenced by Smiths work. Though she took a hiatus for much of the 1980s, she returned once during that decade and again in 1996 with albums that summarized her ongoing growth as an artist.

Ronettes, Rimbaud and the Rock Life

Smith grew up in Pitman, a lower-class, melting-pot town in New Jersey. Until she saw the Rolling Stones on an Ed Sullivan show, she was a huge fan of the popular black groups of the early sixties. I was just one of a million girls who could sing Ronettes records almost as good as the Ronettes, she told Rolling Stone. After high school she began working in a factory around the same time she discovered the poetry of the French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud. While in junior college, Smith became p regnant and gave up the child for adoption. She moved to New York for a brief period and eventually took off for Paris with her sister to study art. In France she began to have premonitions of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Joness death just days before he actually died.

She moved back to New York, living at the Chelsea Hotel, a veritable hotbed of musicians, writers, actors and artists during the early seventies. She began working at a local bookstore where she befriended rock historian/guitarist Lenny Kaye. She also started writing for magazines like Rolling Stone, Rock, and Creem, offering poetry and critical essays. By 1973, three of her poetry books had been published: Seventh Heaven, Kodak and Witt. Friends persuaded her to read her works in public, and, with the accompaniment of Kaye on guitar, she could be heard at New York clubs like Maxs and CBGBs, opening for bands like the New York Dolls. After the addition of Richard Sohl on piano, the trio even performed at San Franciscos Winterland.

Clive Davis of Arista Records signed Smith to a recording contract and in 1975 she entered the studio to

For the Record

Born in Pitman, N.J.; daughter of a factory worker and a waitress; married Fred Sonic Smith (a musician; died 1994); Children: Jackson, Jesse.

Gave poetry readings during early 1970s; singer, songwriter, recording artist, 1975-79, 1988-.

Address: Record Company Arista Records, 6 West 57th St., New York, NY 10019.

record her debut LP, Horses. She personally picked the producer, ex-Velvet Underground member, John Cale, All I was really looking for was a technical person, Smith told Rolling Stones Dave Marsh. Instead, I got a total maniac artist. Cale pushed Smith and her band Kaye and Ivan Krai on guitars and bass, Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, and Sohl on pianoto their artistic limits. Horses is a compilation of Smiths influences. The surrealism of Rimbaud, the violent prose of William Burroughs, and the simple, yet masterful rhythms of the Velvets are all in some way represented on the album.

Horses features six songs co-written by Smith, her band, Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Alan Lanier (her boyfriend at the time), and Televisions Tom Verlaine. The other two songs are reworkings of the soul hit Land of a Thousand Dances and the Them/Van Morrison tune, Gloria ; both restructured around Smiths poetic vision. Smith became the darling of the in-crowd from coast to coast. Complimentary reviews appeared in Time, Knight newspapers, Mademoiselle, and even Rolling Stone, in which Smith told of another premonition she once had. Ive known I was gonna be a big shot since I was four. I just didnt know it had anything to do with my throat.

Hampered by Band, Injury

Smith charged back into the studio after a triumphant tour of the States to make her follow-up LP, Radio Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the album ended up sounding more like a showcase for a garage band than for Smiths poetry; the result was a sound that often overpowered the nuances of her singing and lyrics. As Charles M. Young observed in Rolling Stone, The punks present their instrumental incompetence in the spirit of farce and satire. The Patti Smith Group presents it as a holy sacrament.

The album was a financial flop and the band members were forced to find other means to support themselves. Tragically, during the tour to support Radio Ethiopia, Smith fell off the stage in Tampa, Florida, on January 23, 1977, and broke her neck. She spent the following year wearing a neck brace and undergoing physical therapy. She was, however, abletocompleteanother book of poetry, Babel, during the time off.

Followed Mainstream Success with Retirement

Smith was back in 1978 and determined to make her music more communicative (i.e. commercial) this time around. Her third album, Easter, contained her only Top 20 hit, Because The Night , co-written by fellow New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen. Easter makes good on Patti Smiths biggest boast-that she is one of the great figures of Seventies rock & roll, wrote Dave Marsh in Rolling Stone. More importantly perhaps, it focuses her mystical and musical visions in a way that makes her the most profoundly religious American popular performer since Jim Morrison.

Smith released her fourth album, Wave, in 1979, but the magic seemed to be gone. It was a directionless effort with only one real gem, the song Dancing Barefoot. The rest of the album, according to Robert Christgau in Christgaus Record Guide, was as listenable as Radio Ethiopia. Her creative well appeared to have dried up and, after her marriage to former MC5 guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, she went into retirement for nine years to raise a family.

Re-Emerged With Occasional Albums

In 1988 Smith re-emerged with the album Dream of Life. Fred provided guitar layers and co-produced the album with Jimmy lovine; former band members Daugherty and Sohl also appeared. In the age of MTV and record executives pushing everything off as the next big thing, Robert Palmer observed in Rolling Stone: What may be most striking about Dream Of Life is that there is no product here at all, only music.

Dream of 1/7efared poorly in the marketplace, but it was an important album for Smith, who told Spin that during its creation, Fred taught me a lot about singing and he instilled a lot of confidence in me. She added that What I achieved in the 80s out of the public eye was the development of my skills. These skillsparticularly her ability to crystallize painful experiences in prosewere put to the test over the next few years. Smith lost a number of the people who mattered most to her, starting with her artistic soulmate and dear friend Robert Map-plethorpe, a celebrated and controversial photographer who died of AIDS. His passing motivated a novel, as well as parts of songs that would end up on her next album, as did the 1994 suicide of musician Kurt Cobain of the group Nirvana. Smith told Spin that Cobains was the first band in years that I really loved. Its just kind of typical of me to pick the band that would be beautifully tragic. They were the band I felt a lot of hope for, for the whole music scene. She added that she and Fred wept like parents upon hearing of Cobains demise. An anthology of Smiths poetry from the 1970s was published that same year by Norton.

Smith began work on a new album, but was devastated by her husbands death of a heart attack in 1994, as well as by the loss of keyboardist and close friend Sohl. Yet with the encouragement of her brother Todd, who also died shortly thereafter, Smith returned to the album, much of which had been co-written with Fred. The result was 1996s Gone Again. While this is unquestionably Smiths most heartfelt album, wrote Tom Carson in Rolling Stone, the core of Gone Again isnt sorrow, its resilience. Smith seemed to second this judgment when she told Details, I dont want to talk to the people while merely burdened with grief and sorrow. I want to bring them something positive.

Smiths return to the spotlight brought several positive things to light: one was that her workand her late husbandshad inspired a whole generation of artists, including Stipe of REM, Courtney Love of Hole, PJ Harvey, and Sonic Youth. Smith was able to honor the Velvet Underground during their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 by reading a poem and performing one of their songs. And most of all, her continued artistic vitality and grace after so much loss suggested she would inspire anew. Ive experienced a lot of personal sorrow, she insisted in Spin, but I still feel constant amazement at how beautiful life is.

Selected discography

Horses, Arista, 1975.

Radio Ethiopia, Arista, 1976.

Easter, Arista, 1978.

Wave, Arista, 1979.

Dream of Life, Arista, 1988.

Gone Again, Arista, 1996.

Selected writings

Witt: A Book of Poems, Gotham, 1972.

Seventh Heaven, Telegraph, 1973.

Ha! Ha! Houdini, Gotham, 1977.

Babel, Putnam, 1978.

Also author of Kodak.

Sources

Books

Christgau, Robert, Christgaus Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, Harmony Books, 1977.

Rock Revolution, by the editors of Creem magazine, Popular Library, 1976.

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, edited by Jim Miller, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1976.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh with Jim Swenson, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.

Whats That Sound?, edited by Ben Fong-Torres, Anchor Press, 1976.

Periodicals

Details, July 1996.

Newsweek, June, 17, 1996.

Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976; January 13, 1977; July 28, 1977; April 20, 1978; July 27, 1978; August 25, 1988; February 22, 1996; June 27, 1996; July 11, 1996.

Spin, June 1996.

Simon Glickman

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"Smith, Patti." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Smith, Patti

PATTI SMITH

Born: Patricia Lee Smith; Chicago, Illinois, 30 December 1946

Genre: Rock

Best-selling album since 1990: Land (19752002) (2002)

Hit songs since 1990: "Summer Cannibals," "Strange Messengers"


While painting and poetry were her first obsessions, Patti Smith changed direction in the early 1970s to form an amplified band and record several albums of authentic rock and roll, blending furious, passionate but sometimes tender verse and grainy, grimy white R&B. In doing so she propelled poetry into the forefront of the pop experience for the first time since Bob Dylan had offered his own forays into Beat-inspired writing a decade earlier.

Ignited by the spark of New York's new wave, Smith became the high priestess of punk poetry, declaiming her views on life and love to a jagged rock soundtrack. In doing so, she became one of the most significant artists working at the edge of the avant-garde and popular culture. Yet her career since has been far from straightforward. At the beginning of the 1980s she took an extended break from the business of performing and recording, returning during the next decade to prove that her muse had not deserted her.

Born in Chicago, Smith moved with her family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1950; they later relocated to New Jersey in 1955. After graduating from high school in 1964 she did factory workan experience that fed into one of her earliest songs, "Piss Factory"but then set out on a course to train as an art teacher.


Rimbaud, the Rolling Stones, and Manhattan's Musical Hotbed

Her painting was at the center of her creative activity at the timeshe was inspired by the Paris-based painters at the turn of the twentieth century, Amedeo Modigliani and Chaim Soutinebut she also took close notice of the French poets like Arthur Rimbaud, who had lived in the French capital around the same time. She was also deeply affected by her early sightings of the Rolling Stones on American television.

Moving to New York in 1967, she began to develop an artistic network that sustained her for the next few years. She had a relationship with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, lived in the Chelsea Hotel (the famed hangout of artists on the margins), and at the end of the decade became a denizen of Max's Kansas City, a club where painters, including Andy Warhol, met. At the time, it was beginning to attract a crowd interested in rock music.

In 1969 Smith made her first public appearance before an audience when she took part in a play entitled Femme Fatale, a piece written and produced by members of the Warhol entourage. Linking with guitarist Lenny Kaye and keyboardist Richard Sohl, she became vocalist in a trio that performed her poetry with a rock backing. In 1974 they issued their first single"Piss Factory" backed with a version of "Hey Joe"and the following year, joined by Ivan Kral on bass and Jay Dee Daugherty on drums, Smith issued her acclaimed debut album, Horses (1975).

The album marries Smith's distinctive poetic voice on tracks like "Redondo Beach" and "Birdland" with new interpretations of 1960s classics like "Gloria" and "Land of a Thousand Dances." Produced by former Velvet Underground member John Cale, the record signalled the arrival of a major talent and, in its acerbic, aggressive manner, shaped in the musical hotbed of Manhattan, the recording was a fine example of the new energy and attitude infusing the rock revolution that was punk.

On the subsequent albums Radio Ethiopia (1976), Easter (1978), and Wave (1979), released in the name of the Patti Smith Group, she maintained her aural assault with "Babelogue" and "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger" distilling her uncompromising methods. She also reveals a more reflective side on "Because the Night," a co-composition with fellow rocker Bruce Springsteen that gave her a hit in the United States and the United Kingdom in 1978, and "Frederick," a tribute to Fred "Sonic" Smith, the musician she would marry in 1980.

That year she left New York with Fred Smith to relocate to Detroit, where she took an extended break from the rock and roll lifestyle, raising her two children during most of the 1980s. It was not until 1988 that she released her next album, Dream of Life, co-produced by Fred Smith, and with Sohl and Daugherty still on board. Critically well received, the record was not a commercial winner. Critics noted that Patti Smith's absence and the poor health of her husband, which affected live promotion of the piece, contributed to a disappointing public response.


Deaths of Friends and Her Husband

Yet this setback did not derail the Smith project entirely. Despite the loss of friends (Mapplethorpe in 1989) and collaborators (Sohl in 1990), she entered the new decade with an appearance at a major AIDS benefit in 1991 and contributed musically to the soundtrack to Wim Wenders's motion picture Until the End of the World (1991).

A book of short stories, Wool Gathering, was published in 1993 but in late 1994 she suffered the latest of a sequence of personal blows when her husband died of a heart attack. A tribute concert to her late partner was given in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in spring 1995 as Smith threw herself into a demanding tour schedule. During the summer she also made an unannounced contribution to the New York leg of the Lollapalooza tour. At the end of the year she opened for Bob Dylan at a number of East Coast tour dates.

Returning to the studio, she dedicated her 1996 album Gone Again to Fred. Affected by Dylan's recent World Gone Wrong, Smith's release echoed that acoustic melancholy. It includes a title track penned with her husband, and another song written with Fred, "Summer Cannibals," plus a Dylan song, "Wicked Messenger." Also featured is a piece written with Oliver Ray, a younger musician who had become part of the Smith band and who later became her lover.

Stipe Hooks up with European Trek

Although she did not tour the United States to showcase Gone Again, she did successfully take her bandincluding Lenny Kaye, Jay Dee Daugherty, and former Television front man Tom Verlaineto Europe and was joined by R.E.M. vocalist and friend Michael Stipe, who photographed the tour for a book.

Peace & Noise (1997) followed and saw most of the compositional credits shared with Oliver Ray. It features a song called "Spell," which makes reference to work by the American poet Allen Ginsberg, a large influence on Smith, who died the same year the album was released.

Smith's own role as poet had not been shelved. Numerous appearances in this guise saw her read at an Albert Hall event in London in 1996 and in 1998 she participated in a benefit for Tibet, performing extracts from Howl, the key verse work by Ginsberg, and John Lennon's "Power to the People."

In 2000 the album Gung Ho was released. It offers a lengthy critique of the urban nightmare on "Strange Messengers," and draws comparisons to Blondie on the track "Gone Pie." But her new work lacks the resounding power of her earlier recordings and the arrival of Land (19752002), an outstanding compilation of her career output, only serves to emphasize this assessment. Over two compact discs, the collection captures the intensity of her oeuvre on album and in a live setting.

Determinedly eclectic, Smith has never been tied down by notions of pop stardom. Her existence has been shaped by an ability to move across the creative arts with facility, from painting to theater to spoken word. But without the doors that rock music opened to her, she would have been a significant artist who remained in the shadows of the mainstream. Rock afforded her a large, global audience. Through the upsurge of the new wave, and specifically the quality of her first album, Smith achieved a notable triumph. She managed to combine the potency of raw, direct verse with the muscular rhythms of rock and roll and showed that a woman could take an active part in a world previously dominated by men. As a result, she has been a role model for several waves of women sincefrom punks to riot grrrls.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Horses (Arista, 1975); Radio Ethiopia (Arista, 1976); Easter (Arista, 1978); Wave (Arista, 1979); Dream of Life (Arista, 1988); Gone Again (Arista, 1996); Peace & Noise (Arista, 1997); Gung Ho (Arista, 2000); Land (19752002) (Arista, 2002). Soundtrack: Until the End of the World (Warner Bros., 1991).

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

V. Bockris, Patti Smith (London, 1998).

WEBSITE:

www.Pattismithland.com.

simon warner

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Smith, Patti

Patti Smith

Singer, songwriter

For the Record

Writings

Selected discography

Sources

Patti Smith grew up in Pitman, a lower-class, melting-pot town in New Jersey. Until she saw the Rolling Stones on an Ed Sullivan show, she was totally into the popular black groups of the early sixties. I was just one of a million girls who could sing Ronettes records almost as good as the Ronettes, she told Rolling Stone. After high school she began working in a factory around the same time she discovered the poetry of the French symbolist Arthur Rimbaud. While in junior college, Smith became pregnant and gave up the child for adoption. She moved to New York for a brief period and eventually took off for Paris with her sister to study art. In France she began to have premonitions of Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Joness death just days before he actually died.

She moved back to New York, living at the Chelsea Hotel, a veritable hotbed of musicians, writers, actors and artists during the early seventies. She began working at a local bookstore where she befriended rock-historian/guitarist Lenny Kaye. She also started writing for magazines like Rolling Stone, Rock, and Creem, offering poetry and critical essays. By 1973, three of her poetry books had been published:Seventh Heaven, Kodak and Witt. Friends persuaded her to read her works in public, and, with the accompaniment of Kaye on guitar, she could be heard at New York clubs like Maxs and CBGBs, opening for bands like the New York Dolls. After the addition of Richard Sohl on piano, the trio even performed at San Franciscos Winterland.

Clive Davis of Arista Records signed Smith to a recording contract and in 1975 she entered the studio to record her debut LP, Horses. She personally picked the producer, ex-Velvet Underground member, John Cale. All I was really looking for was a technical person, Smith told Rolling Stones Dave Marsh. Instead, I got a total maniac artist. Cale pushed Smith and her band (Kaye and Ivan Kraiguitars and bass, Jay Dee Daughertydrums, and Sohlpiano) to their artistic limits. Horses is a compilation of all Smiths referential influences. The surrealism of Rimbaud, the violent prose of William Burroughs, and the simple, yet masterful, rhythms of the Velvets are all in some way represented on the album.

Horses features six songs co-written by Smith, her band, Blue Oyster Cult guitarist Alan Lanier (her boyfriend at the time), and Televisions Tom Verlaine. The other two songs are reworkings of the Chris Kenner hit, Land of a Thousand Dances, and the old Them/Van Morrison tune, Gloria; both restructured around Smiths poetic vision. Smith became the darling of the in-crowd from coast to coast. Complimentary reviews appeared in Time, Knight newspapers, Mademoiselle, and even Rolling Stone, in which Smith told of another premonition

For the Record

Born in Pitman, N.J.; daughter of a factory worker and a waitress; married Fred Sonic Smith (a musician); has children.

Gave poetry readings during early 1970s; singer, songwriter, recording artist, 1975-79, 1988.

Address: c/o 3 E. 54th St. #1400, New York, NY 10022.

she once had. Ive known I was gonna be a big shot since I was four. I just didnt know it had anything to do with my throat.

Smith charged back into the studio after a triumphant tour of the States to make her follow-up LP, Radio Ethiopia. Unfortunately, the album ended up sounding more like a showcase for a garage band than for Smiths poetry: Her voice was nearly drowned out in the mayhem of heavy metal support offered by a group who did not seem to recognize their own musical limitations. As Charles M. Young observed in Rolling Stone, The punks present their instrumental incompetence in the spirit of farce and satire. The Patti Smith Group presents it as a holy sacrament.

The album was a financial flop and the band members were forced to find other means to support themselves. Tragically, during the tour to support Radio Ethiopia, Smith fell off the stage in Tampa, Florida, on January 23, 1977, and broke her neck. She spent the following year wearing a neck brace and undergoing physical therapy. She was, however, able to complete another book of poetry, Babel, during the time off.

Smith was back in 1978 and determined to make her music more communicative (i.e. commercial) this time around. Herthird album, Easter, contained heronlyTop 20 hit, Because The Night, co-written by fellow New Jersey rocker Bruce Springsteen. In his Rolling Stone review, Dave Marsh wrote, Easter makes good on Patti Smiths biggest boastthat she is one of the great figures of Seventies rock & roll. More importantly perhaps, it focuses her mystical and musical visions in a way that makes her the most profoundly religious American popular performer since Jim Morrison.

Smith released her fourth album, Wave, in 1979, but the magic seemed to be gone. It was a directionless effort with only one real gem, the song Dancing Barefoot. The rest of the album, according to Robert Christgau in Christgaus Record Guide was as listenable as Radio Ethiopia. Her creative well appeared to have dried up and, after her marriage to former MC5 guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, she went into retirement for nine years to raise a family.

In 1988 Smith decided to make a comeback, and she recorded the album Dream of Life.Sonic provided guitar layers and co-produced the album with Jimmy lovine; former band members Daugherty and Sohl also appeared. In the age of MTV and record executives pushing everything off as the next big thing, Robert Palmer observed in Rolling Stone: What may be most striking about Dream Of Life is that there is no product here at all, only music.

Writings

Poetry

Witt: A Book of Poems, Gotham, 1972.

Seventh Heaven, Telegraph, 1973.

Ha! Ha! Houdini, Gotham, 1977.

Babel, Putnam, 1978.

Also author of Kodak.

Selected discography

Horses, Arista, 1975.

Radio Ethiopia, Arista, 1976.

Easter, Arista, 1978.

Wave, Arista, 1979.

Dream of Life, Arista, 1988.

Sources

Books

Christgau, Robert, Christgaus Record Guide, Ticknor & Fields, 1981.

The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, compiled by Nick Logan and Bob Woffinden, Harmony Books, 1977.

Rock Revolution, by the editors of Creem magazine, Popular Library, 1976.

The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll, edited by Jim Miller, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1976.

The Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh with Jim Swenson, Random House/Rolling Stone Press, 1979.

Whats That Sound?, edited by Ben Fong-Torres, Anchor Press, 1976.

Periodicals

Rolling Stone, February 12, 1976; January 13, 1977; July 28, 1977; April 20, 1978; July 27, 1978; August 25, 1988.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
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"Smith, Patti." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. 22 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Smith, Patti." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 22, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/smith-patti-0

"Smith, Patti." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved August 22, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/smith-patti-0