Smith, Patti 1946–

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Smith, Patti 1946–


Born 1946, in Chicago, IL; daughter of Grant and Beverly Smith; married Fred Smith (a musician under name Fred Sonic), 1979 (died, 1994); children: Jackson, Jesse.


Home—Ann Arbor, MI.


Poet, musician, artist, and performer. Worked in factory, c. 1964; clerk for Scribner's (bookstore), c. 1970; staff writer for Rock, c. 1971; associated with Arista Records, 1975-2002; associated with Columbia Records, 2002—.

Exhibitions: Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh, PA.


Numerous awards from publications, including Creem, for performances in concerts and on recordings; named commander, French Order of Arts and Letters, 2005; inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2007.



Kodak, Middle Earth Bookshop (Philadelphia, PA), 1972.

Seventh Heaven, Telegraph Books (Boston, MA), 1972.

Witt, Gotham Book Mart (New York, NY), 1973.

(With Tom Verlaine) The Night, Aloes Books (London, England), 1976.

Ha! Ha! Houdini, Gotham Book Mart (New York, NY), 1977.

Babel, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.

Early Work, 1970-1979, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1994.

The Coral Sea, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1996.

Patti Smith Complete: Lyrics, Reflections, and Notes for the Future, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998, updated and revised as Patti Smith Complete 1975-2006: Lyrics, Reflections & Notes for the Future, Harper Perennial (New York, NY), 2006.

Wild Leaves, W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 1999.

Auguries of Innocence, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2005.


Horses, Arista Records, 1975.

Radio Ethiopia, Arista Records, 1976.

Easter, Arista Records, 1978.

Wave, Arista Records, 1979.

Dream of Life, Arista Records, 1988.

Gone Again, Arista Records, 1996.

Peace and Noise, Arista Records, 1997.

Gung Ho, Arista Records, 2000.

Trampin', Columbia Records, 2004.


(Author of foreword) An Accidental Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso, New Directions, 2003.

(Compiler, with David Greenberg and John W. Smith) Strange Messenger: The Work of Patti Smith (exhibition catalog), 2003.

Contributor to numerous collections of poetry, photography, and plays. Contributor to periodicals, including Creem, Rolling Stone, and Rock.


Patti Smith is sometimes referred to as the "godmother of punk" for her seminal 1975 album Horses. Since the mid-1970s, she has earned a reputation as an important countercultural figure, drawing inspiration from poets and musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Rimbaud, and Robert Bresson, and influencing a generation of rockers such as U2 and R.E.M.

Smith was a poet before she took to the stage, and her verse stands out as the defining strength of her music. Her 1975 debut album, Horses, was marketed as "three chord rock merged with the power of the word," a phrase that resonated as an antidote to a music scene dominated by what Smith characterized in an interview with Guardian Online reporter Laura Barton as "pyrotechnics and pseudo rock stars [with] … limousines and a bunch of broads hangin' around." The album quickly became a milestone work of the early punk rock movement, and propelled Smith to stardom.

Following the release of her second album, Radio Ethiopia, Smith embarked on a concert and promotion tour. Her schedule, though, ended abruptly in Florida when she pitched headfirst into the orchestra pit during a performance and broke her neck. While incapacitated, Smith worked on writing poetry and drawing. Some of her poems from this period were published in the 1978 collection Babel. Jonathan Cott described the collection in Rolling Stone as "an alternately dazzling, uneven, arousing, annoying, imitative, original work." In the book, noted Cott, "she contacts ghosts, makes love with the dead and transforms herself into animals (a … skunk dog in one poem)."

During the 1980s, Smith virtually disappeared from the entertainment scene. She and her husband, Fred "Sonic" Smith (who was also a musician), moved to a Detroit suburb, where they raised their son, Jackson, and daughter, Jesse. In 1988 Smith released one album, Dream of Life, but chose not to tour in support of it.

Smith and her husband were collaborating on their next album in 1994 when Fred Smith died of a heart attack. Devastated, Patti Smith turned to her brother, Todd, for support. But, less than a month after Todd had moved into Smith's house to help her finish her album, he too died suddenly. Smith observed that she was unsure whether her professional and personal life could go on following these two tragedies. "I would go in to record songs, and I would have to stop and run off because I needed to cry or throw up," she told Chicago Tribune reporter Greg Kot. "I had to shelve songs because I couldn't handle them—they were just too heartbreaking. But I felt I owed something to Fred and Todd and my family. I felt a sense of duty to finish the album." The album was eventually released in 1996, under the title Gone Again.

As a way to further cope with her loss, Smith released a book of her early poems titled Early Work, 1970-1979. "This compilation attests she could have been a valuable writer even had she never entered a recording studio," wrote Booklist contributor Aaron Cohen. While Margot Mifflin noted in Entertainment Weekly that Smith's verse is more appealing "through the lens of youth," she admired how the book portrays a "galvanizing sense of faith and transcendence."

Smith's most recent volume of poems, Auguries of Innocence, was hailed as her first major collection of new work since 1979. Critical reactions, however, were mixed. Jeff Minick, writing for the Smoky Mountain News Online, thought that the collection "reflect[s] the dismal state of the craft [of poetry] in our time," calling it "turgid, overly personal and private." Many, however, remained enchanted with Smith's lyricism, including Donna Seaman, who praised the volume in Booklist for its "lithe works unsettling in their spiritual inquiry, archetypal imagery, and dissonant juxtapositions." A Publishers Weekly contributor summed up Smith's appeal by noting that Auguries of Innocence "effectively transmits the affect and aura, as well as the innocence, that make her a rock star."



Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 12, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.

Smith, Patti, Babel, Putnam (New York, NY), 1978.


Booklist, April 1, 1978, review of Babel, p. 1236; January 15, 1994, Aaron Cohen, review of Early Work, 1970-1979, p. 895; September 15, 2005, Donna Seaman, review of Auguries of Innocence, p. 20.

Chicago Tribune, June 17, 1996, Greg Kot, interview with Smith.

Entertainment Weekly, May 20, 1994, Margot Mifflin, review of Early Work, 1970-1979.

Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 1977, review of Babel, p. 1313.

Library Journal, February 15, 1978, review of Babel, p. 463; January, 1994, Rochelle Ratner, review of Early Work, 1970-1979, p. 120; August 1, 2005, review of Auguries of Innocence, p. 91.

New York Times Book Review, February 19, 1978, review of Babel, p. 9; April 3, 1994, David Kelly, review of Early Work, 1970-1979, p. 18.

Publishers Weekly, November 28, 1977, review of Babel, p. 44; January 3, 1994, review of Early Work, 1970-1979, p. 72; June 27, 2005, review of Auguries of Innocence, p. 53.

Rolling Stone, July 27, 1978, Jonathan Cott, review of Babel; May 19, 1994, Evelyn McDonnell, review of Early Work, 1970-1979, p. 9.


Guardian Online, (March 4, 2007), Laura Barton, interview with Smith.

Smoky Mountain News Online, (March 4, 2007), Jeff Minick, "Cupid's Reading List," review of Auguries of Innocence.