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Just Patti

Patti Smith

You may not know Patti Smith’s music, she’s not a pretty pop singer or a tabloid favorite, but she is an icon by accident to those who follow the rebels, geeks, original punk rockers, art obsessives, musicians and Robert Mapplethorpe.  She is perhaps one of the most unique women we have ever come to meet, her views and life experiences really make you think, and everyone who knows her always has a strong opinion, one way or another. Mick Jagger was quoted saying, “I think it’s crap! I think she’s so awful…she’s full of rubbish, she’s full of words and crap. I mean, she’s a poseur of the worst kind, intellectual bullshit, trying to be a street girl when she doesn’t seem to me to be one, I mean, everything…a useless guitar player, a bad singer, not attractive. She’s got her heart in the right place but she’s such a POSER! She’s not really together musically, ya she’s…..all right, ” he, like many several others over the decades of her life love or hate on her, including Johnny Depp and Michael Pitt from more recent times. Regardless, she uses her connections to make, what she feels is a positive impact into the world and whenever she is on the scene, there is always someone talking about her.


She recently came into the mainstream with the release of her book JUST KIDS which is mostly about her life with her on again lover and best friend Robert Mapplethorpe, tales a lifetime together before he died of AIDS, including time spent at the famous Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan with musicians like Jimmy Hendrix and Janis Joplin before they made it big. JUST KIDS changed the way I saw the meaning of happiness in life and material possessions. Patti herself contradicts the idea that a woman needs to look or dress a certain way to be incredibly magnetic and beautiful. Robert was, in the latter part of his life, living with his partner, a man, but was always her best friend and co-curator of various artistic projects.  Robert’s controversial work is now up at LACMA here in Los Angeles.

With a birthday around the corner, December 30, and her new album out just this summer, Patti will still perhaps be remembered most by her famous company she seemingly accidentally keeps, but for me her brave story of carrying a baby to term as a teenager and giving it up for what she thought would be better parents than her, the lyrics of her music and poetry, the loyal loving friend she was and is to many and her strength that seems unwavering is why she will forever hold a place in my mind and heart.  She is simply a real rock star, at least to me, many people call her the “Godmother of Punk” and I’d say that is quite fitting, with Debbie Harry being the Mother.  Patti continues to write for artists like Bruce Springsteen, win awards for her books and poetry, including the 2011 Polar Music Prize and speak out about her rebellion against organized Christianity, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine” were her words in her cover of Them’s Gloria. Venues like Max’s Kansas City and CBGB may never see another Patti, but she certainly entertained there for over a decade with some of the greatest and most interesting artists of all time. Patti continues to support other artists, once a journalist for Creem and Rolling Stone magazines, she still speaks and writes about talent and maintains her passion for all art.

Patti’s last husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith was a rocker for Michigan’s MC5 band, he and Patti had a  daughter Jesse and son Jackson in 1982 who grew up to marry The White Stripes drummer Meg White in 2000.  The families still have a home in Detroit, but losing her husband to a heart attack and then her brother in the same year made Patti once again change her direction in life and start getting back into photography for a while. Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and dedicated her award to the memory of her late husband, Fred, and gave a performance of The Rolling Stones staple “Gimme Shelter“.

Check out the Smith documentary film, Patti Smith: Dream of Life and go read JUST KIDS.

Posted on: November 21, 2012