Patti Smith: The Godmother Of Punk

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Lydia wants you to fall in love with Patti Smith as she has done.

It is a miracle that Patti Smith even survived to become the icon she is…

Patti Smith, born into a traditional, religious family in Philadelphia in 1946, seems incredibly unlikely to have an interest in New York’s early punk rock scene, let alone becoming one of its most influential artists.

It is a miracle that Patti Smith even survived to become the icon she is, having suffered serious and life threatening illnesses as a child which eventually sparked her interest in death, love and religion as can be seen throughout her body of work. Aged 19, she fell pregnant and, after giving the child up for adoption, she moved to New York and vowed to make something of her life. That was where she met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and her journey as an artist, a poet, and eventually a musician really began. In her book ‘Just Kids’, Smith talks about her years as a down and out artist in New York and how she became a chart topping artist with ‘Because the Night’ almost by accident, then abruptly gave it all up to marry Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith in 1978. One of the most interesting aspects of Patti Smith’s is the various roles she has held within it. The artist, the poet, the feminist, the housewife, the musician. All of these different viewpoints and feed into her work in different ways.

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Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine…

I can remember the exact moment I heard Patti Smith for the first time. I was 17 and revising for my A Levels when the drawl of Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine came on the radio. From then, I listened to every song of hers I could get my hand on. Interestingly, of her eleven albums she only ever had one real success – ‘Horses’ – which was her first and ‘Because the Night’, a collaboration with Bruce Springsteen, was Patti Smith’s only top ten hit. Despite her apparent lack of success in terms of the charts, she remains one of the most iconic artists of all time. She has challenged expectations of poetry, music and women throughout her life and continues to do so now.

For anyone wanting to learn more about Patti Smith, I would recommend ‘Gloria’ from the album ‘Horses’ as the first song to listen to. As the opening song on her first album, it is a great introduction to the different styles and influences used by Smith. ‘Because The Night’ from the album ‘Easter’ is also a must, just because of its mainstream success. It has a very different sound and feel to her other songs, with more of a pop sound than rock. Finally, I recommend ‘Jackson Song’ from the album ‘Dream Of Life’ as it shows a far more personal and very maternal side than is normally shown from Smith.

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At age seventy, Patti Smith is still creating and performing with the same passion and dedication as she has always done. As a hardworking and talented artist, Patti Smith could certainly be a good role model for the next generation of musicians, writers and poets.

Who are your musical icons? Comment below and let us know.