Patti Smith.

Published on Dec 6, 2012 Interviewed in London.

“Build a good name”, rock poet Patti Smith advises the young. “Life is like a roller coaster, it is going to have beautiful moments but it is going to be real fucked up, too”.

Stay clean, stay healthy there are a lot of challenges ahead.  We are living in special times. Everyone can publish.And…

It is true pain when you are up there and cant connect. Like the veins plugged and the steam aint flowing and people are watching and you break down on your knees.

 And I dont know if hes dead center like he was in Texas 69 I dont know where he is at all. It doesnt matter this set stands in time like a Cartier gem. How it felt to shell it out you will not soon forget how it feels to hear. When the musics over and you turn out the light its like . . . coming down from a dream.
Copyright © Patti Smith 1974

Here’s the woman who arguably made the first punk-rock record way back in 1974. Who witnessed the birth of rock’n’roll in America and then became a rock star herself with the release of Horses in 1975. Who always thought of herself not as a punk but as a poet, painter and photographer. Who was influenced by Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger and who has, by now, influenced three generations of musicians. Who, while her male musical peers burned out or faded away, is as vital at 61 as when she was a skinny, stylish, intense girl from New Jersey. And who is now more hippie pacifist than angry young woman.

Patti Smith knows what grief feels like. She has lost more lovers and friends than is fair. In 1989, her former lover and close friend Robert Mapplethorpe died of an Aids-related illness. The American photographer shot the iconic image of Smith on the front cover of Horses, in a man’s white shirt, black ribbon tie, black jacket flung over her shoulder, studied nonchalance unable to disguise a kind of casual yet untouchable sexuality. In late 1994, her husband, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, once a guitarist in pre-punk rockers MC5, died of a heart attack, leaving her with two young children. Less than a month later, her brother Todd, to whom she was extremely close, died suddenly. Both her parents recently passed away. And her oldest female friend.

Dream of Life, whose title was taken from the album Smith made with her late husband in 1988, which in turn was taken from a Shelley poem, is emphatically not an A-Z of Patti Smith. There are some lovely, resolutely unsentimental scenes documenting one of Smith’s last visits to her parents’ house. Her father hated rock’n’roll but he loved that she made somewhat of a name for herself. I don’t think he liked any of my songs, except “People Have the Power”. My mother loved rock’n’roll. The more raucous, the better. There was lots of music in our house. The radio was great in the Fifties and Sixties. We had the whole evolution of rock’n’roll on the radio.’

I wonder what kind of child Patti Smith was. She sounds like a very particular kind of child. The issue of gender was never her biggest concern; her biggest concern was doing good work. When the feminist movement really got going, she wasn’t an active part of it because shewas more concerned with my own mental pursuits. She  hasn’t changed much, though the world has changed around her.  Some  ‘People Have the Power’.