“All I’ve ever wanted, since I was a child, was to do something wonderful.”—Patti Smith
Patti Smith, the iconic singer-songwriter whose career beginnings coincided with the New York City punk rock movement, has enjoyed a prolific career since the early 1970s.
With eleven critically acclaimed studio albums, three live albums and two EPs released since Smith shared her critically acclaimed debut record Horses in 1975, Smith’s Beat poetry-infused lyrics have repeatedly propelled her status to that of rock royalty.
Patti Smith, backed by her band, sang and screamed her fiery words against impressionable audiences. She had married the two styles together, creating a new way of consuming poetry and a brand new way of performing for a crowd. In the words of Patti Smith herself: “I did it for poetry. I did it for Rimbaud…I wanted to infuse the written word with the immediacy and frontal attack of rock and roll.”
“I don’t know anybody else who could possibly write like that, male or female,” Juliette Lewis once said of Smith. “She’s always been the only one saying what she says, in the way that she says it. But her appeal is much richer than that. She has an uncommon intelligence and the way she views things is incredible, mixing her imagination, references and her perspective on politics or pop culture.”
Lewis added: “All you have to do is read her lyrics and poetry to understand where she comes from. For me, the greatest artists do that – they connect with you but then they open your eyes to something deeper.”
With over 40 years of experience in the music industry, Smith has touched on numerous different themes and societal topics within her music and channelled her lyrics much like her poetry; by making her words accessible, by being a creative force for the people. “To me, punk rock is the freedom to create, freedom to be successful, freedom to not be successful, freedom to be who you are. It’s freedom.”
As the music writer Richard Williams so poignantly wrote, Patti Smith “belonged to a time, but she didn’t belong to a movement.” Smith rose to prominence within the punk scene that centred around New York City in the mid-to-late ’70s, but the scene never really defined who she was as an artist. She has continuously been called a punk which can be misleading and limiting.
Get to know the music of Patti Smith, below.