Patti Smith's punk cover of the Velvet Underground song 'Pale Blue Eyes' in 1976
(Credit: Stephen L Harlow)

From Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix: Patti Smith shares the soundtrack to her life

“When I was younger, I felt it was my duty to wake people up. I thought poetry was asleep. I thought rock ‘n’ roll was asleep.”—Patti Smith

At a time when millions of people are stuck in self-isolation, Patti Smith has provided the soundtrack to her life as a mode of light entertainment in what is a supremely testing time.

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.

Smith’s influence on popular culture knows no bounds, countless poets, musicians and artists all referring back to her eclectic range as a pivotal moment in the foundations of their creative vision: “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.”

While Smith has always pointed out that her contemporaries have inspired her to keep creating, the likes of Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and more, she rarely divulges the songs closely affiliated to specific moments in her life. Now, as part of a new conversation with podcast host and sound designer and DJ Arman Naféei, Smith has outlined 40 songs that closely soundtrack’s her life to date.

Naféei, who has also held a position of the music director for hotels like the Chateau Marmont, the Chiltern Firehouse and the Standard and more, welcomes a new special guest each week to have a short conversation about the sounds that have shaped their lives. Smith, whose eclectic list ranges into numerous different genres, predictably pays homage to Dylan who has been a mainstay in her life since the early days: “I love Blonde on Blonde and I remember listening to ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ a million times, just all Bob Dylan,” Smith said with adoring admiration.

When discussing love songs, Smith opens up about her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith who passed away in 1994 at the age of 46. “At my age, I’m 73, I don’t have a companion these days I have my children, I have my friends but I have my memories. I had a really unbelievably great husband, a brilliant and beautiful man and some songs when I’m very sad draw me to him because I was widowed young. Then some songs that are falling in love songs also take me to him. I could think of him while listening to ‘He’s a Rebel’ or I could listen to the Annie Lennox song ‘No More I Love You’s’. Such a sad song, I think that came out when he passed away.”

Elsewhere int he conversation Smith discusses some of her own material that she is most proud of, references some classical inspiration and hails the singing ability of the great Jimi Hendrix.

Patti Smith’s Favourite Songs:

  • ‘Un bel di, vedremo (Madama Butterfly)’ – Eleanor Steber
  • ‘Parsifal / Act 1: Verwandlungsmusik’ – Richard Wagner
  • ‘Tristan und Isolde’ – Richard Wagner
  • ‘Be Careful With a Fool’ – Johnny Winter
  • ‘Buzzin’ Fly’ – Tim Buckley
  • ‘How Can We Hang On To A Dream’ – Tim Hardin
  • ‘Rainy Day Women #12 & 35’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Pledging My Time’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Visions of Johanna’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘I Want You’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Just Like a Woman’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Most Likely You Go Your Way and I’ll Go Mine’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Temporary Like Achilles’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Absolutely Sweet Marie’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘4th Time Around’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Obviously 5 Believers’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands’ – Bob Dylan
  • ‘Gypsy Eyes’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘Rainy Day, Dream Away’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘Eternity’ – Soundwalk Collective & Patti Smith feat. Philip Glass & Sufi group of Sheikh Ibrahim
  • ‘When You Sleep’ – My Bloody Valentine
  • ‘Utai IV Reawakening’ – Kenji Kawai, Steve Aoki
  • ‘Goldberg-Variationen, BWV 988’ – Bach, Johann Sebastian
  • ‘1937: Saint Sebastian’ – Philip Glass 
  • ‘He’s a Rebel’ – The Crystals
  • ‘No More “I Love You’s”‘ – Annie Lennox
  • ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow’ – Ben E. King
  • ‘Song to the Siren – Take 7’ – Tim Buckley
  • ‘Black Sheep Boy’ – Tim Hardin
  • ‘Tosca / Act 3: E Lucevan Le Stelle’ – Luciano Pavarotti
  • ‘Puccini: Tosca, Act 2: Vissi d’arte (Tosca)’ – Giacomo Puccini
  • ‘Moon, Turn the Tides…Gently Gently Away’ – Jimi Hendrix
  • ‘Constantine’s Dream’ – Patti Smith
  • ‘Ghandi’ – Patti Smith
  • ‘Tutti Frutti’ – Little Richard
  • ‘Turandot / Act 2: Nessun Dorma!’ – Giacomo Puccini, Luciano Pavarotti

Listen to the full episode and stream a playlist of Smith’s soundtrack, below.

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