You probably would never have guessed that Bruce Springsteen once wrote a song for Patti Smith. But he did, and it’s one of her better tunes: ‘Because The Night’.
Springsteen admired the artist and happily gave her ‘Because The Night’ in the 1970s, feeling that it held no place on the album he was recording. “It was a love song and I really wasn’t writing them at the time,” Springsteen remembered.
“I wrote these very hidden love songs like ‘For You’, or ‘Sandy’, maybe even ‘Thunder Road’, but they were always coming from a different angle,” the Boss continued. “My love songs were never straight out, they weren’t direct. That song needed directness and at the time I was uncomfortable with it. I was hunkered down in my samurai position. Darkness… was about stripping away everything – relationships, everything – and getting down to the core of who you were. So that song is the great missing song from Darkness On The Edge. I could not have finished it as good as she did. She was in the midst of her love affair with Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith and she had it all right there on her sleeve. She put it down in a way that was just quite wonderful.”
His description doesn’t do her performance justice: She sings as if summoning every element of her being, capturing a sense of triumph that could only come from a place of great comfort in life. She was singing well, happily in love, nary a song nor a riff out of place in her career.
It was proving harder to get the truth heard in a wilderness of ideas and intellect, but Smith was keen to appear valuable, both as an artist and a person to the world at large. She is an artist, an angular art person, a poet, a raconteur, a rebel, a rigorous creator determined to fashion her voice to the masses at large, never ceasing for a second whether it was to fade out or to burn brightly in the distant sky.
She was that one voice in a million, that one voice of a generation, and the voice who could find great truth and passion in a song she herself did not write. Her art emanated from the bottom of her stomach, capturing a certain form of music that was primal and passionate in its resolve. The vocals were crisp, clean and cut with great regard for her immediate surroundings. It took great truth to let out the brave vocals that were used on her records, just as it took immense concentration to summon up the strength to carry on singing when it was geared for an entirely different form of rock album.
Bruce Springsteen is right to say that she did it better than him, and the song only grew more emotive with every passing concert. The song is meant to be sung in front of a live audience, and her version in 2012 was euphoric in its delivery. Maybe she’ll celebrate her 2012 appearance with another seminal performance at Electric Picnic this year?