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Music

The connection between Peter Pan and Patti Smith

Patti Smith needs no real introduction. She is an artist of exceptional pedigree, and over the course of her long and celebrated career, she’s proven time and time again that she is one of the most exciting creatives out there. Her life reads like a work of fiction and one that is begging to be made into a biopic. 

Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, is one of the most candid works released in contemporary times, and her discussion of the relationship with her late lover and friend, Robert Mapplethorpe, is a tearjerking experience, delving into the complex mind of Patti Smith that we all respect so greatly.  

Smith has always poured honesty into her work at every opportunity, and it is this factor that has given each creation the endurance and weight that surpasses that of her CBGB peers. Her thoughts on topics such as politics, women’s rights and literature set the bar high for all those who followed, and there’s no surprise that she can list some of alternative music’s biggest names as her disciples. Ranging from Michael Stipe to The Smiths and even Madonna, Smith’s legacy lives on in the work of many others. 

A captivating artist, in interviews, Smith really shines. Possessing sage wisdom, her takes are always necessary and refreshing. She’s seen and done it all, and this gives her the authority to pick apart whatever issue she may be presented with. Simply fascinating, interviewers are often rapt by the presence of the ‘punk poet laureate’.

In a 2016 conversation with The Guardian, Smith surprised readers by revealing that she’s a fan of Neverland’s favourite son, Peter Pan. However, when you consider her reasons, you understand that there’s a similarity between the two. Smith’s refusal to accept her age as many of her generation have done seems to stem from the influence of J. M. Barrie’s timeless character. 

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“I’d like to get there early, so I can visit the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens,” Smith explained. “Have you seen it? Oh, it’s so wonderful! He’s got a pipe and there are fairies about! I used to go and see it in the 70s. I still do. When I was younger, I wanted to be just like him and never grow up. So whenever I’m in London, I always go say hello to Peter Pan.”

Smith’s life has been one of adventure, and you can’t help but think that Peter Pan’s idealistic refusal to conform had a considerable impact on Smith’s own refusal to do so. Having fallen pregnant at 16, Smith took the tremendously difficult decision to give the baby up for adoption, and at 20, she had abandoned any hope for a ‘normal’ life. From there, she moved to New York on a quest to find artistic success. This decision led to her enduring times of great poverty, often sleeping in subways and graveyards, a prospect that defied the social expectations of a young woman at the time.  

Now aged 75, Smith jas lived a life that’s been full, regardless of the hardships encountered on the way. Although not as young as she once was, Smith still possesses youthful energy that carries her through her hectic touring schedule. 

In a 1976 interview, she was asked what the concept of freedom means to her personally, to which she responded: “Freedom is inside of me. It means that I’m not hung up with anybody’s idea of how I should be. I’m outside of society, I’m an artist, rock and roll is my art.” A concise account, Peter Pan’s childish vitality runs through it. 

Watch the classic Patti Smith interview below.