"I am an American artist and I have no guilt."

b. December 30, 1946 Chicago, IL

Poet, rock star, punk priestess.

Born in Chicago and raised in Woodbury, NJ (just across the river from Philadelphia), her mother sang jazz and father worked at the Honeywell plant. A misfit in high school and a college drop-out, she sought refuge in music and poetry, drawing inspiration from Arthur Rimbaud, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, and like artists.

She moved to New York in the late 1960s, living with Robert Mapplethrope, and, except for a year in Paris with her sister, became heavily involved in the underground scene, where she met Sam Shepard, with whom she co-authored the play Cowboy Mouth. She also published two books of poetry. In 1971 she met Lenny Kaye, a rock journalist and guitarist. They began performing spoken word experiments, fusing rock, jazz, and poetry. In 1974, with the help of Tom Verlaine of Television, her new group, now consisting of Lenny Kaye and DNV on piano, recorded a single--"Hey Joe" and "Piss Factory."

Patti's band soon became a part of the CBGB art/punk scene, which included Television, the Ramones, Blondie, and the Talking Heads. In 1975, they recorded their first album Horses, produced by John Cale of the Velvet Underground, with the cover photo by ex-roommate Robert Mapplethorpe. This was followed by Radio Ethiopia (1976) and Easter (1978), which included "Because the Night," co-written with Bruce Springsteen, and the controversial "Rock N Roll Nigger." 1979 saw the album Wave, and in 1980 her marriage to Fred "Sonic" Smith of the MC5, at which point she moved to a suburb of Detroit.

She wrote and raised her children there, until the death of her husband in 1994. She only released one album in the Eighties, 1988's Dream of Life. Though Patti and Fred had been talking about going into the studio in 1995, his death catalized her into doing so. In 1996, she released Gone Again, with a tribute to her husband; it also features Tom Verlaine and John Cale among others. 2000 saw the release of Gung Ho.



  • Seventh Heaven (1972) Telegraph Books
  • A Useless Death (1972) Gotham Book Mart
  • kodak (1972) Middle Earth Press
  • Early morning dream / Patti Smith (c1972) (rare, unknown publisher)
  • WITT (1973) Gotham Book Mart
  • Ha! Ha! Houdini! (1977) Gotham Book Mart & Gallery
  • Patti Smith - Gallerie Veith Turske (1977) Galerie Veith Turske, Cologne, West Germany
  • Babel (1974-1978) G. P. Putnam's Sons
  • Woolgathering (1992) Hanuman Books
  • Early Work, 1970 - 1979 (1994) W. W. Norton & Company
  • The Coral Sea (1996) New York: W. W. Norton
  • Patti Smith Complete : Lyrics, Reflections & Notes for the Future (1998) Doubleday
  • Patti Smith Complete : Lyrics, Notes and Reflections (1999) Anchor Books
    Thanks to bindlenix for the birthdate.

One of the best summaries I've heard of her came from Francesco Scavullo, the fashion photographer. After having given several (very funny) anecdotes on how X or Y model needed major makeovers before meeting his exacting specifications, Merv Griffin turned to him and said, "And what advice would you give our musical guest?"

Patti had just performed Ask the Angels in a loose black T-shirt and tight black jeans, no bra (and rather large boobs for her size), and had slipped into a black denim jacket to ward against the air conditioning. Her hair was lightly permed into a dark halo, she wore no makeup. I seem to remember a few tarantella bracelets and/or a small watch.

He looked at her long and hard. Everyone was thinking a) wear a bra, b) get her teeth straightened, d) do something with that pretty face, and e) try to look like a girl for Chrissake!

Finally, he said, "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. She is....perfect."

In the year 1978, with Brooke Shields, Lauren Hutton, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Bianca Jagger playing against her, a nation stood in awe.

Oh, and by the way, she's a 'bad seed' Kallikak. Figures.

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