In a time where men dominated the rock music industry there was Patti Smith pioneering her own sound in the 70’s. Born in Chicago in 1946, she started being influenced by music at an early age. She would first start listening to artists like Patience and Prudence, Harry Belefonte and Bob Dylan. Moving from Chicago to Philadelphia, then New Jersey before finally leaving Glassboro State College (now Rowan University) and moving to Manhattan, New York on her own. This is where things start to take off!
In Manhattan Patti Smith met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe while working at a bookshop with American poet Janet Hamill. Becoming romantic with Mapplethorpe, in a book she later wrote called Just Kids, she considers him one of the most important people in her world and “artist of her life”. In ’69 she would go to Paris to perform in the street and in theater, later returning to live with Mapplethorpe at Hotel Chelsea. Getting more deeper into creativity this time around.
The same year Patti Smith would provide a spoken word soundtrack to ROBERT HAVING HIS NIPPLE PIERCED, an art film by Sandy Daley starring Mapplethorpe. She starred in FEMME FATALE, a play by Jackie Curtis with Wayne County and also Tony Ingrassia‘s play, ISLAND. Smith would be spending much of early 1970 painting, writing and performing as part of St. Mark’s Poetry Project. In ’71 for one night she performed in COWBOY MOUTH, a play she co-wrote with Sam Sheppard, who she wrote a few poems about.
Getting into more music, Patti was briefly considered to be the vocalist for Blue Oyster Cult, who she wrote several songs for like, DEBBIE DENISE, BABY ICE DOG, CAREER OF EVIL, THE REVENGE OF VERA GEMINI and more. She would also be romantically involved with on the the bands members as well. In the midst of all this she also wrote rock journalism pieces for Rolling Stone and Creem. By 1974 Patti Smith would become a rock star in her own right.
In 1974, Patti Smith would form Patti Smith Group originally with Lenny Kaye, Ivan Kral, Jay Dee Daugherty and Richard Sohl. Financed by Sam Wagstaff, the band recorded their first singles HEY JOE and PISS FACTORY , which included a spoken word piece about fugitive heiress Patty Hearst for the A-Side and time in a factory on the B-Side. Signed by the Clive Davis of Arista Records, the Pattie Smith Group recorded their first album HORSES, fusing poetry, spoken word and punk rock. While touring, on January 23, 1977 as she was dancing on stage, Patti Smith fell 15 feet into a concrete orchestra pit, breaking several neck vertebrae. They would produce a few more albums before the 70’s end, including RADIO ETHIOPIA, their most famous EASTER and WAVE.
Patti Smith would return to music in 1995 briefly touring with Bob Dylan. The next year she would work on a Kurt Cobain tribute record GONE AGAIN, following up with two albums, PEACE AND NOISE and GUNG HO, that would receive Grammy nominations for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. After TRAMPIN, another album release, in 2005 Patti Smith would be named Commander of Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. After closing out the legendary CBGB music venue in a tour de force, 3 & 1/2 hour set, in 2007 Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She continues to be a force in the music industry to this day!