Born in Chicago, Illinois, then raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and various towns across the river in New Jersey, a young Patti Smith fantasized about living in New York City and finding her true identity. At age 21 in 1967, she finally relocated to Manhattan, where she entered the world of the arts in part through her lover, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. In 1969 she went to Paris with her sister and started busking and doing performance art. Upon Smith's return to Manhattan, she joined the St. Mark's Poetry Project and spent the early 1970s painting, writing, and performing in underground theater while frequented the new punk rock clubs. Smith also wrote rock journalism pieces, some of which were published in Rolling Stone and Creem. By 1974, Smith gravitated from poetry readings to rock music, initially with guitarist Lenny Kaye, and later with a full band. Though an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement, Smith married Fred Smith, former guitarist of the MC5, and spent most of the 1980s in semi-retirement from music, raising her family in St. Clair Shores, Michigan. Upon her husband's death in 1994, she moved back to New York and its music scene. Smith's 11th and most recent studio album, Banga, was released in 2012.
In recent years, Patti Smith has been performing frequently in the New York area, including this week's appearances on a late night talk show and at Radio City Music Hall after a film premiere. Unlike those unpublicized performances, her concert tonight at CityPark's Summerstage in Central Park was a ticketed event that paid tribute to her late husband, who would have turned 69 today. Backed by Kaye, bassist Tony Shanahan, drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, guitarist Andy York, and Smith's two children, guitarist Jackson Smith and keyboardist Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith performed many of the songs that she routinely performs, but also recited poetry and shared reflections of how these songs were influenced by her time with her late husband. "Most of these songs I wrote for Fred, with Fred or about Fred," she told the audience. She also memorialized other late artists: "Dancing Barefoot" to Amy Winehouse, who would have turned 34 on Thursday; "Peaceable Kingdom," to Hüsker Dü's Grant Hart, who passed away earlier in the day; "Pissing in a River" to writer Sam Shepard, who died in July 2017. The set was almost entirely comprised of her slower and softer songs, although she concluded with blasting versions of Neil Young's "Rocking in a Free World" and her own "People Have the Power," on which R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe joined on backing vocals. The concert pivoted on the tame and somber side of Patti Smith, and it was moving.
Patti Smith and her children will perform at Pathway to Paris: Concert to Fight Climate Change benefit concert at Carnegie Hall on November 5.
Visit Patti Smith at www.pattismith.net.
- People Have the Power (spoken)
- Wing (with Tony Shanahan, Jackson Smith, Jesse Smith, and Rebecca Foon only)
- Frederick (Patti Smith Group cover)
- Gone Again (with Rebecca Foon)
- Ghost Dance (Patti Smith Group cover)
- Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith Group cover)
- Mothers of the Disappeared (U2 cover)
- Tarkovsky (The Second Stop Is Jupiter)
- Peaceable Kingdom / People Have the Power
- Looking for You (I Was)
- Summer Cannibals
- Pissing in a River (Patti Smith Group cover)
- Because the Night (Patti Smith Group cover)
- Land (>) Rock n Roll Nigger (Patti Smith Group cover)
- Rockin' in the Free World (Neil Young cover)
- Happy Birthday to You (Mildred J. Hill & Patty Hill cover) (with Michael Stipe)
- People Have the Power (with Michael Stipe)