Multitalented poet, artist and singer-songwriter Patti Smith turns 70 on December 30. In this Throwback Thursday post, we celebrate her long and varied career as a boundary-pushing artist who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won the National Book Award.
Smith was born in Chicago in 1946, grew up in New Jersey and moved to Manhattan in her early 20s. There, she met Robert Mapplethorpe, with whom she had an intense romantic relationship, detailed in her National Book Award-winning memoir Just Kids. If you’ve ever wondered about the art and music scene in New York in the 1970s, this book is a must-read!
During that time, Smith spent her time soaking up New York’s artistic community. She did performance art and spoken word, wrote rock journalism and co-wrote a play with Sam Shepard, Cowboy Mouth. Cowboy Mouth appears in Shepard’s collection Fool for Love, and Other Plays.
The Patti Smith Group recorded its first album, Horses, in 1975. Fusing punk rock and spoken word poetry, and iconic cover art by Mapplethorpe, the album launched Smith’s musical career, and she spent the next few years touring around the world and recording more albums, including Radio Ethiopia, Easter and Wave.
While Smith spent most of the 1980s and 1990s in semi-retirement, raising her children, she continued to write poetry and music, occasionally releasing books or songs, including Dream of Life, which features the well-known song “People Have the Power.” This song was performed by a variety of celebrities at her 2007 induction ceremony at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Today, Patti Smith remains an active artist, poet and songwriter. Her latest book, M Train, collects essays from her life and travels in creativity, and is another must-read for anyone who appreciates a look inside the soul of an artist.
What’s your favorite Patti Smith album, song or book? Let us know in the comments!