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Patti Smith

Biography

Patti Smith was in many ways the original punk rock chick. A ferociously inventive artist who was by turns political, inspired, overhyped and underrecognized, Smith came up in New York's fertile early '70s punk rock scene. She'd spent much of the '60s dabbling in the visual arts before she turned to poetry, teaming up with guitarist Lenny Kaye in the early '70s to produce spoken word pieces set to music. The collaboration eventually led to the formation of the Patti Smith Group. Their debut album, Horses (1975), is an undeniable classic, packed with spiralling imagery, contained venom, and Smiths' trademark Dionysian excess. (The title track inspired Jayne/Wayne County's spoof "Horsesh*t.") Radio Ethiopia (1976) was somewhat less successful, but Easter (1978) made Smith and crew true stars when the Springsteen-penned "Because the Night" became mainstream radio fare. A few indistinguishable albums followed; Smith went into effective retirement after Wave (1979), moving to Detroit to live with husband Fred "Sonic" Smith (of MC5 fame) and raise her son. After Fred Smith's death in 1994, Smith returned to music, releasing several well-received albums and touring extensively. Her live shows still maintain the passionate, quasi-mystical intensity of her youth, even when she's singing such schlock-political rock songs as "Power to the People." A true original, generations of rock stars owe a debt to the elder stateswoman of punk.P erhaps one of the greatest testaments to her success is not being made a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Letters by the French Culture Ministry, as she was in 2005, or her 2006 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If you ask Smith, it might just be the Fender Stratocaster that her son, Jackson, a guitarist himself, gave her on Mother's Day in 2003.
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