Patti Smith was born in Chicago on December 30, 1946.
She co-wrote a play called Cotton Mouth with Sam Shepard, which she performed once, in 1971.
She wrote lyrics for several Blue Öyster Cult songs. For a while she was under consideration to be the band’s lead singer.
The Patti Smith Group released their first record in 1974, a single featuring the songs “Hey Joe” and “Piss Factory.”
Patti Smith has released eleven studio albums to date: Horses, Radio Ethiopia, Easter, Wave, Dream of Life, Gone Again, Peace and Noise, Gung Ho, Trampin’, Twelve and Banga.
The Patti Smith Group’s debut album, 1975’s Horses, was listed at #1 on NME’s list of “20 Near-as-Damn-It Perfect Initial Efforts.” It was #44 on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time” and #49 in Out magazine’s “100 Greatest, Gayest Albums of All Time” list.
Easter also made the Out magazine list, coming in at #64.
David Keenan of the Sunday Herald placed Radio Ethiopia on his list of “The 103 Best Albums Ever, Honest .”
Rolling Stone called Gone Again one of the “Essential Recordings of the Nineties.”
Siouxsie and the Banshees’ “Carcass” was inspired by Smith’s Horses.
About Horses, R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe said it “tore my limbs off and put them back on in a whole different order.” In 1996 Smith contributed vocals to R.E.M.’s “E-bow the Letter.”
Patti Smith was not a member of the band The Smiths. However, the group’s Morrissey and Johnny Marr said that their song “The Hand That Rocks the Cradle” is a reworking of “Kimberly” from Patti’s Horses. Morrissey later released a single with a cover of that album’s “Redondo Beach.”
Sammy Hagar covered Horses’ “Free Money” on his self-titled album.
Courtney Love said Smith’s Horses album helped inspire her to become a rock star.
U2 covered Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” for the b-side of their “When Loves Comes to Town” single. Smith later covered U2’s “Until the End of the World” for a U2 tribute compilation.
In 2005, Patti Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
In 2010 she won the National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids, which documents her romantic relationship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe as the couple were struggling artists and Mapplethorpe was struggling with his homosexuality. Mapplethorpe, whose photographs of Smith covered her albums Horses, Wave and Dream of Life, died from AIDS-related illness in 1989. Smith donated the royalties for her 1996 book The Coral Sea to the Robert Mapplethorpe Laboratory for AIDS Research at Boston’s Deaconess Hospital/Harvard Medical School.
Smith’s sole top 40 pop hit was 1978’s “Because the Night.” The song’s music and chorus were written by Bruce Springsteen. He had trouble writing verses to it as it was a love song and at that time he wasn’t writing straightforward love songs. He gave what he had done to Patti Smith, who was recording an album in the studio next to where he was recording Darkness in the Edge of Town. Her record, which reached #13, was the first hit for producer Jimmy Iovine, who later co-founded Interscope Records and Beats by Dr. Dre.
“Gloria” was written by Van Morrison for his band Them. It peaked at #93 in 1965. Smith covered the song using the title of the Catholic hymn “Gloria: in Excelsis Deo,” adding her own lyrics.
About how “People Have the Power” came to be, Patti told UK music mag NME “I was in the kitchen. My late husband was writing music, and he was a great songwriter, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith, and we were writing some songs together. And I was peeling potatoes, and I remember I was in a bad mood because I had, you know, I was making dinner and washing the clothes and peeling potatoes. And in the middle of it, Fred came in and said, ‘Tricia, people have the power, write it.’ And I was standing there with a potato peeler thinking I’d like to have the power to make him peel these potatoes, that’s what I’d like… but I kept him. So for the next few nights, I really contemplated – because Fred was very political, and we talked about it, what we wanted to do with this line, which was Fred’s. And what we wanted to do was remind the listener of their individual power but also of the collective power of the people, how we can do anything. That’s why at the end it goes, ‘I believe everything we dream can come to pass, through our union we can turn the world around, we can turn the earth’s revolution.’ We wrote it consciously together to inspire people, to inspire people to come together.”
Smith’s “About a Boy” was written about Kurt Cobain. She told the Seattle Weekly “I was heartbroken when he committed suicide. I loved Nirvana … [My husband and I] felt so badly. We just wished that we would have known him, and been able to talk to him, and had some positive effect on him.” She covered Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on her album Twelve.
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