Drawing from a tradition that embraces excess -- whether it be in poetry, rock 'n' roll, life, or all of the above -- Patti Smith brings passion and wit to her rough-edged, anarchist music. Her songs recall the lives of such... [more]
Drawing from a tradition that embraces excess -- whether it be in poetry, rock 'n' roll, life, or all of the above -- Patti Smith brings passion and wit to her rough-edged, anarchist music. Her songs recall the lives of such debauched, ecstatic souls as Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, and James Joyce. From topics as diverse as schizophrenia, cosmic anarchism, extra-terrestrials, death, and religion, Smith creates multi-layered compositions that are both flamboyant and down-to-earth. However high they roar, her songs remain grounded in her rustic voice and her sense for straightforward rock.
Smith began her career as a poet, published the collections 'Seventh Heaven' (1971), 'Kodak' (1972), and 'Witt' (1973). Her writing is influenced by Rimbaud and William Burroughs -- it blends together violently distorted syntax with lyrical flights of imagination and emotion. She entered the music business after hooking up with Richard Hell and Tom Verlaine from Television, then recruiting bassist Ivan Kraal and drummer Jay Daugherty. The debut album, 'Horses' (1975), was the outcome. Characterized as "new underground" music, this album was the first in its class to make Billboard's Top 50, and is still considered one of her best efforts.
Soon Smith's experimental ethos and flamboyant personality made her a kind of high priestess in New York's underground rock scene. But Smith lost favor with many fans by lambasting the banality of punk rock culture, a seemingly contradictory position given the nature of her own musical endeavors. Her next album reflected this attitude: 'Radio Ethiopia' (1976) is a bizarre combination of cacophonous free jazz and rock. The album met with dim public approval.
Performances during this era treaded a fine line between emotional intensity and outright incoherence. In fact, Smith's wild stage antics during a show in Tampa, Florida, ended abruptly when she fell from the stage and broke her neck. After her recovery, Smith toned down the tonal dissonance and turned towards religious belief and exaltation in "Wave" (1979).
It wasn't until the beginning of the 1980s that her music returned to its experimental origins: in a 1980 live show she combined jazz improvisation with feedback, all with a film featuring Jackson Pollock projected behind her. But after a decade's sojourn into domestic life, tragedy would soon temper Smith again. The death of her husband Fred Smith and friend Robert Mapplethorpe prompted the moody, melancholy album about love and loss, "Gone Again" (1996). Some critics believe this is her best album to date. [show less]