Leading Lady : Patti Smith

“It was always my belief that rock and roll belonged in the hands of the people, not rock stars.” - Patti Smith

Patti Smith is an American songwriter, performer and visual artist who rocked the 1960s and 70s with her unapologetic and revolutionary art. Her words were heavily influenced by her religious upbringing, the social-political undercurrent of the time, and by idols like Arthur Rimbaud and Bob Dylan.

Smith was born in Chicago in 1946 and briefly attended college at Glassboro State Teachers College with an intention to become a high school art teacher. But traditional academia proved to be too rigid for her experimental and unconventional ways.

Stumbling into New York City’s East Village as an androgynous, wide-eyed 21-year-old, Smith quickly found herself a resident at the Chelsea Hotel, a regular at Max’s Kansas City and a pioneer of New York’s emerging punk scene – all alongside her lifelong creative partner, Robert Mapplethorpe.

The poet first melded her spoken word with rock and roll during an infamous 1971 performance at St. Mark’s Church. She went on to form the Patti Smith Group and had a two-month residency at CBGB. Her B-Side “Piss Factory” has been argued as one of the earliest punk songs. Her seminal album, Horses, sits among the top 100 albums of all time. As a visual artist, her drawings, photographs and installations have been represented by Robert Miller Gallery since 1978. She has recorded 12 albums, published more than a dozen books and co-authored the play “Cowboy Mouth.” She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007. - Alison Henderson


Photo Credit : Robert mapplethorpe