Patricia Lee Smith (born December 30, 1946) is an American singer, songwriter, poet, painter, author and photographer whose 1975 debut album Horses made her an influential member of the New York City-based punk rock movement.[1] Smith has fused rock and poetry in her work. In 1978, her most widely known song, "Because the Night", co-written with Bruce Springsteen, reached 13th on the Billboard Hot 100 chart[1] and fifth on the UK Singles Chart.

Patti Smith
Smith in 1978
Smith in 1978
Background information
Birth namePatricia Lee Smith
Born (1946-12-30) December 30, 1946 (age 77)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
OriginDeptford Township, New Jersey, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • poet
  • painter
  • author
  • photographer
  • Vocals
  • guitar
  • clarinet
DiscographyPatti Smith discography
Years active1967–present

In 2005, Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.[2] In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[3] In November 2010, Smith won the National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids,[4] written to fulfill a promise she made to Robert Mapplethorpe, her longtime partner. She is ranked 47th on Rolling Stone magazine's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, published in 2010,[5] and was awarded the Polar Music Prize in 2011.

Early life and education


Smith was born on December 30, 1946, at Grant Hospital in the Lincoln Park section of Chicago,[6][7] to Beverly Smith, a jazz singer turned waitress, and Grant Smith, a Honeywell machinist.[8] The family was of part Irish ancestry,[9] and Patti was the eldest of four children, with siblings Linda, Kimberly, and Todd.[10]

When Smith was four, the family moved from Chicago to the Germantown section of Philadelphia,[11] then to Pitman, New Jersey,[12] and finally settled in the Woodbury Gardens section of Deptford Township, New Jersey.[13][14]

At an early age, Smith was exposed to music, including the albums Shrimp Boats by Harry Belafonte, The Money Tree by Patience and Prudence, and Another Side of Bob Dylan, Bob Dylan's fourth album, released in 1964, which her mother gave her.

In 1964, Smith graduated from Deptford Township High School, and began working in a factory.[1][15] She briefly attended Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, in Glassboro, New Jersey.



Early performances


In 1969, Smith went to Paris with her sister, and started busking and doing performance art.[13] When Smith returned to Manhattan, she lived at the Hotel Chelsea with Mapplethorpe. They frequented Max's Kansas City on Park Avenue, and Smith provided the spoken word soundtrack for Sandy Daley's art film Robert Having His Nipple Pierced, starring Mapplethorpe. The same year, Smith appeared with Jayne County in Jackie Curtis's play Femme Fatale. She also starred in Anthony Ingrassia's play Island. As a member of the Poetry Project, she spent the early 1970s painting, writing, and performing.

In 1969, Smith also performed in the one-act play Cowboy Mouth,[16] which she co-wrote with Sam Shepard. The published play's notes call for "a man who looks like a coyote and a woman who looks like a crow". She wrote several poems about Shepard and her relationship with him, including "for sam shepard"[17] and "Sam Shepard: 9 Random Years (7 + 2)", that were published in Angel City, Curse of the Starving Class & Other Plays (1976).

On February 10, 1971, Smith, accompanied by Lenny Kaye on electric guitar, opening for Gerard Malanga, which was her first public poetry performance.[18][19]

Smith was briefly considered as lead singer for Blue Öyster Cult. She contributed lyrics to several Blue Öyster Cult songs, including "Debbie Denise", which was inspired by her poems "In Remembrance of Debbie Denise", "Baby Ice Dog", "Career of Evil", "Fire of Unknown Origin", "The Revenge of Vera Gemini", on which she performs duet vocals, and "Shooting Shark". At the time, she was romantically involved with Allen Lanier, Blue Öyster Cult's keyboardist. During these years, Smith was also a rock music journalist, writing periodically for Rolling Stone and Creem.[18]

The Patti Smith Group

On October 15, 2006, Smith performed a 3½-hour tour de force show to close out CBGB, the famed New York City live music venue.
Smith performing at Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona, in June 2007
Smith performing at Haldern Pop in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, in August 2014
Smith performing in Berlin, in June 2022

In 1973, Smith teamed up again with musician and rock archivist Lenny Kaye, and later added Richard Sohl on piano. The trio developed into a full band with the addition of Ivan Král on guitar and bass and Jay Dee Daugherty on drums.[18] Kral was a refugee from Czechoslovakia who had moved to the US in 1966 with his parents, who were both diplomats. After the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968, Kral decided not to return.[20]

Financed by Sam Wagstaff, the band recorded their first single, "Hey Joe/Piss Factory" in 1974. The A-side was a version of the rock standard with the addition of a spoken word piece about Patty Hearst, a fugitive heiress. The B-side describes the helpless alienation Smith felt while working on a factory assembly line and the salvation she dreams of achieving by escaping to New York City.[1] In a 1996 interview on artistic influences during her younger years, Smith said, "I had devoted so much of my girlish daydreams to Rimbaud. Rimbaud was like my boyfriend."[21]

Later the same year, she performed "I Wake Up Screaming", a poem, on The Whole Thing Started with Rock & Roll Now It's Out of Control, an album by The Doors' Ray Manzarek.



In March 1975, Smith's group, the Patti Smith Group, began a two-month weekend set of shows at CBGB in New York City with the band Television. The Patti Smith Group was spotted by Clive Davis, who signed them to Arista Records.

Later that year, the Patti Smith Group recorded their debut album, Horses, produced by John Cale amid some tension.[18] The album fused punk rock and spoken poetry and begins with a cover of Van Morrison's "Gloria", and Smith's opening words: "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine", an excerpt from "Oath", one of Smith's early poems. The austere cover photograph by Mapplethorpe has become one of rock's classic images.[22]

As punk rock grew in popularity, the Patti Smith Group toured the U.S. and Europe. The rawer sound of the group's second album, Radio Ethiopia, reflected this. Considerably less accessible than Horses, Radio Ethiopia initially received poor reviews. However, several of its songs have stood the test of time, and Smith still performs them live.[23] She has said that Radio Ethiopia was influenced by the band MC5.[21]

On January 23, 1977, while touring in support of Radio Ethiopia, Smith accidentally danced off a high stage in Tampa, Florida, and fell 15-feet onto a concrete orchestra pit, breaking several cervical vertebrae.[24] The injury required a period of rest and physical therapy, during which she says she was able to reassess, reenergize, and reorganize her life.

The Patti Smith Group produced two further albums, Easter, released in 1978, was their most commercially successful record. It included the band's top single "Because the Night", co-written with Bruce Springsteen. Wave (1979) was less successful, although the songs "Frederick" and "Dancing Barefoot" received commercial airplay.[25]

Through most of the 1980s, Patti lived with her family in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, and was semi-retired from music. She ultimately moved back to New York City.

Touring and additional albums


In June 1988, Smith released the album Dream of Life, which included the song "People Have the Power".

Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Allen Ginsberg, who she had known since her early years in New York City, urged her return to live music and touring. She toured briefly with Bob Dylan in December 1995, which is chronicled in a book of photographs by Stipe.[16]

In 1996, Smith worked with her long-time colleagues to record Gone Again, featuring "About a Boy", a tribute to Kurt Cobain, the former lead singer of Nirvana who died by suicide in 1994.

The same year, she collaborated with Stipe on "E-Bow the Letter", a song on R.E.M.'s New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which she performed live with the band.[26] After the release of Gone Again, Smith recorded two further albums, Peace and Noise in 1997, which included the single "1959" about China's invasion of Tibet, and Gung Ho in 2000, which included songs about Ho Chi Minh and Smith's late father. Smith was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance for two songs, "1959" and "Glitter in Their Eyes".[27]

A box set of Smith's work up to that time, The Patti Smith Masters. was released in 1996.

In 2002, Smith released Land (1975–2002), a two-CD compilation that includes a cover of Prince's "When Doves Cry". Smith's solo art exhibition Strange Messenger was hosted at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh on September 28, 2002.[28]

On April 27, 2004, Smith released Trampin', which included several songs about motherhood, partly in tribute to Smith's mother, who died two years earlier. It was her first album on Columbia Records, which later became a sister label to her Arista Records, her previous label. Smith curated the Meltdown festival in London on June 25, 2005, in which she performed Horses live in its entirety for the first time.[29] This live performance was released later in 2004 as Horses/Horses.

On October 15, 2006, Smith performed a 3½-hour tour de force show to close out at CBGB, which was an immensely influential New York City live music venue for much of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. At the CBGB show, Smith took the stage at 9:30 p.m. (EDT) and closed her show a few minutes after 1:00 am. Her final song was "Elegie", after which she read a list of punk rock musicians and advocates who had died in the previous years, representing the last public song and words performed at the iconic venue.[30]

In April 2007, Smith's cover of "Gimme Shelter" appeared on her tenth album, Twelve, an all-covers album released by Columbia Records.

In July 2008, a live album by Smith and Kevin Shields, The Coral Sea, was released.

On September 10, 2009, after a week of smaller events and exhibitions in Florence, Smith played an open-air concert at Piazza Santa Croce, commemorating her performance in the same city 30 years earlier.[31]

Smith recorded a cover of Buddy Holly's "Words of Love" for the CD Rave on Buddy Holly, a tribute album tied to Holly's 75th birthday, which was released June 28, 2011.[32]

She also recorded the song "Capitol Letter" for the official soundtrack of the second film of the Hunger Games' series The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.[33]

Smith's 11th studio album, Banga, was released in June 2012. American Songwriter wrote that, "These songs aren't as loud or frantic as those of her late 70s heyday, but they resonate just as boldly as she moans, chants, speaks and spits out lyrics with the grace and determination of Mohammad Ali in his prime. It's not an easy listen—the vast majority of her music never has been—but if you're a fan and/or prepared for the challenge, this is as potent, heady and uncompromising as she has ever gotten, and with Smith's storied history as a musical maverick, that's saying plenty."[34] Metacritic awarded the album a score of 81, indicating "universal acclaim".[35]

Also in 2012, Smith recorded a cover of Io come persona by Italian singer-songwriter Giorgio Gaber.[36][37]

In 2015, Smith wrote "Aqua Teen Dream" to commemorate the series finale of Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The vocal track was recorded in a hotel overlooking Lerici's Bay of Poets.[38] On September 26, 2015, Smith performed at the American Museum of Tort Law convocation ceremony.[39]

On December 6, 2015, she made an appearance at the Paris show of U2's Innocence + Experience Tour, performing "Bad" and "People Have the Power" with U2.[40]

In 2016, Smith performed "People Have the Power" at Riverside Church in Manhattan to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Democracy Now, where she was joined by Michael Stipe. On December 10, 2016, Smith attended the Nobel Prize Award Ceremony in Stockholm on behalf of Bob Dylan, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, who could not be present due to prior commitments.

After the official presentation speech for the literary prize by Horace Engdahl, the perpetual secretary of the Swedish Academy, Smith sang the Dylan song "A Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall".[41] She missung one verse, singing, "I saw the babe that was just bleedin'," and was momentarily unable to continue.[42] After a brief apology, saying that she was nervous, she resumed the song and earned jubilant applause at its end.[43][44]

Art and writings


In 1994, Smith began devoting time to what she terms "pure photography", a method of capturing still objects without using a flash.[45]

From November 2006 to January 2007, an exhibition called 'Sur les Traces'[46] at Trolley Gallery, London, featured polaroid prints taken by Smith and donated to Trolley to raise awareness and funds for the publication of Double Blind: Lebanon Conflict 2006, a book with photographs by Paolo Pellegrin, a member of Magnum Photos. She also participated in the DVD commentary for Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.

From March 28 to June 22, 2008, the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain in Paris hosted a major exhibition of the visual artwork of Land 250, drawn from pieces created by Smith between 1967 and 2007.[47]

In 2009, she contributed the introduction to Jessica Lange's book 50 Photographs.[48]

In 2010, Smith's book, Just Kids, a memoir of her time in Manhattan in the 1970s and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe, was published. The book won the National Book Award for Nonfiction later that year.[4][49] In 2018, a new edition of Just Kids, including additional photographs and illustrations, was published. Smith also headlined a benefit concert headed by bandmate Tony Shanahan, for Court Tavern in New Brunswick, New Jersey.[50] Smith's set included "Gloria", "Because the Night", and "People Have the Power".

In 2011, Smith announced the first museum exhibition of her photography in the U.S., Camera Solo. She named the project after a sign she saw in the abode of Pope Celestine V, which translates as "a room of one's own", and which Smith felt best described her solitary method of photography.[45] The exhibition featured artifacts that were everyday items or places of significance to artists Smith admires, including Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, John Keats, and William Blake. In February 2012, she was a guest at the Sanremo Music Festival.[51]

Also in 2011, Smith was working on a crime novel set in London. "I've been working on a detective story that starts at the St Giles in the Fields church in London for the last two years", she told NME, adding that she "loved detective stories" and was a fan of British fictional detective Sherlock Holmes and U.S. crime author Mickey Spillane in her youth.[52][53]

Film appearances


Also in 2010, Smith made a cameo appearance in Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme, which was first screened at the Cannes Film Festival that year.[54]

In 2017, Smith appeared as herself in Song to Song opposite Rooney Mara and Ryan Gosling, directed by Terrence Malick.[55][56] She later made an appearance at the Detroit show of U2's The Joshua Tree 2017 tour and performed "Mothers of the Disappeared" with the band.[57]

In 2018, Smith's concert-documentary film Horses: Patti Smith and her Band, premiered at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival.[58] In addition, Smith narrated Darren Aronofsky's VR experience Spheres: Songs of Spacetime along with Millie Bobby Brown and Jessica Chastain.[59]

In January 2019, Smith's photographs were displayed at the Diego Rivera gallery in the San Francisco Art Institute and she performed at The Fillmore in San Francisco.[60]

In 2019, Smith performed "People Have the Power" with Stewart Copeland and Choir! Choir! Choir! at Onassis Festival 2019: Democracy Is Coming. Later that year, she released her latest book, Year of the Monkey.[61] "A captivating, redemptive chronicle of a year in which Smith looked intently into the abyss", stated Kirkus Reviews.[62]

In 2024, Smith appeared as herself in Turn in the Wound, a documentary by Abel Ferrara about performance, poetry, music and the experience of people at war, focusing on life in Kyiv since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. She composed the music of the film and read poems by Antonin Artaud, René Daumal and Arthur Rimbaud in her own voice.[63] It was premiered at the 74th Berlin International Film Festival on February 16, 2024.[64]

Musical influence


One of the first musicians to reference Smith was Todd Rundgren. In the liner notes of his 1972 album Something/Anything?, Rundgren wrote that "Song of the Viking" was "written in the feverish grip of the dreaded 'd'oyle carte,' a chronic disease dating back to my youth. Dedicated to Miss Patti Lee Smith." Seven years later, Rundgren produced the final Patti Smith Group album, Wave.[65]

In 1979, Gilda Radner portrayed a character called Candy Slice, based on Smith, on Saturday Night Live.[66]

Anglo-Celtic rock band The Waterboys' debut single, "A Girl Called Johnny", is a tribute to Smith.[67]

Hole's "Violet", released in 1994, features the lyrics, "And the sky was all violet / I want it again, but violent, more violent," alluding to lyrics from Smith's song "Kimberly".[68] In 2010, Hole singer Courtney Love said that she considered Smith's "Rock N Roll Nigger" the greatest rock song of all time,[69] and credited Smith as a major influence. Love received Smith's album Horses in juvenile hall as a teenager, and "realized that you could do something that was completely subversive that didn't involve violence [or] felonies. I stopped making trouble."[70]

In 1998, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. published a collection of photos, titled Two Times Intro: On the Road with Patti Smith. Stipe sings backing vocals on Smith's "Last Call" and "Glitter in Their Eyes". Smith sang background vocals on R.E.M.'s "E-Bow the Letter" and "Blue".[71] A decade later, in 2008, Stipe say that Smith's album Horses was one of his inspirations. "I decided then that I was going to start a band," Stipe said about the impact of listening to Horses.[72]

In 2000, the Australian alternative rock band The Go-Betweens dedicated the song "When She Sang About Angels" on their album The Friends of Rachel Worth to Smith.[73]

In 2004, Shirley Manson of Garbage spoke of Smith's influence on her in Rolling Stone's issue "The Immortals: 100 Greatest Artists of All Time", in which Smith was ranked 47th.[74] The Smiths members Morrissey and Johnny Marr share an appreciation for Smith's Horses, and revealed that their song "The Hand That Rocks the Cradle" is a reworking of one of the album's tracks, "Kimberly".[75] In 2004, Sonic Youth released an album called Hidros 3 (to Patti Smith).[76]

In 2005, U2 cited Smith as an influence.[77] The same year, Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall released "Suddenly I See", a single, as a tribute of sorts to Smith.[78] Canadian actor Elliot Page frequently mentions Smith as one of his idols and has done various photo shoots replicating famous Smith photos, and Irish actress Maria Doyle Kennedy often refers to Smith as a major influence.[79]

"She was the epitome of a literate, intelligent woman taking charge and being respected by her peers," observed Maria McKee in 2005.[80]

In 2012, Madonna named Smith as one of her biggest influences.[81]

In 2012, Smith was awarded an honorary doctorate in fine arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.[82] Following conferral of her degree, Smith delivered the commencement address[83] and played two songs along with long-time band member Lenny Kaye. In her Pratt Institute commencement address, Smith said that when she moved to New York City in 1967, she would never have been accepted into Pratt but most of her friends, including Mapplethorpe, were students at Pratt, and she spent countless hours on the Pratt campus. She added that it was through her friends and Pratt professors that she learned many of her own artistic skills.[84]

In 2018, the English band Florence and the Machine dedicated the High as Hope album song "Patricia" to Smith. The lyrics reference Smith as Florence Welch's "North Star".[85] Canadian country musician Orville Peck cited Smith as having had a big impact on him, stating that Smith's album Horses introduced him to a new and different way to make music.[86] Poetic singer songwriter Joustene Lorenz also cites Patti Smith as a 'powerful influence' on her life and music.[87]

In November 2020, Smith was set to receive the International Humanities Prize from Washington University in St. Louis in November 2020; however, the ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[88] In 2022, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Columbia University.[89] Also in 2022, Smith was named an Officer of the French Legion of Honor (Officier de l’Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur). The award was presented to her at the "Night of Ideas" cultural celebration in Brooklyn, by the French ambassador to the United States, Philippe Étienne.[90]

In 2023, Smith was nominated for induction to the Songwriters Hall of Fame.[91] and was ranked at number 117 on Rolling Stone′s list of the 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.[92]


Smith in 2018

In 1993, Smith contributed "Memorial Tribute (Live)" to the AIDS-benefit album No Alternative.[93][94]

In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, Smith supported the Green Party and backed Ralph Nader.[95] She led the crowd singing "Over the Rainbow" and "People Have the Power" at the campaign's rallies, and also performed at several of Nader's subsequent "Democracy Rising" events.[96] Smith was a speaker and singer at the first protests against the Iraq War as U.S. President George W. Bush spoke to the United Nations General Assembly. Smith supported Democratic candidate John Kerry in the 2004 election. Bruce Springsteen continued performing her "People Have the Power" at Vote for Change campaign events. In the winter of 2004–2005, Smith toured again with Nader in a series of rallies against the Iraq War and called for the impeachment of Bush.[95]

In September 2006, Smith premiered two new protest songs in London.[97] Louise Jury, writing in The Independent, characterized them as "an emotional indictment of American and Israeli foreign policy". The song "Qana"[98] was about the Israeli airstrike on the Lebanese village of Qana. "Without Chains"[99] is about Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish citizen who was born and raised in Germany, held at Guantanamo Bay detainment camp for four years. Jury's article quotes Smith as saying:

I wrote both these songs directly in response to events that I felt outraged about. These are injustices against children and the young men and women who are being incarcerated. I'm an American, I pay taxes in my name and they are giving millions and millions of dollars to a country such as Israel and cluster bombs and defense technology and those bombs were dropped on common citizens in Qana. It's terrible. It's a human rights violation.

In a 2009 interview, Smith stated that Kurnaz's family had contacted her and that she wrote a short preface for the book that he was writing,[100] which was released in March 2008.[101]

In March 2003, ten days after Rachel Corrie's death, Smith appeared in Austin, Texas and performed an anti-war concert, and subsequently wrote "Peaceable Kingdom", a song inspired by and dedicated to Corrie.[102] In 2009, in her Meltdown concert in Festival Hall, she paid homage to the Iranians taking part in post-election protests by saying "Where is My Vote?" in a version of the song "People Have the Power".[103]

In 2015, Smith appeared with Nader, spoke and performed the songs "Wing" and "People Have the Power" during the American Museum of Tort Law convocation ceremony in Winsted, Connecticut.[104] In 2016, Smith spoke, read poetry, and performed several songs along with her daughter Jesse at Nader's Breaking Through Power conference at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C.[105]

A long-time supporter of Tibet House US, Smith performs annually at their benefit at Carnegie Hall.[106][107][108][109][110]

In 2020, Smith contributed signed first-edition copies of her books to the Passages bookshop in Portland, Oregon after the store's valuable first-edition and other books by various authors were stolen in a burglary.[111] Smith regards climate change as the predominant issue of our time, and performed at the opening of COP26 in 2021.[112]

In May 2021, more than 600 musicians, including Patti Smith, added their signature to an open letter calling for a boycott of performances in Israel until the occupation of the Palestinian territories comes to an end.[113]

On February 24, 2022, Smith performed at The Capitol Theatre (Port Chester, New York) for the first time,[114] saying, "I would be lying if I said I wasn't affected by what is happening in the world" referencing the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier that day. "Peace as we know it is over in Europe", she said.[115] "This is what I heard in my sleep and goes through my head all day all night long like a tragic hit song. A raw translation of the Ukrainian anthem that the people are singing through defiant tears", she wrote on Instagram on March 6, 2022.[116]





Smith was raised a Jehovah's Witness and had a strong religious upbringing and a Biblical education. She says she left organized religion as a teenager because she found it too confining. This experience inspired her lyrics, "Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine", which appear on her cover version of "Gloria" by Them.[117] She has described having an avid interest in Tibetan Buddhism around the age of 11 or 12, saying "I fell in love with Tibet because their essential mission was to keep a continual stream of prayer," but that as an adult she sees clear parallels between different forms of religion and has concluded that religious dogmas are "…man-made laws that you can either decide to abide by or not."[21]

In 2014, she was invited by Pope Francis to play at Vatican Christmas concert.[118] "It's a Christmas concert for the people, and it's being televised. I like Pope Francis and I'm happy to sing for him. Anyone who would confine me to a line from 20 years ago is a fool! I had a strong religious upbringing, and the first word on my first LP is Jesus. I did a lot of thinking. I'm not against Jesus, but I was 20 and I wanted to make my own mistakes and I didn't want anyone dying for me. I stand behind that 20-year-old girl, but I have evolved. I'll sing to my enemy! I don't like being pinned down and I'll do what the fuck I want, especially at my age...oh, I hope there's no small children here!" she said.[119]

In 2021, she performed at the Vatican again, telling Democracy Now! that she studied Francis of Assisi when Pope Benedict XVI was still the pope. Smith called Francis of Assisi "truly the environmentalist saint" and said that despite not being a Catholic, she had hoped for a pope named Francis.[120]



According to biographer Nick Johnstone, Smith has often been "revered" as a "feminist icon",[121] including by The Guardian journalist Simon Hattenstone in a 2013 profile on the musician.[122]

In 2014, Smith offered her opinion on the sexualization of women in music. "Pop music has always been about the mainstream and what appeals to the public. I don't feel it's my place to judge." Smith historically and presently declines to embrace feminism, saying, "I have a son and a daughter, people always talk to me about feminism and women's rights, but I have a son too—I believe in human rights."[123]

In 2015, writer Anwen Crawford observed that Smith's "attitude to genius seems pre-feminist, if not anti-feminist; there is no democratizing, deconstructing impulse in her work. True artists, for Smith, are remote, solitary figures of excellence, wholly dedicated to their art."[124]



In July 2005, Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture.[2] In addition to Smith's influence on rock music, the Minister noted Smith's appreciation of Arthur Rimbaud. In August 2005, Smith gave a literary lecture about the poems of Rimbaud and William Blake.

On March 12, 2007, Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[3] She dedicated her award to the memory of her late husband, Fred, and performed a cover of The Rolling Stones' "Gimme Shelter". As the closing number of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Smith's "People Have the Power" was used for the big celebrity jam that traditionally ends the program.[125]

In 2008, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, a documentary about Smith by Steven Sebring, was released.[126] Also in 2008, Rowan University awarded Smith with an honorary doctorate degree for her contributions to popular culture.

In 2011, Smith was one of several Polar Music Prize winners.[127] She made her television acting debut at age 64 on the TV series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, appearing in an episode titled "Icarus".[128]

Personal life

Smith performing at Cornell University in 1978
Smith performing in West Germany in 1978

In 1967, Smith left Glassboro State College, and moved to Manhattan, where she began working at a bookstore with friend and poet Janet Hamill. There she met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, with whom she began an intense romantic relationship, which was tumultuous as the pair struggled with poverty and Mapplethorpe's sexuality. Smith used Mapplethorpe's photographs of her as covers for her albums, and she wrote essays for several of his books, including his posthumous Flowers, at his request.[129] The two remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989.[130]

Smith considers Mapplethorpe to be among the most influential and important people in her life. She calls him "the artist of my life" in her book Just Kids, which tells the story of their relationship. Her book and album The Coral Sea is an homage to Mapplethorpe.

Smith (left) and her daughter Jesse Smith at the Time 100 gala in 2011

On April 26, 1967, at age 20, Smith gave birth to her first child, a daughter, and placed her for adoption.[15] The same year, she entered Glassboro State College in Glassboro, New Jersey, but dropped out to relocate to New York City, where she met and then lived with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

In 1979, at approximately age 32, Smith separated from her long-time partner Allen Lanier and met Fred "Sonic" Smith, the former guitar player for Michigan-based rock band MC5 and Sonic's Rendezvous Band. Like Patti, Fred adored poetry. "Dancing Barefoot", which was inspired by Jeanne Hébuterne and her tragic love for Amedeo Modigliani, and "Frederick" were both dedicated to him.[131] A running joke at the time was that she married Fred only because she would not have to change her name.[132] They had a son, Jackson (b. 1982), who went on to marry Meg White, drummer for The White Stripes, in 2009,[133] and a daughter, Jesse Paris (b. 1987), who is a musician and composer.[134]

Fred Smith died of a heart attack on November 4, 1994. Shortly afterward, Patti faced the unexpected death of her brother Todd.[13]

Awards and nominations

Award Year Nominee(s) Category Result Ref.
ASCAP Pop Music Awards 1995 "Because the Night" Most Performed Song Won [135]
Grammy Awards 1998 "1959" Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Nominated [136]
2001 "Glitter in Their Eyes" Nominated
2016 Blood On Snow (Jo Nesbø) Best Spoken Word Album Nominated
2017 M Train Nominated
Grammy Hall of Fame 2021 Horses Hall of Fame Won [137]

Band members



  • Patti Smith – vocals, guitar (1974–1979, 1988, 1996–present)
  • Lenny Kaye – guitar (1974–1979, 1996–present)
  • Jackson Smith – guitar (2016–present)
  • Tony Shanahan – bass guitar, keyboards (1996–present)
  • Jay Dee Daugherty – drums (1975–1979, 1988, 1996–present)


  • Richard Sohl – keyboards (1974–1977, 1979, 1988; died 1990)
  • Ivan Král – bass guitar (1975–1979; died 2022)
  • Bruce Brody – keyboards (1977–1978)
  • Fred "Sonic" Smith – guitar (1988; died 1994)
  • Kasim Sulton – bass guitar (1988)
  • Oliver Ray – guitar (1996–2005)
  • Jack Petruzzelli – guitar (2006–2016)





As a solo artist


As Patti Smith Group

  1. ^ Wave was credited to both Patti Smith and Patti Smith Group on some releases.




  1. ^ a b c d Huey, Steve. "Patti Smith > Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Remise des insignes de Commandeur dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres à Patti Smith 'Solidays'" (in French). Paris: French Ministry of Culture. July 10, 2005. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
  3. ^ a b "Patti Smith profile". Cleveland, Ohio: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 2007. Retrieved April 18, 2009.
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Further reading