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We created it. Let's take it over.—Patti Smith, My Generation
Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith (b. 1946) is an American singer-songwriter and published poet who helped form a foundation for the American version of Punk Rock with her ambitious 1975 album Horses. This distinction has to be made here, as on a tour to Britain in 1976, what might otherwise have been a fruitful collaboration was scuppered by Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols' sneering on-stage reference to Horses, horses, fucking horses! It had been envisaged that the British and American versions of Punk be brought together with Patti fronting the Pistols in a few covers, but Rotten's clear disdain for what he saw as pretentious twaddle, combined with Smith's reciprocal criticism of the Pistols' lack of basic musical talent, killed this idea and entrenched the seperation between the two schools of Punk.
She has many popular songs, including but not limited to "Because the Night," "Dancing Barefoot," "Gloria," "Redondo Beach," and "Free Money." In 2010, she won the National Book Award for her latest book, a memoir entitled Just Kids. "Dancing Barefoot" was covered by U2 and appeared as the B-side to "When Love Comes to Town", gaining almost as much radio airplay as the A-side.
- Horses (1975)
- Radio Ethiopia (1976)
- Easter (1978)
- Wave (1979)
- Dream Of Life (1988)
- Gone Again (1996)
- Peace And Noise (1997)
- Gung Ho (2000)
- Trampin' (2004)
- Twelve (2007)
- Ambiguous Gender: The cover of Horses, photo by Robert Mapplethorpe. Patti's relatively deep voice adds to this.
- Ascended Fangirl: Her autobiography mentions how she realised she wanted to be a singer when she saw one of the final concerts of The Doors and thought she felt something passing from Jim Morrison to her. And then there's the whole infatuation with Arthur Rimbaud...
- Badass Grandma
- The Cover Changes the Gender: "Hey Joe". "Gloria" is notable for averting this trope.
- The Cover Changes the Meaning: "Gloria," "Land," and "Hey Joe". The introductory section of "Gloria" was written by Patti Smith, and a spoken word piece was added to "Hey Joe" about Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
- Cover Version: "My Generation", "Hey Joe", "Gloria", "Land of a Thousand Dances" from "Land" (omitting the song's famous "na na na na" hook), "So You Want to Be (A Rock 'n' Roll Star)"
- As of 2011, Smith has added a cover of "Rolling in the Deep" to her live setlist.
- Also her whole Cover Album Twelve, which includes "Gimme Shelter", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Are You Experienced?", "Soul Kitchen", "Changing of the Guards", "Within You Without You", "Everybody Wants to Rule the World" (really), "Everybody Hurts", "The Boy in the Bubble", and so on.
- Creator Couple: Smith's romantic relationship with Blue Oyster Cult keyboardist Allen Lanier lead to her writing a number of songs for the group, and performing backing vocals on a few songs. Additionally, Lanier played keyboards on her song "Space Monkey".
- Epic Rocking: Most of her albums have at least one song pushing 10 minutes, frequently based around her poetry.
- Fan Nickname: "The Godmother of Punk".
- Grief Song: Much of her mid-90s material, after both her husband, her brother, and one of her band members died almost at the same time.
- Lady Looks Like a Dude
- Les Yay: Smith's cover of "Gloria" is about a female-on-female one night stand. "Debbie Denise", a song she wrote for Blue Oyster Cult, was similarly about her female lover, though it underwent a sex-change when BOC performed it.
- Incoming Ham: Arguably the opening lines of the opening song on her debut album.
Jesus died for somebody's sins, but not mine/Meltin' in a pot of thieves/Wild card up my sleeve/Slick heart of stone/My sins my own/They belong to ME. ME.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: "Piss Factory," "Pissing in a River," "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger"
- Los Angeles: "Redondo Beach"
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Redondo Beach" sounds upbeat, but the lyrics are likely about a girl who drowned herself after a quarrel with the narrator.
- One-Hit Wonder: Like Devo, despite her long, acclaimed career, she's only had one real hit: "Because the Night". The fact that it was co-written with Bruce Springsteen might have something to do with it.
- Rousing Speech: "People Have The Power", "Rock 'n' Roll Nigger"
- She's Back: Between 1980 and 1995, she basically retired from rock music to raise her kids. Then she picked up where she left off.
- Shout-Out: "Radio Ethiopia" supposedly refers to poet Arthur Rimbaud's dying wishes. "Piss Factory" mentions James Brown. "About a Boy"'s title references Nirvana's "About a Girl".
- Signature Song: "Gloria", or possibly "Because the Night"
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Way over there on the idealistic side. To give you an idea, one of her more famous songs is called "People Have the Power".
- The Lancer: Lenny Kaye, who's been her guitarist since her very first gig in 1971.