Patti Smith is a 75 year old New Yorker who, today, co-mingles with the NYU kids and general youths of the Lower East Side in search of black coffee and a quiet place to read. Though she arrived a few years before the other transplants, specifically in 1967, the summer John Coltrane died. She came with the intent of becoming an artist and that she did soaring to the height of Punk Queen of New York with her debut album, Horses, in 1975. She remains relevant today with her auto-biographic books including her most famous, National Book Award winning, Just Kids that detailed her relationship with the infamous photographer, Robert Mapplethrope and her beginnings as a poet, musician, artist, adventurer and all around cool cat during the sixties and seventies. Smith boasts a life full of experiences and creations. Here are a few notable ones:
1. Patti Smith has the coolest instagram. You can search her handle @thisispattismith where Smith labels herself a writer with the simple bio “we are all alive together”. Her profile boasts mostly black and white photos celebrating artist’s, family member’s and friend’s birthdays or other days of importance. She frequently updates her followers on what she’s currently reading or what artist she is revisiting and thinking about that day. Smith’s instagram is a pure corner of the often-times toxic atmosphere of social media providing lyrical captions, thoughtful posts and sometimes an innocent selfie.
2. Patti Smith dated Sam Shepard in the 1970s. As recounted in her book Just Kids, Smith met Shepard under the name Slim at an underground concert where he played drums. After having dinner at Max’s Kansas City someone finally informed clueless Patti that she was going out with Sam Shepard, the famous playwright who went on to star in Terrance Malick’s film Days of Heaven.
3. Patti Smith’s young dreams came true. Back in 70s when her and Robert Mapplethrope were first living in New York as aspiring artists they could only afford one ticket to art museums so one of them would go in and describe the work to the other. After they would daydream about when their own work was shown on those coveted white museum walls. Now both Smith and Mapplethrope’s work hang in museums like the Guggenheim, Whitney, Cartier Foundation, MoMA and many more.
4. Patti Smith has the same boots as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland. Being a friend of Johnny Depp has a few benefits one can imagine, for Smith the most notable benefit was receiving a pair of boots. The story goes that Depp requested that the costume designer of the film version of Alice in Wonderland (2010) make a pair of boots he wears in the movie for Smith because of her love of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel.
5. Patti Smith love crime shows. In her novel M Train, as she weaves anecdotes of her worldwide travels Smith often returns to the character of Detective Linden from the show The Killing throughout the book. At one point she dedicates a small chapter to her disappointment at the shows cancellation and contemplates the odd reality that she loves a fictitious character just as much as “a nineteenth-century poet or an admired stranger or a character from the pen of Emily Brontë,” confirming that she is obsessed, just as we are, with our favorite characters and shows.
6. Patti Smith married her husband because they had the same last name. In 1980, she married Fred “Sonic” Smith, a musician from the punk band MC5. Though she claims they married for this reason only as a joke sprung from a poetic coincidence. The pair were married for fourteen years before he died of heart failure, they had two kids together that they raised in Detroit.
7. Patti Smith is a fan girl… well a fan girl of artists that is. Throughout her many books, instagram posts and interviews it can be easily discerned that Smith is a lover of her fellow artists. As a young artist herself, she began a ritual of taking artistic pilgrimages to places like the Rimbaud museum and Jim Morrison’s grave. The photos found in her books feature things like Sylvia Plath’s Grave, Roberto Bolaño’s boardgames or Frida Kahlo’s crutches documenting the places she had journeyed to for the sake of finding intimacy with the artists that had come before her so that she could pay her respects. And on her instagram Smith frequently wishes happy birthdays to her favorite artists, again thanking them for their contribution to the faculty of art proving that Patti Smith is a true artist’s artist.
Edited by Anna Hilbun