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Patti Smith is a highly influential figure in the New York City punk rock scene, starting with her 1975 album Horses. Her biggest hit is the single "Because the Night."
Patti Smith - Mini Biography (3:27)
A short biography of Patti Smith whose career began with her spoken poetry. A fixture of the New York underground art scene, her debut album "Horses" combined poetry and punk rock.
Clive Davis, author of "The Soundtrack of My Life," recalls when he signed musical legends Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, and Patti Smith. Video courtesy of Simon & Schuster.
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Patti Smith is a singer, writer and artist who became a highly influential figure in the New York City punk rock scene. After working on a factory assembly line, she began performing spoken word and later formed the Patti Smith Group (1974-1979). Her most famous album is Horses. In 2010, she won the National Book Award for her memoir Just Kids about her relationship with Robert Mapplethrope.
Singer, poet. Patricia Lee Smith was born on December 30, 1946 in Chicago, Illinois. She was the eldest of four children born to Beverly Smith, a jazz singer turned waitress, and Grant Smith, a machinist at a Honeywell plant. After spending the first four years of her life on the south side of Chicago, Smith's family moved to Philadelphia in 1950 and then to Woodbury, New Jersey, in 1956, when she was 9 years old. A tall, gangly and sickly child with a lazy left eye, Smith's outward appearance and shy demeanor gave no hint of the groundbreaking rock star she would become. However, Smith says she always knew that she was destined for greatness. "When I was a little kid, I always knew that I had some special kind of thing inside me," she remembered. "I mean, I wasn't attractive, I wasn't very verbal, I wasn't very smart in school. I wasn't anything that showed the world I was something special, but I had this tremendous hope all the time. I had this tremendous spirit that kept me going ... I was a happy child, because I had this feeling that I was going to go beyond my body physical ... I just knew it."
As a child, Smith also experienced gender confusion. Described as a tomboy, she shunned "girly" activities and instead preferred roughhousing with her predominantly male friends. Her tall, lean and somewhat masculine body defied the images of femininity she saw around her. It was not until a high school art teacher showed her depictions of women by some of the world's great artists that she came to terms with her own body. "Art totally freed me," Smith recalled. "I found Modigliani, I discovered Picasso's blue period, and I thought, 'Look at this, these are great masters, and the women are all built like I am.' I started ripping pictures out of the books and taking them home to pose in front of the mirror." Smith attended Deptford High School, a racially integrated high school, where she recalls both befriending and dating her black classmates. While in high school, Smith developed an intense interest in music and performance. She fell in love with the music of John Coltrane, Little Richard and the Rolling Stones and performed in many of the school's plays and musicals.
Upon graduating from high school in 1964, Smith took a job working at a toy factory—a short-lived but terrible experience that Smith described in her first single, "Piss Factory." Later that fall, she enrolled at Glassboro State Teachers College with the intention of becoming a high school art teacher, but she fared poorly academically and her insistence on discarding traditional curricula to focus exclusively on experimental and obscure artists did not sit well with school administrators.
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