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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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So in 1967, with vague aspirations of becoming an artist, Smith moved to New York City and took a job working at a Manhattan bookstore. She took up with a young photographer named Robert Mapplethorpe, and although their romantic involvement ended when he discovered his homosexuality, Smith and Mapplethorpe maintained a close friendship and artistic partnership for many years to come. Choosing performance poetry as her favored artistic medium,
Smith gave her first public reading on February 10, 1971, at St. Mark's Church in the Bowery. The now legendary reading, with guitar accompaniment from Lenny Kaye, introduced Smith as an up-and-coming figure in the New York arts circle. Later the same year, she further raised her profile by co-authoring and co-starring with Sam Shepard in his semiautobiographical play Cowboy Mouth.
Over the next several years, Smith dedicated herself to writing. In 1972, she published her first book of poetry, Seventh Heaven, earning flattering reviews but selling few copies. Two further collections, Early Morning Dream (1972) and Witt (1973), received similarly high praise. At the same time, Smith also wrote music journalism for magazines such as Creem and Rolling Stone. Smith, who had experimented earlier with setting her poetry to music, began to more fully explore rock 'n' roll as an outlet for her lyric poetry. In 1974, she formed a band and recorded the single "Piss Factory," now widely considered the first true "punk" song, which garnered her a sizeable and fanatical grassroots following. The next year, after Bob Dylan leant her mainstream credibility by attending one of her concerts, Smith landed a record deal with Arista Records. Smith's 1975 debut album, Horses, featuring the iconic singles "Gloria" and "Land of a Thousand Dances," was a huge commercial and critical success for its manic energy, heartfelt lyrics and skillful wordplay. The definitive early punk rock album, Horses is a near-ubiquitous inclusion on lists of the best albums of all time.
Re-billing her act as the Patti Smith Group to give due credit to her band—Lenny Kaye (guitar), Ivan Kral (bass), Jay Dee Daugherty (drums) and Richard Sohl (piano)—Smith released her second album, Radio Ethiopia, in 1976. The Patti Smith Group then achieved a commercial breakthrough with its third album, Easter (1978), propelled by the hit single "Because the Night," co-written by Smith and Bruce Springsteen. However, Smith's fourth album, 1979's Wave, received only lukewarm reviews and modest sales. By the time she released Wave, Smith had fallen deeply in love with MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith, and the pair married in 1980. For the next 17 years, Smith largely disappeared from the public scene, devoting herself to domestic life and raising the couple's two children. She released only one album during this time, 1988's Dream of Life, a collaboration with her husband. The album was a commercial disappointment despite including one of Smith's most iconic singles, "People Have the Power."
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