I’d like to talk about Patti Smith today, in this space so neglected, so necessary, so personal.
I wish I knew Patti Smith better. Her art, her music, her writing, her photographs. Paths of this life in which I myself have ventured, certainly without Patti’s skill and life force and fame and following. But I’ve taken those paths, and my successes are as real as that painting of a cow on the living room wall, the boxes of unsold doo wop CDs on the spare room floor, the photo with my mother of the Atlantic Ocean from the Chatham Light, and all the words piling up within the memory space of this very instrument, on which I now type, stories that await attention in the perpetual heat and with the spiders that grace these basement walls.
I recently had the very good fortune to order a copy of Smith’s “M Train” from the Multnomah Library, and read it straight through , entranced by — as John Gardner describes in his “Art of Fiction” — the ‘vivid and continuous dream’, the profluence of travel on the journeys with her: from faraway island grave sites to the wreckage of Super Storm Sandy. I followed that book immediately with the National Book Award “Just Kids”, which flat out knocked me over and made me want so badly to go back and do much of my life over again, to become one with , as Kerouac said, “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, the ones who…burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles.” That’s what I wanted reading “Just Kids”, because that is how Patti lived, and continues to live.
While she may be most famous, musically, for “Because the Night”, my first fall into the spell of her musical potion came with “Pissing In the River”, which I heard during the movie “Times Square”. It is a remarkably beautiful and powerful song. When I think of it, hear it in my head, I’m drawn in to all the angst and struggle and the urge to “burn, burn, burn” of young life. Please take a listen and see if you agree: www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhDJZm_HyXY&list=FLr7ouFpiNMcW1mERvyEcKaQ&index=1
Then there’s the remarkable song from which I borrowed this post title. Here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcbuG2w0Kzo&list=PLWx9FOPbDxsLKUa1DUobV_qRVTyqstOty&index=3
Patti’s two years older than me. We shared some times, separately, but we shared some times. It’s taken me longer than it should have, way, way longer, to get to know her better. The way she navigated through, and in the process, influenced the world we shared, miles apart. And now I’m better for it.
In her own voice, this is an interview with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, where words are music, and a musician makes music with a pen. www.youtube.com/watch?v=TseiQePbDpo
This weekly blog likes to conclude with these words – Save the Planet. Here’s one more Patti Smith song, about doing just that: www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPR-HyGj2d0
Thank you Patti.