One of the most esteemed musicians, artists, poets and writers of our time, Patti Smith will forever be synonymous with helping to usher in the punk rock wave in New York City and becoming a cultural icon on the Lower East Side.
Yet Smith’s roots can also be tied to Chicago, where she and her band return on May 4 to play Metro for the first time, to kick off the hallowed Chicago rock club’s 40th anniversary celebrations.
Born in the old Grant Hospital in Lincoln Park, Smith grew up for a short time in Logan Square and still has fond memories of her early days, like seeing a swan for the first time in Humboldt Park and remembering a photo that she still has. of his pregnant mother outside the rooming house they were renting on the northwest side of town.
“My connection to Chicago is probably as much in blood as in spirit…We left when I was still quite young, but as a child I was proud to be born there. I loved Carl Sandburg and the poems about Chicago I always felt that I was born in such a big city in the middle of a huge snowstorm and the struggles my parents went through after the war helped shape us all “, she shared in a recent interview. This comes almost a year after her abbreviated Out of Space concert in Evanston, where her powerful voice almost summoned nature while playing a rendition of “A Hard Rain’s A- Gonna Fall” by Bob Dylan.
The heralded “punk poet laureate” has marked many important occasions in the city, such as celebrating her 70th birthday in 2016 with a show at the Riviera where her good friend Michael Stipe surprised her with a cake and a birthday song on stage. Her final visit will also have a personal meaning, honoring a place that nurtured the independent spirit so essential to her own career and helped shape a music scene much like what she saw in New York in the 70s. .
“The romance of a place is something we all hold dear. Young people always say, ‘Oh, I never got to be or play CBGB [in New York]’, but CBGB is a state of mind. We had nowhere to play and found ourselves in this empty space that no one seemed to want or care about. It takes people with an independent spirit and I hope a scene is created by people who want to shake things up,” Smith shared, decrying the “mall consciousness” that has affected so many major metropolitan areas, and not least the effects of the pandemic which have sacrificed venerable halls of the arts.
“So when a good place survives, I’m always grateful and always happy to see people fight to maintain their legacy, musical or otherwise. … It’s really a collaboration between the people and the visionary to keep it going.
Club owner Joe Shanahan says Smith playing Metro “is really 360 and intentional”, adding: “I saw Patti playing at Park West in 1978 when she heard about the fire at the first punk club from Chicago, La Mere Vipere. She said during the set, “So your club’s burned down, start another one. And for me, I heard that and that was my rallying cry. Four years older Later, I opened Smartbar, so it’s part of the why and how of 3730 North Clark.
Although the May 4 show’s set list is yet to be determined, songs like its timeless anthem “People Have The Power” are still on the minds of many, including Smith.
“My husband [Fred “Sonic” Smith] and I wrote this song when Russia invaded Afghanistan in the 80s… it was his title and his intention to write a song that people could have to inspire them for worthy causes,” Smith explained , noting how relevant it remains in modern times. “It was originally written with concerns about our climate in the first verse, concerns about the war in the second verse, and discrimination in the third verse (“We walked there without laughing or criticizing” ), so it touches on different aspects of human concern, and those things are at the forefront of where we are now. … I know people have written to me and said they had sung in Ukraine, so it’s still in my head.
Although she warns, “A song can hopefully inspire people, but in the end, only people can make change – artists can do what they can to ignite or inspire, but that’s up to the people to decide.”
That claim continues to be her stance on many causes, from human rights to climate change — Smith is an avid supporter of Pathway to Paris, an environmental nonprofit co-founded by her daughter, Jesse Paris Smith. As she says, “There are no small actions. If each person did what they could to magnify the good, we would have a much better world.
As well as winning the National Book Award for her 2010 opus ‘Just Kids’, about her life and times with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, she will also be honored this year with the PEN Literary Service Award. And on the morning of our interview, Smith was finishing the finishing touches on the release of his next book, “A Book of Days,” which is slated for release in November. It’s inspired by her Instagram feed and includes 366 images and posts (one for each day of the year and an additional one for those born in a leap year).
Smith is also working on new songs for what she said The Guardian would be one more album. “I’m not close to releasing it yet. But once I’m back on the road with my musicians and my son who I love to write with, I’ll be more inspired. … What I write is constantly changing. I’m not going to write about the same things I wrote in the 70s for various reasons. I’m different at 75, I look at the world quite differently and things about me have changed.
One thing that remains constant is his opinion on artistic freedom and its relationship to the punk rock ethos.
“Punk rock was born as an idea in the 70s and really, for me, the definition of punk rock is freedom. That’s what we wanted: the freedom to write our own songs, the freedom to express ourselves the way we wanted and to express new ideas, to dress differently. We just basically wanted the freedom to do our job the way we intended. How people translate this is really up to them – I have no guidelines.