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Patti Smith On Writing, Poetry And Music

Writer, performer and visual artist Patti Smith in 2007.

Credit: © Edward Mapplethorpe

Above: Writer, performer and visual artist Patti Smith in 2007.


Patti Smith, writer, performer and visual artist.


Writer. Poet. Singer. Songwriter. Performer. Artist. Not to mention best-selling author and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Patti Smith is all of these but ultimately she is just being herself.

In her National Book Award-winning memoir "Just Kids," Smith recalls a life-changing family trip to the Museum of Art in Philadelphia, the first time she "came face-to-face with art."

She writes, "I'm certain as we filed down the great staircase, that I appeared the same as ever, a moping twelve-year-old, all arms and legs. But secretly I knew I had been transformed, moved by the revelation that human beings create art, that to be an artist was to see what others could not."

For over four decades, Smith has been sharing her art under the public spotlight. And at 65, she shows no signs of stopping. This year, she released her 11th studio album, "Banga," (Columbia) and she continues to write, currently working on three books as well as the screenplay for the film adaptation of "Just Kids." ("Just Kids" tells the story of Smith's friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe and the trajectory of both of their creative careers during the late '60s/early '70s in New York.)

Long before she released her now seminal debut LP "Horses" in 1975, Smith was first and foremost a poet and artist, devoting herself full-time to writing and drawing. She also loved performing and rock and roll, though she never sought a musical path. "Horses" was groundbreaking in its merging of performance and poetry with rock and roll music, and the album, as well as her later work, would cement Smith's title as the "godmother of punk."

"For me, I’m a worker, and I do everything with the same conviction, whether I’m taking photographs or performing or painting or writing. I’m the same person," says Smith on her role as an artist in a 2009 interview.

This weekend, San Diegans have not one, but two, opportunities to see Smith in all of her elements. On Saturday, she will give a reading of her poetry and excerpts from "Just Kids" at Spreckels Theatre in downtown (presented by ArtPower at UC San Diego). And on Sunday, Smith will take the stage with her band to perform her music at the House of Blues.

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with Smith about her life as an artist, "Just Kids," her latest album and upcoming projects. (For more on Patti Smith, check out the PBS P.O.V. documentary, "Patti Smith: Dream of Life.")

Patti Smith "Horses & Hey Joe"

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