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Patti Smith Essay, Research Paper

Patti Smith

Born in Chicago and raised in Woodbury, New Jersey, just across the state line from Philadelphia, Patti’s mother, Beverly, was a jazz singer cum waitress. Her father, Grant, worked at the Honeywell plant; she was the oldest of four siblings: her sisters Linda and Kimberly (the latter plays mandolin on Gone Again’s “Ravens,”), and brother Todd. Unable to find her place in high school society, she took refuge in the images of Rimbaud, Bob Dylan, James Brown, and the Rolling Stones. Dropping out of Glassboro State Teacher’s College, she headed for the bright -lights-big-city of New York.

When she arrived in town, she met an art student named Robert Mapplethorpe and they moved in together. Patti found a job as a bookstore clerk at the Strand and Scribner’s. In 1969, she traveled to Paris with her sister Linda, working on the street as a performance artist, and making her first forays into the visual arts. Returning to New York as the seventies got underway, she rebounded between the back room at Max’s Kansas City and the Hotel Chelsea. Encouraged by such as Dylan cohort Bobby Neuwirth and blues virtuoso Johnny Winter, Patti made a name for herself in underground theatre (starring in such plays as Jackie Curtis’ Vain Victory at the Cafe La Mama), and collaborating with the playwright Sam Shepherd, with whom she co-authored Cowboy Mouth. She was also writing poetry.

On February 10, 1971, she opened for Gerard Malanga at a Poetry Project weekly reading at St. Mark’s Church on the Lower East Side. She was joined for three songs by Lenny Kaye, a rock writer and record store clerk whom she had met through an article he’d written for Jazz and Pop magazine about “Accapella” music, the unaccompanied doo-wop of the Philly-New York corridor. Discovering they liked the same type of obscure records, and knowing that he played guitar, she added his rhythmic chording to her chant-sung poetry, though there was little sense of where it might be heading.

Patti continued performing as a poet/actress over the next two years, opening for the New York Dolls at the Mercer Arts Center, writing songs for The Blue Oyster Cult, “reviewing” records for Creem and Rock magazines, and publishing her first volumes of poetry, Seventh Heaven and Witt. In November of 1973, she and Kaye reunited for a “Rock ‘n’ Rimbaud” performance at Le Jardin off New York’s Times Square, and the seeds for a band were sown. They were accompanied by a succession of piano players, culminating in the arrival of Richard “DNV” Sohl in the Spring of 1974. As a trio, they began to play more regularly, a curious blend centered on Patti’s improvised wordplay, between free rock and free jazz, original songs mingling with strange cover versions that were used as counterpoint and segue.

One of these, Patti’s version of “Hey Joe,” taking as its backdrop the Patty Hearst kidnapping, became her first recorded work. Going into Electric Ladyland Studio on the evening of June 5, 1974, the group attempted to see if the electricity they were generating live could be translated to vinyl. Helped out by Tom Verlaine (of the new band, Television) on lead guitar, funded by Robert Mapplethorpe, and released on their own Mer Records, the result was one of the first indie-rock DIY singles. The b-side was the prophetic “Piss Factory,” which told of Patti’s stint as an assembly line worker and her vow to travel to New York: “Watch me now!”

Buoyed by an energetic New Band scene centered around CBGB’s in New York, the group?Patti, Lenny, and DNV?traveled to California in the fall of ‘74, playing the Whiskey in L.A. and the Fillmore (on audition night) in S.F. When they returned east, they felt their sound needed filling out, and recruited guitarist Ivan Kral, a Czech refugee. It was this combination that played CBGB’s for eight weeks in the spring of 1975, honing their concept and ultimately attracting the attention of Clive Davis, who signed them to his fledgling Arista label that summer.

Drummer Jay Dee Daugherty had overseen their sound at CBGB’s and had sat in with them several times. He joined the band in time to record their debut album, with John Cale at the producer’s helm. Recorded at Electric Ladyland, Horses was released in November 1975. It contained Patti’s incantatory reworkings of rock classics like “Gloria” and “Land (Of A Thousand Dances)”, more traditional song forms (the reggae “Redondo Beach,” “Free Money”), and streams-of -unconscious poetry (”Birdland”). It cracked the American Top 50, paving the way for a new generation of art-rat punk.

She had given a handful of performances, mostly poetry?her summer, 1993, reading in Central Park attracted several thousand fans?over the years. Yet increasingly she felt the need to perform, to reconnect with her audience not only for them but herself, and she began appearing in out of the way venues, from Ann Arbor to Toronto, to understand how to present her music in a modern setting. She gathered her longtime collaborator Lenny Kaye, and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty, and added bassist Tony Shanahan, a New Jersey musician who had worked with both Kaye and John Cale, to provide live backing. Another Central Park reading in 1995, an impromptu appearance at New York’s Lollapalooza on the second stage, and tour of the west coast both in poetry and full rock mode?all helped her find her stage presence again. She contributed tracks to the Ain’t Nothin’ But A She Thing album (a version of Nina Simone’s “Don’t Smoke In Bed”) and the Dead Man Walking soundtrack (Oliver Ray’s “Walkin’ Blind”).

In the summer of 1995, she entered New York’s Electric Lady land studios to begin recording her sixth album. Produced by Malcolm Burn and Lenny Kaye, Gone Again features old friends like Tom Verlaine and John Cale, new friends like keyboardist Luis Resto and guitarist Oliver Ray, guest appearances by singer Jeff Buckley, cellist Jane Scarpantoni, and mandolin player Kimberly Smith; and the inimitable Smith magic of song and the spoken word.

Homepages, Biographies, and Interests

 a patti smith babelogue – The premier site for any and all information, from contacting patti to poetry, sound clips, performances, etc.

 Arista Record’s Patti Smith Homepage

 Tribute: Patti Smith – Photos and artwork along with a tribute (obviously) to Smith

 CGBGs Home Page

 Patti Smith at Music Boulevard includes Biographies, Links, etc.

 Patti’s Entry in Rough Guide to Rock

 Critical Inquiry: An excerpt from a scholarly article on Patti & Rimbaud

Sound and Sample

 Amnesty International Page (includes a realaudio clip that includes Patti Smith)

 Sound and Poetic Clips at the Cafenet

 Hanuman Books ? T-shirts, posters, poems, and signed 1sts of woolgathering

 Mr. Showbiz Interview and Article

 Addicted to Noise RealAudio Interview

 The Detroit Journal ? the online paper composed by Striking Detroit Free Press Workers:

 Appearance at R.E.M. concert

 Tribute to Fred at his church

 The San Francisco Bay Guardian:

 “Ain’t It Strange”

 “Easter, Again”

 “The Soul of Patti Smith”

Related Links

Electric Cool Acid, A Japanese site devoted to underground & psychedelic music

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

Razors pain you; Rivers are damp;

Acids stain you; And drugs cause cramp.

Guns aren’t lawful; Nooses give;

Gas smells awful; You might as well live.


An American critic, satirical poet, and short-story writer, Dorothy Rothschild Parker, b. West End, N.J., Aug. 22, 1893, d. June 7, 1967, is remembered as much for her flashing verbal exchanges and malicious wit as for the disenchanted stories and sketches in which she revealed her underlying pessimism. Starting her career as Vanity Fair’s drama critic (1917-20) and continuing as the New Yorker’s theater and book reviewer (1927-33), Parker enhanced her legend in the 1920s and early 1930s through membership in the Algonquin Hotel’s celebrated Round Table.

Parker published her first light verse in Enough Rope (1927) and Death and Taxes (1931), volumes marked by an elegant economy of expression, sophisticated cynicism, and irony. These were followed by the short-story collections Laments for the Living (1930) and After Such Pleasures (1933), containing her single most famous story, “Big Blonde.” Parker scripted films in Hollywood from 1933 to 1938 and in 1937 covered the Spanish Civil War for the New Masses. In collaboration with others she also wrote two Broadway plays: Close Harmony (1924), with Elmer Rice, and Ladies of the Corridor (1953), with Arnaud d’Usseau.

Bibliography: Frewin, Leslie, The Late Mrs. Dorothy Parker (1987); Keats, John, You Might As Well Live: The Life and Times of Dorothy Parker (1970; repr. 1986); Kinney, Arthur F., Dorothy Parker (1978); Meade, Marion, Dorothy Parker (1988); Parker, Dorothy, The Portable Dorothy Parker, rev. ed., (1976).

Text Copyright ? 1993 Grolier Incorporated

Homepages, Biographies, Bibliographies

 The Dorothy Parker Homepage

 Steve Raines’ Algonquin Round Table page

 A Bibliography


 A review of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

 Another short review of Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

 Review of The Poetry & Short Stories of Dorothy Parker

This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly.

It should be thrown aside with great force.

Related Links Links

 Parker at the Internet Movie Database

 Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle

 The Algonquin Hotel

Inspired by Parker

 “Ode to Dorothy Parker”

 “Me and Dot”

No doubt it will strike the reader as odd, but the twenties in which Mrs. Parker began work were considered an era of extreme and perhaps dangerous permissiveness, especially in regard to the social experiments being carried out by women. Drinking, smoking, sniffing cocaine, bobbing one’s hair, dancing the Charleston, necking, getting ‘caught,’ — it was hard to imagine that things could go much further before civilization itself broke down. The young women who set the pace were called sophisticated, though few of them were; their shocking motto was ‘Anything Goes’ and they meant it. New York was their noisy Sodom, and Mrs. Parker’s verse gave glimpses or the license to be met with there and its heavy cost in terms of one’s emotions. These verses, which became something of a national rage, were thought to be strong stuff: brusque, bitter and unwomanly in their presumed cynacism. They gave the average reader an impression of going recklessly far in asserting a woman’s equal rights inside a sexual relationship, including the right of infidelity. The verses do not seem brusque, bitter and unwomanly today; moreover, the verses that at the time of their first publication appealed to readers as the real thing, full of a pain of loss splendidly borne, are the ones likeliest now to set our teeth on edge, as being tainted with a glib galantry every bit as false as the revolting cuddly high spirits of Mrs. Parker’s literary mortal enemy, A.A. Milne.

She began her career as a poet with a song of lamentation, and ended it with what she called a war song, in which she urged her soldier-husband to be unfaithful to her. The span of her work is narrow and what it embraces if often slight, but the author of it is perhaps luckier than she supposed herself to be: as a writer, she had not counted on surviving, and the continued interest in her work in schools and colleges, where she is being read by the great-grandchildren of her comtemporaries, would startle and delight her. There were circumstances under which, with an effort, she could refrain from making wisecracks; thought it is risky to assume that an occasion for paying homage to her would be among them, we do well to take that chance. Mrs. Parker had, after all, when she chose to display them, perfect manners. She would be eager to conceal from us, for our sakes, how much readier she was to accept abuse than praise. Greatly daring, we salute her. For here she is.

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