Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ode to the Godmother of Punk: Patti Smith

New York City in the late 60's and early 70's was a dream. Not only was NYC the mecca of artists, aging beat poets, Warhol, hippies, and other creative drifter types, but also the beloved home to our fair lady, Patti Smith. What we would give to be a part, a sliver even, of that creative movement...

Patti Smith
Photo by: Gerard Malanga Archive
When Smith was still a teenager, and after she gave birth to a daughter (a baby she put up for adoption),   she moved away form her family to New York City in order to pursue a life living as an artist. The only thing this girl was armed with a waitressing uniform gifted to her by her mother in the hope of attaining employment, a set of art pencils, and your proverbial "shit ton" of courage.

Smith was in New York, pursuing her dream, even if it meant tolerating obstacles like poverty and hunger. It was in this era of experimentation (or overindulgence depending on your age group) and unchecked free spirits that Patti Smith flourished. Through seemingly fortuitous turns of events she met Robert Mapplethorpe and began a lifelong journey of creative companionship up until Mapplethorpe's death in the late 1980's. Smith's tenure at the Hotel Chelsea, the creative commune at the time, allowed her brief encounters with giants of the era like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. She didn't know it then, but she was on a trajectory.

Patti Smith is a poet at her core. And, it was her writing, fused with rock, that catapulted her to where she stands now. After playing/performing poetry and music in coffee shops and spoken word venues throughout New York, Smith formed the Patti Smith Group with Lenny Kaye, Ivan Kral, and Richard Sohl.

Robert Mapplethorpe
Photo by: Robert Mapplethorpe Archive
The Patti Smith Group released 4 albums before the 1980's, including Easter, which was her most successful album commercially and contained the song "Because The Night," co-written by Bruce Springsteen. You've probably heard it:

Patti Smith continues to be a prolific writer, musician, and artist. If there is anyone an aspiring fill-in-the-blank should look up to -- it should be Patti Smith. We recently saw her perform at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco this past year and we were completely floored by this woman's stage presence and thoughtfulness, so much so that she immediately solidified herself as one of our public figure muses. Given this, don't be surprised if you find clothing from us that also happens to be inspired by the "Godmother of Punk."

Recommended reading: Just Kids by Patti Smith, Woolgathering by Patti Smith

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