January 21, 2012

The Mother Courage of Rock

She was skinny, quick-witted, disarmingly unprofessional, alternating between stand-up patter, bardic intonations, and the hypnotic emotional sway of a chanteuse, and she was sexy in an androgynous way I hadn’t encountered before. The elements cohered convincingly; she seemed both entirely new and somehow long-anticipated. For me at nineteen, the show was an epiphany.

Luc Sante on Patti Smith.

Springtime 1976, I was living in the cinderblock building on the glorified median strip there where they split Highway 13, and one day I went over to this one girl’s apartment, she lived right by the guy who dealt me speed, and she said, “Hey, you know who you remind me of? You remind me of Patti Smith!”

Gave her a possum grin I’m still grinning.


  1. Sheila Ryan on January 21st, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    “By now she is an institution, and it is hard to remember the air of goofy, inspired amateurism she wore for much of her first decade in the public eye.” (Sante)

    One of the things about having failed to achieve the status of an institution (I am now beginning to think after X-many decades) is that I can still be a goofy amateur. Whether inspired or not, I can’t say. But hey, it’s a start.

  2. Deron Bauman on January 22nd, 2012 at 11:13 am

    Man, that’s a great photograph.

  3. Sheila Ryan on January 22nd, 2012 at 1:04 pm

    Isn’t it? That’s mostly why I posted.