Godmother of Punk Patti Smith Talks New Album, Book and Burroughs: "I wanted to come to St. Louis because I just wanted to say hello to William."

Categories: Interviews

The fact that you work at these expressive extremes brings to mind Dan Graham's seminal video piece, "Rock My Religion," in which you're prominently featured. It's an amazing piece and, I think, so true in how it defines rock & roll as a kind of populist spirituality. Your work -- in all forms -- really embodies this.

There always has to be a way -- for the generation before me, my generation and generations to come -- to find a place for unity, creativity, and revolutionary energy that is basically positive and can incorporate everything. I found that in rock & roll, especially when I was younger. It was the perfect medium to spread thoughts I had about God, religion, love and sexuality and reach many people. Again, that's why I'm so amazed at how well Just Kids has done. I never imagined I'd be able to reach as many or more people with a book -- it's a beautiful thing. For me the numbers I really look at are how many people have accessed what I've made. There's artistic success, which only the artist truly knows, and there's success in communication. Success in communication -- whether it's through Guernica or a Rihanna song -- is something that reaches out and touches a lot of people. I also understand that certain work may linger in the limbo of obscurity for a while, but I'm ultimately always striving to reach as many people as possible. You have to be ready for both.

People are really always very suspicious of those who pursue multiple disciplines. They wonder how someone who makes rock & roll music can be a serious writer, or how a serious artist could get a real grasp on what it takes to make a rock & roll song. People constantly question whether that's valid or dilettantish.

Well, you nailed it: It takes a lot of work. That might explain why it's not often done well.

And in the center of all of that, I'm a mother. A widowed mother. I have a very intense parental responsibility. Even though my children are grown, I am their parent, I have to represent both father and mother to them. It's a wide range of responsibilities. I try to stay healthy and positive. Staying positive is key.

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Location Info


Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis

3750 Washington Blvd., St. Louis, MO

Category: General

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