Patti Smith

Patti Smith

Past Event: Monday, January 25, 2010

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

SAL Presents Icon

SAL Presents

Here’s the classic Patti Smith image: a slip of a woman wearing a white shirt and slim suspenders, a jacket slung over her shoulder, looking at the camera with her lips like they’re about to part, like she knows us, like she has just said something or is about to. Her hair is cut around her face and across her brow in a dark, messy frame. She looks like a boy. She looks like a Modigliani. She does not look, in this photograph, like a godmother of punk, though that is what, decades later, she will come to be called.

In this photograph, taken by her friend Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith is not quite thirty. She has come up from South Jersey, where she was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness. She’s left her mother’s religion and her family’s blue-collar neighborhood for the city. She busked in Paris with her sister, and returned to New York with poetry and songs “about freedom and sex, rapture and rebellion and God.” In the early 1970s she sings these songs at CBGB with her band, The Patti Smith Group. She lives with and loves Robert, collaborates with Sam Shepard, records and releases the album Horses (1975), then Radio Ethiopia (1976). She co-writes “Because the Night” with Bruce Springsteen and releases the album Easter (1978), then Wave (1979). She dissolves the band because she’s in love with Fred “Sonic” Smith, the guitar player for the Detroit rock band MC5. She moves to Detroit with him and they set up house in St. Clair Shores and have two kids. She writes poetry and novels; they write songs. She releases the album Dream of Life (1988) with the song “People Have the Power;” the song is a collaboration with her husband.

In 1994, Fred Smith dies of a heart attack. Her brother Todd dies. Her original keyboard player Richard Sohl dies. She lost Robert years ago. Her friends Michael Stipe and Allen Ginsberg urged her to go back out on the road. She tours in 1995 with Bob Dylan, then releases Gone Again (1996) and a book of prose poems for Mapplethorpe, The Coral Sea. Several albums follow, including Peace and Noise (1997), Gung Ho (2000), and Land (2002). Her work, her reviewers write, “offered a way out of the dark.” People say she has made a “comeback.” She insists she never went away.

She has been called the “one of the most influential figures in rock n’ roll,” and “a provocative and mesmerizing mix of symbolist poet and dramatic rocker.” Her voice, some kind of smokey metallic thunder, is a piece of that. Her look is another.  From those first Mapplethorpe cover images to now: combat boots, split ends, a sort of punk-boy thing. “I’m disinterested,” she says by way of explanation. She never wanted to deal with having a look, so that became her look. And then there is her performance. “I’m a strong performer,” she says in an interview with Deborah Solomon for the New York Times Magazine. “I’m not an evolved musician. I’m an intuitive musician. I have no real technical skills. I can only play six chords on the guitar.” Six chords accompanied by fathoms of emotion.

She listens to Coltrane, Hendrix, R.E.M., and Radiohead, but mostly to Glenn Gould and opera. “That’s the only singing ambition I ever had,” she says to the New York Times. “I dreamed about being an opera singer. Of course, I was such a skinny little thing and had no voice, no chest—no future in opera.” But art, for Smith, is a necessity—the visual, the lyrical. She loves the poetry of William Blake who, she says, reminds her “of how elegantly he lived through personal strife and poverty, how he kept his personal vision”—that art makes us better people.

Smith lives in New York City. Her books include WittBabelWoolgathering, The Coral SeaComplete Lyrics, and the newly released memoir Just Kids. In 2008, a retrospective of her visual artwork opened at the Fondation Cartier pour l’Art Contemporain in Paris. On March 12, 2007, Patti Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Excerpt from Just Kids (2010)I drew, I danced, and I wrote poems. I was not gifted but I was imaginative and my teachers encouraged me. When I won a competition sponsored by the local Sherwin-Williams paint store, my work was displayed in the shop window and I had enough money to buy a wooden art box and a set of oils. I raided libraries and church bazaars for art books. It was possible then to find beautiful volumes for next to nothing and I happily dwelt in the world of Modigliani, Dubuffet, Picasso, Fra Angelico, and Albert Ryder.

My mother gave me The Fabulous Life of Diego Rivera for my sixteenth birthday. I was transported by the scope of his murals, descriptions of his travels and tribulations, his loves and labor. That summer I got a job in a nonunion factory, inspecting handlebars for tricycles. It was a wretched place to work. I escaped into daydreams as I did my piecework. I longed to enter the fraternity of the artist: the hunger, their manner of dress, their process and prayers. I’d brag that I was going to be an artist’s mistress one day. Nothing seemed more romantic to my young mind. I imagined myself as Frida to Diego, both muse and maker. I dreamed of meeting an artist to love and support and work with side by side.

Selected WorkBooksJust Kids (2009)Auguries of Innocence (2005)Strange Messenger (2003)Patti Smith Complete (1998)The Coral Sea (1996)Early Work (1994)Woolgathering (1992)Babel (1978)Witt (1973)Ha! Ha! Houdini (1977)Early Morning Dream (1972)Seventh Heaven (1972)DiscographyThe Coral Sea (2008)Twelve (2007)Trampin’ (2004)Gung Ho (2000)Peace and Noise (1997)Gone Again (1996)Dream of Life (1988)Wave (1979)Easter (1978)Radio Ethiopia (1976)Horses (1975)LinksThe speaker’s website Music and video

Event Details

Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

200 University Street
Seattle, WA 98101

View directions.

Transportation & Parking

This event will be held in the S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium, the largest event space at Benaroya Hall. 

Benaroya Hall is located at 200 University Street, directly across Second Avenue from the Seattle Art Museum. The public entrance to Benaroya Hall is along Third Avenue.

  • From Southbound I-5
    Take the Union Street exit (#165B). Continue onto Union Street and proceed approximately five blocks to Second Avenue. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound I-5
    Exit left onto Seneca Street (exit #165). Proceed two blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Union Street. Continue two blocks. Turn left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Northbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Seneca Street exit and move into the left lane. Turn left onto First Avenue and proceed one block. Take the next right (at the Hammering Man sculpture) onto University Street. Continue up the hill two blocks to Third Avenue. Turn left onto Third Avenue. Continue to the next block and turn left onto Union Street. Make the next left onto Second Avenue. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your immediate left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.
  • From Southbound Highway 99 (Aurora Avenue)
    Take the Denny Way/Downtown exit. Keep right and cross over Denny Way onto Wall Street. Proceed approximately five blocks and turn left onto Second Avenue. Continue south on Second Avenue approximately eight blocks. The Benaroya Hall parking garage will be on your left. The garage entrance is on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street.

By Bus
Benaroya Hall is served by numerous bus routes. Digital reader boards along Third Avenue display real-time bus arrival information. For details and trip planning tools, call Metro Rider Information at 206.553.3000 (voice) or 206.684.1739 (TDD), or visit Metro online. The Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel, served by bus and light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).

Parking
The 430-car underground garage at Benaroya Hall provides direct access from the enclosed parking area into the Hall via elevators leading to The Boeing Company Gallery. Enter the garage on Second Avenue, just south of Union Street. Maximum vehicle height is 6’8″. Blink charging stations are available for electric vehicles. The event rate is $16.

Parking is also available at:

  • The Cobb Building (enter on University Street between Third and Fourth avenues).
  • The Russell Investments Center (enter on Union Street between First and Second avenues).
  • There are many other garages within a one-block radius of Benaroya Hall, along with numerous on-street parking options.

Accessibility

All of our venues have accessible seating and listening devices available. Please contact us at sal@lectures.org or 206.621.2230 x10 for more details and to let us know you’re coming so we can better accommodate your needs.