Patti Smith
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SAL Presents

Patti Smith

Past Event: Monday, January 25, 2010

At Benaroya Hall — S. Mark Taper Foundation Auditorium

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.

By Car

  • 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 I-5 via Westbound I-90
    Take the 2C exit for I-5 North. Follow signs for Madison Street/Convention Place and merge right onto Seventh Avenue. Turn left onto Madison Street. Proceed three blocks and turn right onto Fourth Avenue. Continue four 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.

By Public Transit (Bus & Light Rail)

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 light rail, has a stop just below the Hall (University Street Station).


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″. ChargePoint charging stations are available for electric vehicles. Visit the Benaroya Hall website for event pricing.

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.


Open Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where a captioning screen displaying the words that are spoken or sung is placed on stage. This option is present at every event at Benaroya Hall in our 2021/22 Season.

Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video during an online event. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs) are devices that people with hearing loss use in conjunction with their hearing device (hearing aids or cochlear implants). Benaroya Hall has an infrared hearing system, which transmits sound by light beams. Headsets are available in The Boeing Company Gallery coat check and the Head Usher stations in both lobbies.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals for both in-person and online events. To make a request for interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10, or select “Sign Language Interpretation” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process and we will contact you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

Wheelchair Accessible Seating and Accessible Restrooms are available in all sections at our venues, and our venues are fully accessible to ticket holders with physical mobility concerns. Among other features, Benaroya Hall has designated parking spaces adjacent to elevators in their parking garage. Elevators with Braille signage go to all levels within the Hall. To reserve seating for a specific mobility concern, you may select “Wheelchair Accessible or Alternative Seating Options” during ticket checkout, and we will contact you to confirm details. For more details on their accessibility features, click here.

Guide and service dogs are welcome.

Gender neutral restrooms are available.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services at our venues, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Tuesday-Friday, from 12 noon–5 p.m., at 206.621.2230×10.

For more accessibility information, please head to If you would like to make accessibility arrangements you do not see listed here, please contact our box office or select “Other Accommodations” from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will contact you to confirm details.