Bockris, V: Patti Smith

ISBN 13: 9780007292851

Bockris, V: Patti Smith

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9780007292851: Bockris, V: Patti Smith

"Patti Smith" came to New York at the age of nineteen, determined to become someone. And she did -- with a vengeance. Patti's intensely dramatic style, her sensuality, and her outrageous acts set her apart from other performers of the 1970s. She was an astonishingly bold and powerful artist. In "Patti Smith," Victor Bockris, the much-respected biographer of Lou Reed and Keith Richards, and Roberta Bayley present the first full-length biography of one of the most revered female rock artists of all time -- as well as a fascinating portrait of the frenzied New York scene in which she rocketed to fame. From her roots in New Jersey to her reemergence after the death of her husband in the 1990s, this remarkable biography documents Patti Smith's life within the larger context of the ebullient artistic climate of the 1970s and examines her influence on the generation of women artists who followed. Bockris and Bayley explore Patti's complicated and intriguing relationships with Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Shepard and her friendships with Bob Dylan, John Cale, Lou Reed, and many other avant-garde musicians and artists, placing her at the heart of the New York art scene. But as quickly as she rose to acclaim, she did the unexpected: She dropped out of sight and moved to Detroit to marry and raise a family. Filled with little-known stories and anecdotes about some of rock's most famous names, Bockris and Bayley's stunning profile of this cultural icon confirms what ingrid Sischy wrote in an article in "Interview" magazine: "[Smith] gives us something that music and words are supposed to but, in fact, rarely deliver: the power to transport ourselves."

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Review:

If anyone in rock & roll has lived a life that divides neatly into chapters, it's godmother of punk Patti Smith. In her own words, a "gawky and homely... real nervous and sickly" little girl, she nevertheless grew up with a commanding sense of destiny. A bout with scarlet fever when she was 7 years old brought on hallucinations, which fired her already varicolored imagination. Raised a Jehovah's Witness, she broke with the faith in part because it didn't accommodate an aesthetic that embraced everyone from John Coltrane to Maria Callas, from Louisa May Alcott to Jean-Paul Sartre. Venturing to New York, she found acceptance first as a poet and then as a rock singer, drawing upon rock icons (Bob Dylan, Brian Jones, and Jim Morrison among them) to create a riveting unisexual persona all her own.

From there, we witness Smith's inevitable rise and fall (in her case it's literal--she was nearly killed when she tumbled offstage during a 1977 performance). Victor Bockris and Roberta Bayley do an admirable job of tying the disparate phases of Smith's life into a cohesive whole, contrasting the '70s punk priestess in full flower with the curiously subservient suburban Detroit housewife she became following her 1980 marriage to hard-drinking former MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith and the middle-aged survivor who returned to the studio and stage in the 1990s. Smith kept company with some of the pillars of late-20th-century pop culture--Robert Mapplethorpe was her roommate, Sam Shepard was her lover, and William Burroughs was one of her many champions. But what's most striking is how she's been able to simultaneously borrow and build upon the work of the artists in her universe, growing in stature while elevating all that stirred her passion. --Steven Stolder

About the Author:

Victor Bockris is the internationally acclaimed author of ten nonfiction books, which are all in print around the world. He is the poet laureate of the New York Underground, where he is currently writing a new book about William S. Burroughs and a memoir of working with Andy Warhol.

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