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Patti Smith

Patti Smith

2.5 2
by Victor Bockris, Roberta Bayley

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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."


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."

Editorial Reviews

Lori Wiener
Renegade musician/poet Patti Smith holds an exalted place in the hearts of her fans, and since emerging in 1996 from sixteen years of self-imposed retirement, her reputation as a self-reliant, uncompromising, wildly imaginative artist has only been reinforced. Lost in the jubilation of Smith�s return to the public eye, however, are surprising truths that are likely to startle longtime acolytes. Bockris, a seasoned rock writer who first interviewed Smith in 1972, has spared little in this presumably unauthorized biography (Bockris did not interview his subject for this book, instead relying on previously published statements given by Smith throughout her career). The revelations contained within hint at a disturbing hubris that often conflicts with Smith�s image as a determined, confident and poised rock �n� roll rebel -- an image that, according to Bockris, was constructed more carefully, and on shakier foundation, than her legions of fans ever knew. This biography is likely to trouble Smith�s more devoted followers; however, it offers invaluable insight into one of rock music�s pre-eminent performers.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Sometimes called the godmother of punk, Patti Smith is one of rock 'n' roll's great stories of self-creation. Growing up as an androgynous misfit in Philadelphia and New Jersey, Smith developed a hero-worshipping fascination with the "genius lifestyles" of famous artists from Arthur Rimbaud to Mick Jagger. In the gritty ferment of 1970s New York, she turned her hero-worship into genuine artistic innovation, inventing a provocative and influential amalgam of incantatory poetry, performance art and rock, radically redefining roles open to women in the male-dominated rock scene. Bockris (Transformer: The Lou Reed Story) and Bayley's detailed, uneven biography decks Smith's life story with anecdotes and comments from both the famous and the lesser known among her many colorful acquaintances. William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and her quondam lover, Robert Mapplethorpe, turn up, as does Bockris's own 1972 interview with Smith (her first). In fact, Bockris seems to have taken this interview as the final word on her character and potential. It can be hard to get a clear picture of later developments in Smith's life: her constant concern with her image, her years as a housewife in Detroit after marrying ex-MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith and her return to rock prominence following his death in 1994. The biography scrupulously cites negative as well as favorable reviews and comments on Smith and her work, covering (for example) the 1978 controversy over her use of the word "nigger." Like most writers on punk and performance poetry, Bockris and Bayley seem to prefer the young tough of Patti Smith in the 1970s. While informative and intelligent, this will hardly stand as the definitive account of one of rock's grande dames.
Library Journal - Library Journal
Patti Smith's voice has always been too big for paper. High on Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Revere, and her Bad Self, she formed a garage band to record and perform her body electric. Bockris, rock biographer and New York scenester supreme, succeeds because he reveals the woman, mother, and widow behind the "punk" bravado. In the early 1990s, riot grrrls deemed Patti a "shero," but Bockris shows that she struggled with emotional and sexual insecurity -- especially when that other Bowery Babe, Debbie Harry, formed Blondie. How Patti reveled in her identity crisis and created a seductive, schizophrenic stage composite of her heroes is resonant but rehashed rock lore; Bockris, however, is the first to write empathetically and three-dimensionally of her controversial marriage to the late Fred "Sonic" Smith -- a supposed chauvinist and alcoholic. Nick Johnstone's Patti Smith: A Biography is too rhapsodic to be true and lacks Bockris's inside sources. Bockris's book is essential for its insight into a remarkable life and New York's rock and literary traditions.
Kirkus Reviews
Lou Reed and Keith Richards biographer Bockris offers the first full-length portrait of '70s rock icon Patti Smith, a woman whose charismatic live shows and uncompromising music earned her the moniker "The High Priestess of Punk." As a poet-turned-rock-critic-turned-musician, as a friend of Bob Dylan, best friend of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and as a lover of playwright/actor Sam Shepard and Basketball Diaries author Jim Carroll, Smith was in the hub of the vibrant New York arts scene throughout the '70s. Bockris concentrates heavily on that angle, slipping in famous names wherever possible and writing extensively about himself in the "Seventh Heaven" chapter, named after Smith's first published collection of poetry, which Bockris and his then partner, Andrew Wylie, were responsible for bringing to the public. But then it's also worth noting that Bockris obviously had no contact with Smith for this book. It's interesting to note because Smith, since returning to the public eye in 1996 after a long absence, has not been reclusive. Smith's lack of involvement with Bockris greatly diminishes the reader's feeling of gaining access to her life. Even more importantly, one can't help but think that if one truly wanted to learn about Smith, one would be better off picking up any one of the number of interviews she's granted, or last year's book The Complete Patti Smith, a collection of her lyrics, other writings, and photographs. There, in her complete works, music fans see how Smith, as a musician, has influenced acts from Nirvana to U2 to R.E.M. Also there, in her own words, is the strength she's shown as a person, in overcoming the deaths of her husband, best friend(Mapplethorpe) and brother (Todd) in the span of a year. Smith is indeed a worthy subject for a biography. But she and her many fans deserve better than this sometimes sensationalistic, second-hand account of her life.

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.47(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.12(d)

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Patti Smith 2.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book I ordered was all in Spanish!!! Had to send it back!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love the way Victor Bockris writes. This is the fourth book I've read by him, and they all transport me to another time period of great music and great times. He's very researched and thorough. My only knock on this book is that he obviously has some kind of beef with Patti Smith, and at times goes out of his way to slam her. It grew annoying as the book went along.