Cover image for Patti Smith : an unauthorized biography
Patti Smith : an unauthorized biography
Bockris, Victor, 1949-
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Publication Information:
New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

Physical Description:
336 pages, 16 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 25 cm
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ML420.S672 B63 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"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 Mapplethorpeand Sam Shepard and her friendships with Bob Dylan, John Cale, Lou Reed, and many other avant-garde musicians and artists, placing her at the he

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Patti Smith participated with Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger in the 1970s edition of flaming youth's serial rediscovery of Arthur Rimbaud, and a mossy decadence the poet might have liked permeates the story of the New Jersey punk poet turned rocker. Smith's music career has had several starts and stops, and Bockris (Bayley helped out at the end of the book's assembly) illuminates the concomitant changes in Smith's life and the avant-garde rock scene. Tidbits about rock royalty abound. Dylan, Lou Reed, Marianne Faithfull, and the CBGB crowd all appear, and Smith's admiration for Jagger's stage act and Keith Richards' Keith Richardsness are aired. Rock history connoisseurs may most appreciate the chronicling of Smith's relationship with the late Fred "Sonic" Smith, one of the great unsung heroes of rock, whose band the MC5 was the underappreciated progenitor of punk rock. The two Smiths labored at creating worthwhile pop music, though neither became a $100-a-ticket star. A strong entry from a reliable rock-bio vendor. --Mike Tribby

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

From rock biographer Bockris. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.