Patti Smith’s Eternal Flame
February 19, 2016 2:46 AM   Subscribe

“No matter what anybody thinks about any of them,” said Patti Smith, “every record I’ve done has been done with the same amount of care, anguish, pain, suffering, and joy. We never threw a record together. Each record was done really seriously, as if our life depended on it.”
Alan Light interviews Patti Smith, discussing her life and work.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about you?

The thing that bothered me the most was when I had to return to the public eye in ’95 or ’96 when my husband died. We lived a very simple lifestyle in a more reclusive way in which he was king of our domain. I don’t drive, I didn’t have much of an income, and without him, I had to find a way of making a living. Besides working in a bookstore, the only thing I knew how to do was to make records—or to write poetry, which isn’t going to help put your kids through school. But when I started doing interviews, people kept saying “Well, you didn’t do anything in the 80s,” and I just want to get Elvis Presley’s gun out and shoot the television out of their soul. How could you say that? The conceit of people, to think that if they’re not reading about you in a newspaper or magazine, then you’re not doing anything.

I’m not a celebrity, I’m a worker. I’ve always worked. I was working before people read anything about me, and the day they stopped reading about me, I was doing even more work. And the idea that if you’re a mother, you’re not doing anything—it’s the hardest job there is, being a mother or father requires great sacrifice, discipline, selflessness, and to think that we weren’t doing anything while we were raising a son or daughter is appalling. It makes me understand why some human beings question their worth if they’re not making a huge amount of money or aren’t famous, and that’s not right.

My mother worked at a soda fountain. She made the food and was a waitress and she was a really hard worker and a devoted worker. And her potato salad became famous! She wouldn’t get potato salad from the deli, she would get up at five o’clock in the morning and make it herself, and people would come from Camden or Philly to this little soda fountain in South Jersey because she had famous potato salad. She was proud of that, and when she would come home at night, completely wiped out and throwing her tip money on the table and counting it, one of her great prides was that people would come from far and wide for her potato salad. People would say, “Well, what did your mother do? She was a waitress?” She served the people, and she served in the way that she knew best.
posted by Blasdelb (7 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
We love you, Patti.
posted by mondo dentro at 5:27 AM on February 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

We need more workers in this world.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:22 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

All I want to know is, did she ever see Humble Pie back in the day?
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 6:36 AM on February 19, 2016 [4 favorites]

What a great, honest and introspective interview. I LOVE reading about songwriting, more so when people approach it as a job/work.

"So whatever contribution I’ve given is, to me, as valuable as the contribution I keep making"

I've always kind of felt bad for songwriters that were 'huge' back in the day but still pour their soul in to current work that has a fraction of the audience. Random example....Melissa Ethridge? Two random hits but one HELL of a songwriter who is still writing for the love and joy of it...but kinda discarded as the "come to my window" woman.

I kind of got that vibe from Smith...sure, Horses, great, but listen to these other great songs I've done.

Thanks, enjoyed this.
posted by remlapm at 7:03 AM on February 19, 2016

I can't possibly express the depth of my admiration for Patti Smith. She is one of the most human humans around. Thanks for sharing this.
posted by town of cats at 8:17 AM on February 19, 2016 [5 favorites]

"I just want to get Elvis Presley's gun out and shoot the television out of their soul"

posted by sidereal at 8:41 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Great interview, and that Cuepoint virtual magazine at Medium looks like it has some other good stuff too: "The Eloquent Firing of Charles Mingus by Duke Ellington", "The N.W.A Flowchart".
posted by benito.strauss at 9:58 AM on February 19, 2016

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