We spent an enjoyable evening with Patti Smith and special friends Wednesday night at the 92nd Street Y on Lexington Avenue in New York City. This event was rescheduled from January 6th which worked out in everyone’s favor, especially when you consider the blizzard we had in January. Last night was almost balmy as we walked around the area finding a restaurant and stopping in Crumbs Bake Shop for an Artie Lange cup cake ;)
This was our second annual event featuring Patti Smith at 92 Y. Last year we saw Patti in a dual reading with her friend, Sam Shepard, thoroughly enjoying each other’s company. (Sam is a playwright, actor, television/ film director, folk singer and short story writer.)
As we found our way to our seat we were handed a blank 3×5 index card to ask Patti Smith a question for Q&A. I came up with a question, jotted it down and handed it to the usher just before Patti Smith made her entrance.
Patti Smith was delightful as her improvisational and comedic selves were in harmony. She started the evening with the song I was hearing in my head,”My Blakean Year” which aptly portrays her poetic soul. Patti then switched to readings from Just Kids, which recently won the National Book Award for Non-Fiction. I really love when she shares Robert Mapplethorpe and the time they spent together at the Chelsea Hotel. They have a beautiful, eternal friendship.
Patti then introduced Lenny Kaye through a passage of her book. Lenny Kaye has played 40 years with her as a member of The Patti Smith Group. Patti paid tribute to the late actress Maria Schneider by performing with Lenny a poignant, engaging version of “Redondo Beach” from Horses.
She then switched back to readings from her book, interspersing her poems, injecting fun with impromptu asides with the audience. She read another passage from Just Kids, which set the stage to introduce Sam Shepard who was a surprise guest. Sam played guitar with Patti and Lenny, as we saw Sam Shepard the folkie emerge.
Our favorite part of the evening was when Patti recalled that she had to do Q&A. Lenny Kaye took the question cards out of the front pocket flap of his sport coat. Much to our joy Lenny Kaye soon read our question. Lenny said, “Patti, this question is from Ed & Rosemary Jennings, who write, “What are your sentiments about Saint Francis of Assisi?” The audience chuckled at what seemed a random and obscure question. I had asked it purposely because I had read that Patti Smith’s next record will have a song about Saint Francis of Assisi.We love to know what influences artists to write and record their songs. Patti said that this was another commercial announcement (she lovingly promoted her friend and photographer Judy Linn’s book several times that evening.) Patti cautioned the audience that this was an important question as she graciously spoke about Saint Francis’s warm way with matter of the heart making significant contributions as an environmentalist and animal activist. Patti was fair in saying that people of various faiths have come to respect Saint Francis’s contribution to the planet over the centuries. We smiled at Patti’s answer as devout Catholics, who hold the saints of the church in high esteem.
A person in the audience then asked Patti, “When will the record be coming out?”. She shot right back at them, “When it’s ready.”
The music performed was a combination of poetry, as well as early influences. We especially liked the rendition of the first song Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye collaborated on in 1971, “Fire of Unknown Origin”.
My favorite moment was when Patti couldn’t find the eclectic passage in the book about her first meeting with Allen Ginsberg at the Horn and Hardart Automat. A fan finally yelled out, page 122. Patti replied. “You’re the best.” I love the beat generation and poet connection between Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg. I had the rare privilege of meeting Allen Ginsberg in 1973 at the University of New Haven. I sat next to him at a press conference before he performed “Howl” in our campus entertainment room. As Patty points out in her book, “I looked into those intense dark eyes punctuated by his dark curly beard…”. That image Patti described is just how I recalled Allen Ginsberg as I watched him answer questions posed by local reporters in the student conference room.
Here is a color handbill of a memorial tribute to Allen Ginsberg held in Ann Arbor, Michigan that we keep in our home office :)
The evening was capped off by Patti Smith, Sam Shepard, Lenny Kaye and the audience, singing and clapping to “People Have The Power“. Patti dedicated it to freedom and Egypt.
OUR SOUL IN CAIRO
Brothers and Sisters
we are with you
The People have the Power
To redeem the work of fools
Upon the united
the graces shower
It’s decreed the
(Courtesy of pattismith.net, ihavesomeinformationforyou, http://www.pattismith.net/news.html)
We then got online to have Patti Smith sign Just Kids in paperback and the new Judy Linn photography book, that Judy Linn also signed for us. We were privileged to get the book before its March 1st general availability date. Great keepsakes for a beautiful evening of literary musical expression.
We thanked Patti for answering our question and she said to us, “I hope you’ll like the song when you hear it.” We have a feeling we will, Patti :)