"we have within us all those different stages that brought us to where we are"

[from interview with Terry Gross, on "Fresh Air," National Public Radio, June 24, 1996]

Terry Gross:  ...the New York Times recently called her the Godmother of Punk. In the '70s she created a hybrid of poetry and rock, and developed a high-energy performance style that was sometimes aggressive, sometimes ecstatic. Her first album, Horses, was released in 1975. In 1980 she left the music scene to raise a family with her husband, the musician Fred Smith. Outside of an album they collaborated on in 1988, she kept out of the public eye until this year. Many of the songs on her new CD are about loss. Her husband died of heart failure a couple of years ago. Her brother died of a stroke shortly after. Her long-time friend, the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, died in 1989 of AIDS. Patti Smith has a new book of prose pieces dedicated to Mapplethorpe, called The Coral Sea. Before we talk about her new CD, Gone Again, let's hear a song from it, this is "My Madrigal:"

We waltzed
god's point of view
no ending to
our rendezvous
We expressed
such sweet vows
Oh, til death do us part
Oh, til death do us part
Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh...
Terry Gross:  That's Patti Smith from her new CD, Gone Again. Patti Smith, welcome back to "Fresh Air." It's a pleasure to have you back.

Patti Smith:  Thank you.

TG:   I think some of the songs on this new CD are really unlike some of the songs you've done in the past, such as the song we just heard, "My Madrigal." There's, an emotional straightforwardness in this song? and that almost chant quality of "Til death do us part," that I just find different from your previous work. Do you feel like you're writing out of a different kind of energy now?

PS:   Well, definitely. [Laughs.] Well, the, for, I mean, Horses, a lot of the material in Horses was gleaned from 4 or 5 years' work before it was recorded so I really started working on the work that came out on Horses when I was about 21 years old, so naturally a lot of the work encompasses a lot of the anarchistic, adolescent energy of a y'know, sort of a late-blooming 22 year old. So y'know in subsequent records we're really involved in y'know in pursuits, artistic pursuits, involved in exploring language, exploring the sonic areas of the electric guitar. Exploring the alchemy of live performance with my band members. So I was ...and my concerns were different. Y'know I was concerned with censorship, with the continuing of rock'n'roll as being a grassroots art form with global communication and at this time in my life my concerns are really a lot more basic. My concerns have to do with survival, pretty much, on Gone Again. And so, [happy sound...]

TG:   "Til Death Do Us Part," I'm assuming of course is about the loss of your husband. How long did it take before you started writing songs about his death?

PS:   Well actually not the first month. I really think I really started writing a little more than a month after he passed away, when my brother passed away. That actually had a different type of effect on me. My brother was the same age as Fred, they were both 45, my brother was a very very supportive, high-spirited, youthful man. And he loved to see me work, he was in the last month of his life, trying to help me get back on my feet. Encouraging me to get back to work, and get back to performing and songwriting. And, and he said that he would help me, and my brother was once the head of my crew in the Patti Smith Group. And he did encourage me and fill me with a certain amount of energy. So when my brother passed away, all of the energy that he put into me, all of that encouragement, all of that love, I didn't want it to go in vain. And so I picked myself up and began to work really hard after my brother passed away.

TG:   For many years, for about 16 years, you had basically been at home with your family

PS:   Yes

TG:   Raising your children and ... and not being on the road and not being in the recording studio, outside of one 1988 session that you collaborated on with your husband, after your husband died, did that life no longer make sense to you, the life of being at home and not performing anymore. Did, did...outside of your brother encouraging you to perform again, did you feel in your own heart that it was time to make a change?

PS:   Well, no, it wasn't like that. Fred and I had already started work on a new album. We are parents and we have financial concerns, y'know we have to make a living as well as express ourselves as artists. And y'know we had a lot of things we wanted to express, I, Fred, wanted to do another rock album. He wanted to do a very globally-concerned album. And we also, it was time for us to, do some work, to prepare for our children's future, you know, their formal education and things like that. So we had pretty much planned to record and do some minimal touring. So what I have done is just continue on our mutual battle plan.

TG:   I wanta play another track from your new CD, and this is a song called "Fireflies." Would you tell us what you were thinking about when you wrote this?

PS:   Well, actually, "Fireflies" came out of a piece of music written by Oliver Ray, who I've been collaborating with. He also wrote the song "Walking Blind," which I performed on the Dead Man Walking soundtrack. And Oliver's also a poet, so he gave me some of the first lines for it, he gave me the "11 steps til I am, til I can rest, 11 steps 'til I am blest by you" are Oliver's words. So I took those words, and just went on the journey of the song. And I think, I think it's really just, it's the last one we did, it's like my last wailing, I would think, my last, well I can't think of it any better than that. But, I think, when I listen to it now, it seems like a sort of a painful but successful journey of one who didn't want to get out of bed [laugh] or didn't want to rise, to feel life again and to keep, and to keep going. And, and I suppose y'know it's also in some ways a love song for Fred.

TG:   This is "Fireflies," Patti Smith, from her new CD, Gone Again.

11 steps
til I can rest
'leven steps
til I am blest by you
I am but alone
what can I do for you
twist in my hands
the thorn thy youth
to draw thy seed
to turn in birth
thy sighs
thy moan
I can't rest
9 steps
til I am blest by you
All I ever wanted
All I ever wanted
Oh I wash your feet
and dry them with my hair
aww, aww, aww
TG:   That's "Fireflies," from Patti Smith's new CD, and Patti Smith is my guest You know, I think of this in a way as a love poem with some very Christian imagery in it, like "I will wash your feet and dry them with my hair."

PS:   Yeah, I've been...If one went through all my albums, every single one of them, including the first, is, is littered with Christian imagery, I think. I've, it's because I've been reading the Bible since I was a child and always found it, inspiring not only spiritually but poetically. And I have a tendency to do that. I think, there's hardly, I don't, I can't think of any piece of work I've done that doesn't have some at least abstract allusion to the scriptures.

TG:   Now I know when you were young you were a Jehovah's Witness for several years. Was that the religion of your parents, or something that you joined independently?

PS:   My mother's religion. I was a Jehovah's Witness until I was about 12 and, in those days Jehovah's Witnesses were stricter about one's pursuits outside of being a Witness, and I decided I wanted to be an artist. I went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art with my father, and saw art in person, and immediately wanted to become a painter and it, it, some of my desires sort of collided with their teachings, so I made the choice, I left the Witnesses to become an artist. I think they're a much more benevolent, and more understanding group right now, and but at that time they, I didn't get any sympathy or encouragement for that kind of way of life [laugh], so I ... my drive to be an artist was extremely strong, as a 12 or 13 year old, and ...

TG:   And did you try other organized religions or was that the end of organized religion for you, for some time?

PS:   No, I looked in, I thought of for a while I wanted to be Jewish, but I think that was my Anne Frank period...

TG:   [Laughs.]

PS:   It was, I didn't realize that you just can't be, y'know, y'don't turn Jewish, I, well, I had great sympathy. I mean when I grew up, y'know in the late '50s and early '60s, there's, y'know, of course, a lot of information came out about the holocaust and there were trials, and things, and, I felt devastated about that as a young girl, and, and I got very interested in the the Jewish faith. But I never really I think once I left my first organized religion, I, I found as I checked each one out, that it really wasn't for me. Because I really don't like the idea of exclusion. Y'know, I think all people, y'know, y'know, return to god, or whatever god is, or the energy of god. And I think all manners to get to him, whether it's, y'know through Islam, or, whether one's a Buddhist, or a Christian, or a Catholic, or, I think, I think they're all beautiful, y'know, really.

TG:   What's the nature of your faith now? Are you in an organized religion?

PS:   Oh no. No. [Laughs.] Not at all. I just, I say my prayers and, and, continue, my studies but I basically, for me I don't really prescribe or need a religion. I what's important to me is my communication with what I perceive to be god.

TG:   Now what a lot of people might find confusing or paradoxical is on the one hand this kind of spiritual inclination you've had since childhood, and never stopped having, and at the same time your art is the kind of art a lot of people would describe as blasphemous.

PS:   Well, I think blasphemy is just a form of exploring, y'know, it's just a, y'know, youthful exuberant manner of exploring the whole, the whole concept. I think I've often found the people that are the most blasphemous are often the, wind up to be the truest believers, because they've taken the time actually to question, pull things apart, be angry and then, either submit or, y'know, or find certain answers. People, a lot of people, misconstrued, for instance, the statement "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." People constantly came up to me and said "you're an atheist, you don't believe in Jesus," and I said "obviously I believe in him," I've stated, y'know, I've made a statement y'know, which, y'know, I'm, I'm saying that, y'know, that the concept of Jesus, I believe in, I just wanted the freedom, I wanted to be free of him. I was 20 years old and I, when I wrote that, and I, I, it was sort my youthful manifesto. In other words I didn't want to, I guess, I didn't want to be good, y'know, and I didn't want to, but I didn't want him to have to worry about me, or I didn't want him taking responsibility for my wrongdoings, or my youthful explorations. I wanted to be free. So it's really a statement about freedom.

TG:   That line comes up in a couple of places. It opens up your recording of "Gloria."

PS:   Mmm-hmm.

TG:   And it's also in a poem that you wrote in the early 70's called "Oath."

PS:   Yeah, well that's where it came from.

TG:   Yeah.

PS:   I wrote it like in 1970 and used it...

TG:   ...in "Gloria."

PS:   And really, I just, it just evolved that way. A lot of the work on Horses was not preconceived. It's just, I started out as a performing poet, and when Lenny and Richard Sohl were working with me, a lot of the poetry began to evolve, and merge with music, and, ...So a lot of Horses was to do with the chemistry between Lenny, Richard, and I, and how they helped me further evolve my poetry.

TG:   Now, when you were young, did you feel, set apart from other kids your age?

PS:   Definitely. [Laughs.] Definitely.

TG:   By what?

PS:   Everything. Well, I was just, physically I was kind of, well I felt sort of like an ugly duckling, I was sort of like skinny and, clumsy and not very athletic. I had a lot of guts though and I was a fast runner, but, I, and I was sick a lot, y'know I had scarlet fever and measles and mumps and chi...I was, always had somethin', and a little, frail...but I also, was the oldest of three children so I had a lot of responsibility. I don't know, I just generally felt estranged. But not only estranged from, the other kids. I felt estranged from the planet, and truthfully I spent most of my childhood believing that I was, adopted by my parents and I was actually an alien...I know...

TG:   Like from another planet?

PS:   Yeah, I know it sounds funny, but I perceived an alien, I used to have this, this idea, that I was sort of like, part of, like, this alien race that were part Venus and part American Indian. Now this sounds kind of funny now, but I was very serious about it as a child. [Laugh.] I had a whole cosmology and a whole universe, formed around these thoughts. But, I definitely didn't feel, at home on the planet. I felt much more at home when I'd read books about the Aztecs, or about, or if I'd read stories about aliens on other planets. Or I just, I didn't really feel like I belonged.

TG:   Now I know your parents didn't have a lot of money, but if you were, say, middle-class, or like upper middle-class...

PS:   lower middle-class...

TG:   If you were like upper middle-class, you probably would've been sent to a, psychiatrist, for help.

PS:   Well, not by my parents. [Laughs.] I don't think so. No, I wasn't a child in pain or anything. I was actually proud of my ... secret...

TG:   ...heritage [laughing]...

PS:   ...heritage...No I wasn't like that, I wasn't a disturbed child. I was actually, had a happy childhood. I loved my brother and sister. We were inseparable. They, they thought the world of me and, y'know, I, in fact, I found something my brother wrote, after he passed away, about our childhood, and he talks about how I was like King Arthur, and they were like the knights in my court, and, I mean, they always believed in me, and I invented endless games and plays and stories for us to be involved in, and my parents were, my mother was, they were both hard-working, but my mother was always loving and creative and, she just had a lot of magic. I mean, if we, my dad was on strike, and we had no food or very little food, y'know, she'd, like, make this, like, like, Wonder Bread with butter and sugar and she'd, like, tell a story and this would become a great delicacy, we'd pretend we were all hiding out, y'know, like, we were hiding out from, like, the Nazis or something, and we hadn't eaten in 3 days and this was our food, and we were, it was, like, so wonderful. She made everything into a game, and, y'know I had a great, I mean, those private thoughts I had, were part of my creative energy, or the complexity of my mind, but I wasn't a disturbed child, I was just, a little off-beat, I guess.

TG:   Patti Smith has a new CD called Gone Again. She also has a new book of short prose pieces, dedicated to her long-time friend, the late artist Robert Mapplethorpe. It's called The Coral Sea. Patti Smith will be back with us in the second half of our show. I'm Terri Gross and this is "Fresh Air."

[short break]

TG:   Coming up, we continue our conversation with Patti Smith and talk about her early days as a performer, when she read poetry in bars, and had to verbally spar with the audiences to keep the mike....

Oh to cry
Not any cry
[short break]

TG:   This is "Fresh Air," I'm Terry Gross. Back with the second part of our interview with Patti Smith. She left the music scene in 1980 to raise a family. Her husband died a couple of years ago. Now she's performing and recording again. She has a new CD called Gone Again. And Arista Records is re-issuing her earlier recordings. Now you wrote for several years before actually performing in a rock-n-roll kind of setting, and performing with music. When you started putting the two together, did you have any idea that you could sing? Had you used your voice that way before?

PS:   No, not really. I dreamed when I was a kid about being an opera singer. And I loved Maria Callas. And my mother's a really nice singer. She y'know had a sort of like a '30s-style jazz voice, she...And my father had a nice voice, but, I never thought about singing. I think I sang in this school choir or something, but I didn't really excel or have any real gift. But what I did have, I think, always, was, I've always, for some reason, been comfortable talking in front of people, or performing in front of people, and I guess I got a lotta guts, but I never really had that great a voice. I think it's basically guts.

TG:   Well, speaking of guts, when you first started reading, you've said that you were reading, y'know, early on, often in bars that, that weren't places you'd be very likely to hear a poet.

PS:   No. [Laughs.] They weren't.

TG:   What kind of places did you, did you read in, before you started adding music?

PS:   Wherever I, wherever I could. Y'know I wasn't really accepted in the poet clique. I didn't have a lot of respect for poets and I thought most of the poets, y'know, and y'know, the, the more academic way of breaking into the poetry circle wasn't interesting to me. I didn't really relate to them, and I thought most of the poetry readings I went to were boring and, it just wasn't my scene. So I started, pursuing different, venues to perform my poetry. And I just read anywhere that anybody would take me. Usually for free, just to get the experience, or for five, fi-dollars, or ten dollars, and sometimes I'd be the opening act's opening act [TG laughs], so I played like in a bar that had a little rock band and some little blues band and I'd go on before the blues band and, y'know, nobody was interested in what I had to say. Y'know, they weren't interested in hearing poetry, or y'know, they wanted to hear music, and they were half drunk or whatever. But I just, I figured if I had, they told me I had 15 minutes, or 20 minutes, on that little stage, that was my stage, and I was gonna fight for it. So I usually spent, if I had 20 minutes, 14 minutes arguing that I had the right to be there...

TG:   Arguing with the audience?

PS:   Yeah, and then finishing with "Piss Factory." And which, usually, I did such a strong reading of it, that it would take "em off guard, and they'd kinda like it, and then I was gone, but ...

TG:   What was the arguing with them like?

PS:   Aww, like sparrin'. Y'know like the, I can't, y'know like "get a job...go in the kitchen where you belong." And y'know I'd, I always, I was really good at sparring. I really loved Johnny Carson, and I really studied his whole monologue thing. The way Johnny Carson would go back and forth with the audience, and that was actually more in my mind of what I wanted to do, sort of be like Johnny Carson.

TG:   Let me play the first track of your first LP. And this is "Gloria." What made you decide to re-work this song?

PS:   Well, truthfully, it was, in the beginning it was just Lenny and I, and then we brought in a piano player, who was Richard Sohl, he was quite young, quite gifted, he was actually a classical piano player, but he had a great sense of rhythm. So it was just the three of us, a guitar, piano, and I, and we did very simple songs, because the configuration was so simple. And, we just chose songs that were basically 3 chords, so I could improvise over them. 'Coz I didn't wanna just like do "songs," like I didn't wanna do like lame approximations of, songs...So...

TG:   [Laughs.] "Patti Smith Covers The Hits."

PS:   [Snorts.] We did , we did what we called "fieldwork," so we'd pick songs that had basically 3 chords that I could, like, and just sort of use 'em as a springboard. I didn't really have any interest in covering "Gloria" but it had 3 chords and I liked the rhythm, and we just sort of used it for our own design, the same as "Land of 1000 Dances." "Land of 1000 Dances" became really like a, a battleground for all kinds of adolescent excursions and, so that's why we picked songs like that. Our, I remember I had to write, I wrote the ad copy for our first album, and the ad copy I wrote for Horses was, "3 chords merged with the power of the word."

TG:   Yeah, that's great, yeah.

PS:   That was our philosophy.

TG:   I was wondering who wrote that, 'coz I thought that was good. [Laughs.]

PS:   Yeah that was me. Wrote my own ad. I don't do it anymore, but I used to write my own ads.

TG:   Did you feel that no one else would know what, the right thing to say?

PS:   Right. Yeah, I didn't trust anybody. [Laughs.]

TG:   Well, this is "Gloria," from Patti Smith's first LP, Horses, and I should say, the LP's on Arista are all getting re-issued.

People say beware
Mmm but I don't care
The words are just rules and regulations
to me
I walk inna room
y'know I look so proud
Movin' in this here atmosphere....
where anything's allowed
I go to this here party
'N I just get bored
Until I look out the window
see a sweet young thing
sittin' on the parkin' meter
leanin' on the parkin' meter
Oh she looked so good
Oh she looked so fine
And I got this crazy feelin'
That I'm gonna uh uh make her mine
Whoa put my spell on her
Here she comes
Walkin' down the street
Here she comes
Walkin' through my door
Here she comes
Walkin' up my stairs
Here she comes
Walkin' through the hall
In her pretty red dress, yeah
Oh she looks so good
Oh she looks so fine
And I got this crazy feelin'
that I'm gonna uh uh make her mine
then I hear this knockin' at my door
hear this knockin' at my door. . .
TG:   Music from Patti Smith's 1975 album, Horses... What was it like for you to create yourself on stage, to find out who you were onstage?

PS:   Well, I never really felt like I created myself, 'coz I'm the kind of performer that y'know, I roll out of bed, whatever I put on. Y'know, I roam the streets for a few hours, it's time for a job, the job, and I go to the job. I don't like, do any special type of thing. Y'know, I might meditate with my band for a few minutes before we go on, but, my, my, my task as a performer was the opposite, I always have worked to strip away the idea of a stage persona.

TG:   Uh-huh...

PS:   Y'know, I, I mean what happens when I'm on stage is a lot of the different things within me, of course, because it's such a high-intensity situation, are somewhat magnified, y'know, so if one has some rage within them, that rage is magnified, but it's the same as if one has benevolence, or, silliness, y'know, so, like, a night, one of our concerts, from the very beginning in '74, til even now, is, is just an evening of, of, y'know, myself and the people. And I always think it's all of our responsibilities to find out, y'know, what the night's gonna be made of. I'm not really interested in finding, like, out about who I am. I'm more interested in finding how we can best serve the night, together.

TG:   When you looked at other people in rock, men and women, was there anybody you particularly, felt a kinship to in terms of what they were like onstage and the kind of energy they gave off?

PS:   Well, when I was younger I mean in the, I never thought that I'd ever be involved in, be a performer, in the arena of rock-n-roll. I mean, I was raised, y'know, when I was raised, y'know, the, when you saw females in, in the music business, they were all either like, lot of square white girls, who were good singers and stuff but, like, Lesley Gore or Sandra Dee or people like that, or you saw some really great singers like Darlene Love and people like that, but they were singers. And performance-wise, somebody like Tina Turner, but I, I couldn't possibly, compare myself to someone of her magnitude. I, I pretty much just liked, y'know, I looked at rock performers really as a, a masculine, y'know I was raised that all the great rock performers were guys, y'know, y'know, from, I mean I loved, y'know, Jimi Hendrix, I liked the Rolling Stones, and Jim Morrison, and, and Bob Dylan, and people like that. I mean even somebody like Elvis Presley. I mean, I just like a committed performer.

TG:   So did you feel like you were drawing on a masculine part of your own energy?

PS:   Well, I didn't think about it, but I can say that all my, most of my influences were male, except for ones that are kind of obscure. Somebody like Lotte Lenya was a big influence.

TG:   She was a big influence on you? That's interesting. She, she was married to Kurt Weil for many years. A singer born in Germany who specialized in singing Kurt Weil's music and was an extraordinary singer, although...

PS:   Well, she was a really, great performer too, if you see her in like "Pirate Jenny," y'know, "Threepenny Opera" or something. She was very inspiring because she was very, y'know, she didn't have the greatest voice, she was more a personality voice, like Bob Dylan.

TG:   Exactly, right, but she understood the meaning of a song so well...

PS:   ...just like Bob Dylan

TG:   Yeah, uh-huh.

PS:   So, I, I was influenced by her, and I listened to a lot of Edith Piaf, and y'know, like June Christy or, ...

TG:   Now June Christy's a cool singer, so unlike you...[laugh]...You're hot.

PS:   But I like, I, that's the kind of singer, y'know, I always, I always think, I always thought when I grew up I'd sorta sing like that, but it hasn't happened yet.

TG:   Like June Christy?

PS:   Yeah, I was like, well, like June Christy or , y'know, singers like that, I always liked Chris ...

TG:   Chris Conner...

PS:   I love her. She's like my favorite.

TG:   No, I'm really still trying to imagine you singing, say June Christy and Chris Conner , kinds of songs, y'know, kind of cool jazz type of feel, it seems...

PS:   Well, I do around the house...

TG:   Really...What kind of songs do you like to sing around the house?

PS:   Well, I like "Slow Boat to China," and...

TG:   Oh I love that song! [Hearty laugh.]

PS:   Well, I was, y'know, my mother listened to all those, my father...

TG:   It's a great Frank Loesser song

PS:   Yeah, my dad used to listen to Duke Ellington and, we listened to Stan Kenton, and I've always, I've always loved jazz, y'know, and so I saw that progression, y'know, and my dad sort of stopped at early Miles Davis, but then I kept moving, through Coltrane, and Albert Eiler, things like that, but, ...

TG:   OK, feel free to say "no" to this, but would you feel like singing a verse of "Slow Boat to China?"

PS:   Aw, geez, I don't know. My voice is kind of, you see, ahhh... [sings] "I'm gonna get you, on a slow boat to China, all to myself alone..." ...S'mp'n like that.

TG:   Ohhh, thank you. [Laughs.]

PS:   How embarrassing. Now I'm embarrassed, but y'know...

TG:   Oh no, it's wonderful

PS:   ...sorta sound like my mother.

TG:   Y'know, what I'd like to ask you about...in 1977 you fell off the stage in Tampa and broke, fractured a couple vertebrae in your neck, and were out of commission for about a year. I always wondered if that was embarrassing to you, to fall off the stage.

PS:   Oh, no, not really, I mean it was, not really, because it was, it was a product of, I thought, I've talked about this a lot with Lenny, it was really a product of high commitment and, from the part of our band and, and sort of, and, and a lack of support from the band that I was opening. We were opening up Bob Seger and they didn't give us much light or much space on the stage, and it was a fairly high stage and, when I asked for a little help, y'know, a little more light, or a little more, y'know, room, not, for any egotistical reason, but because I was frightened of the stage, I was ignored, so, so I really look at that accident as a product of, y'know, their, their lack of, community, and really the fact that, y'know, if I would've, like, just stood there, y'know, I, I tried, to just stand there and perform, y'know, and not move too much...

TG:   Not your style...

PS:   ...because I really couldn't see the edge of the stage, and we had so little room, and, but we had a lot of people, for some reason, even though we were opening, we had a really very verbal following there, and our people, were so exciting, [laughs] it was partially the people's fault, they were, y'know, just so full of energy, and us, and, and we were doing "Ain't it Strange," which is one, which is one of our most physical songs, that, y'know, I pretty much, I think I tripped over my monitor, or my monitor was on the lip of the stage and I went over...

TG:   What went through your mind as you started to go over?

PS:   I just tried to relax. Y'know I just thought "Well, this is bad," but just, I just tried to submit to the situation, and I thought if I submitted, I, it wouldn't, I wouldn't get hurt as much, but it was pretty rough for a while. Y'know, people said all kinds of things. They said I was totally stoned and fell off the stage, and all these things are, y'know, a total lie. It had nothing to do with that. If I, if I was in any special state, it was more of a, y'know, we would really drive ourselves to some kind of fever pitch or spiritual state in that particular song, and, as a band, we were in the top of our form.

TG:   Do you feel like you're a different person on stage than you were, 20 years ago?

PS:   Well, if I don't feel like a different person, after 20 years [laughs], I mean, that would be a sad state of things. I mean hopefully I've evolved as a human being and, I have, y'know, hopefully new things to offer, and, a range of experience to offer but there are still certain aspects within myself that I had when I was 8, and I still have "em. Y'know, I mean, we, we do evolve as human beings but we also, have within us all those different stages that, brought us to where we are, so, when I, when I'm on stage, y'know, you have someone who's like, y'know, y'know, before the year's over, will be 50 years old, but also, sometimes has the energy of a 22-year-old and sometimes has the, y'know, the rebellion of a 14-year-old. So I got it all, I suppose.

TG:   We only have a couple of seconds. I wanna end with your song "Farewell Reel." And I see this in a way as a song of goodbye and a song of getting on with life, continuing with life, in spite of a loss. Would you say just a couple of words about writing this?

PS:   Well I, I really, Fred, I wrote the little piece of music after Fred taught me to play guitar, and he actually really liked it, he said I made a nice piece of music, which was encouraging. And the first few lines, "it's been a hard time, and when it rains, it rains on me," Fred wrote, I didn't even write "em. He just wrote 'em, or he just spoke them, just about, I don't know, a month or, before he died, and I said I really like those words, and I said can I have 'em? and he said yes. And then when he passed away I finished the song, and I actually finished it very quietly, and very, I just ne night, I sat up all night and wrote it, and wrote it for Fred.

TG:   Patti Smith, thank you so much for talking with us...

PS:   You're welcome.

So, darlin' farewell
all will be well and all will be fine
the children will rise
strong and happy be sure
'Coz your love flows
and the corn still grows
and god only knows
we're only given as much
as the heart can endure
But I don't know why
but when it rains
it rains on me
the sky just opens
and when it rains it pours
When I look up and a rainbow
appears like a smile from heaven
and darlin' I can't help
thinkin' that smile is yours

Copyright © National Public Radio 1996

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