Patricia Lee "Patti" Smith
Born: December 30, 1946
Patti Smith is an American singer–songwriter, poet and visual artist who was a highly influential component of the New York City punk rock movement with her 1975 debut album Horses. Called the "Godmother of Punk", she integrated the beat poetry performance style with three-chord rock.
In 1967 she left Glassboro State Teachers College (now Rowan University) and moved to New York City. She met photographer Robert Mapplethorpe there while working at a book store with a friend, poet Janet Hamill. Mapplethorpe's photographs of her became the covers for the Patti Smith Group LPs, and they remained friends until Mapplethorpe's death in 1989. In 1969 she went to Paris with her sister and started busking and doing performance art. When Smith returned to New York City, she lived in the Hotel Chelsea with Mapplethorpe; they frequented the fashionable Max's Kansas City and CBGB nightclubs.
By 1974 Patti Smith was performing rock music herself, initially with guitarist and rock archivist Lenny Kaye, and later with a full band. Financed by Robert Mapplethorpe, the band recorded a first single, "Hey Joe / Piss Factory", in 1974. The A-side was a version of the rock standard with the addition of a spoken word piece about fugitive heiress Patty Hearst. The B-side describes the helpless anger Smith had felt while working on a factory assembly line and the salvation she discovered in the form of a shoplifted book, the 19th century French poet Arthur Rimbaud's Illuminations.
Patti Smith Group was signed by Clive Davis of Arista Records, and 1975 saw the release of Smith's first album Horses, produced by John Cale amid some tension. The album fused punk rock and spoken poetry and begins with a cover of Van Morrison's "Gloria", and Smith's opening words: "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." The austere cover photograph by Mapplethorpe has become one of rock's classic images.