Patti Smith Performs at the Old Town School of Folk Music

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Patti Smith performed at the Old Town School of Folk Music last night, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.


On Thursday night, the Old Town School of Folk Music hosted a free concert with one of the most influential living singer-songwriters, Patti Smith. Backed by her band, Smith ran through a career-spanning set that included some of her best-known songs like “ Gloria” and “Because the Night” as well as material from her latest album, Banga.

The night began with an opening set from local musician Willy Porter, who warmed up the crowd with his blend of folk, rock, and blues. Then, Smith and her band took the stage to a roaring ovation from the packed house. Dressed in all black with her signature leather jacket, Smith looked every bit the punk rock icon she is. But it was her voice that really commanded attention. Even at age 66, Smith’s powerful voice was in top form, belting out lyrics with passion and conviction.

The setlist spanned Smith’s entire career, starting with material from her 1975 debut album Horses and ending with songs from Banga. In between,Smith performed such classics as “Free Money” and “Because the Night” as well as a cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria.” The highlight of the night was undoubtedly “People Have the Power,” which had the entire audience singing along.

Smith ended the night with a moving performance of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” dedicated to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. It was a fitting end to a great concert by one of music’s true legends.

Early Life

Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 30, 1946. Her father, Beverly Smith, was a jazz musician, and her mother, Pauline Smith (née Vogel), was a high school English teacher. Patti’s sister Linda died at the age of 12 from a brain aneurysm.

Patti’s father died when she was just 11 years old, after which she and her mother moved to Philadelphia to live with her grandparents. As a teenager, Patti started attending poetry readings at the local library, where she first heard the work of Beat Generation poets like Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso. Inspired by these writers, as well as musicians like Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones, Patti began writing her own poems and songs.

Music Career

Patti Smith began her musical career in the early 1970s, forming the Patti Smith Group. The band was acclaimed for their debut album Horses, which has been called one of the greatest debut albums of all time by music critics. After the release of Horses, Smith began to perform with a more rock-oriented sound.

The Patti Smith Group released three more albums between 1974 and 1979, including Radio Ethiopia (1976), Easter (1978), and Wave (1979). These albums failed to match the critical or commercial success of Horses, but Smith gained a devoted following among punk and alternative rock fans.

In the 1980s, Smith largely abandoned her musical career to focus on her writing. She released one final album with the Patti Smith Group, Dream of Life (1988), before embarking on a solo recording career in 1996 with the release of Gone Again. This was followed by releases such as Peace and Noise (1997) and Gung Ho (2000).

Smith has continued to tour and release new music in the 2000s and 2010s. In 2005, she received the Polar Music Prize, which is awarded annually to “those who have made an exceptional contribution to the world of music.”

Personal Life

Patti Smith was born in Chicago, Illinois, on December 30, 1946. Her father, Grant Smith, was a house painter, and her mother, Beverly Smith (née Bungei), was a secretary. She has an older sister named Linda. Patti’s paternal grandparents were Russian Jewish immigrants who arrived in the United States in the early 1900s; her maternal grandparents were Finnish.

As a teenager, Patti began running with a group of bohemian artists and writers in Greenwich Village. She developed relationships with two influential figures in the New York City art scene: photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and painter Edward Munch. Patti began regularly attending Mapplethorpe’s art shows, and the relationship between the two artists blossomed into a romance.

In 1967, Patti moved to Detroit with her sister Linda to live with their mother and stepfather. While in Detroit, she worked as a waitress and continued to pursue her interest in art by frequenting various galleries. In 1968, she met Fred “Sonic” Smith at a poetry reading; the two married soon afterwards and would go on to have two children together: Jackson Smith (born 1971) and Jesse Smith (born 1974).

In 1974, Patti and Fred moved to New York City. It was there that Patti met Lenny Kaye, who would become her longtime collaborator. The two began working on music together, and they released their debut album Horses in 1975. The album’s combination of rock ‘n’ roll energy and poetic lyrics made it an instant underground classic, cementing Patti’s reputation as one of the most important artists of her generation.


Patti Smith is an American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist, who became 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 of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg—as well as her own pseudo-biblical imagery and soulful chanting—into three-chord rock. Her unique style of singing gained her a reputation as one of the most influential female rockers of all time. She has released twelve studio albums, four live albums, and numerous compilations.

Studio albums
-Horses (1975)
-Radio Ethiopia (1976)
-Easter (1978)
-Wave (1979)
-Dream of Life (1988)
-Gone Again (1996)
-Peace and Noise (1997)
-Gung Ho (2000)
-Trampin’ (2004)
-Twelve (2007)
-Banga (2012)
-, Horses/Horses II reissue(2015), Horses: 45th Anniversary Edition box set(2016), Horses Deluxe edition(2017), Horses Live in NYC(2017).

Awards and Nominations

Patti Smith is a three-time Grammy Award winner, aninductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts. She has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for her writing.


Patti Smith’s music is based on her experiences as an artist, musician, and mother. Smith’s music has been critically acclaimed and she has been nominated for several Grammy Awards. Her work is frequently compared to that of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell.

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