Why Patti Smith Matters

Univ. of Texas. May 2022. 248p. ISBN 9781477320112. pap. $18.95. MUSIC
In this installment in the University of Texas series on individual musicians (Why Solange Matters; Why Karen Carpenter Matters), an awestruck Rose extols the work of New York punk icon Patti Smith (b. 1946). The music journalist (B-Sides and Broken Hearts) cobbles together a bare-bones sketch of Smith’s life: her New Jersey childhood, her move to New York City, her relationships with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and playwright Sam Shepard, and her rise to fame as a hardworking, innovative rock poet who recorded the groundbreaking Horses (1975). The book covers Smith’s 1980s retreat from the rock and roll spotlight; her initial foray back into music in 1988; her complete return in 1995 with records, tours, poetry readings, and best-selling books (Just Kids; M Train), which Rose touts uncritically; and Smith’s impact on Rose’s own psyche and development as a feminist. Without direct involvement from Smith or exhaustive research, however, the author resorts to an unbridled, opinionated stream of consciousness that never addresses the promise of the book title and will frustrate Smith die-hards and other rock fans.
VERDICT Readers will be better served by Victor Bockris and Roberta Bayley’s Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography. Not recommended.
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