Patti Smith Didn’t Need to Turn 70 to Get Wise

Now perhaps billable as “the grandmother of rock n’ roll,” Patti Smith has always possessed a sagacity befitting a much older woman. Her circumspection began from an early age, as described in Just Kids. From the time of her awkward adolescence spent in New Jersey, Smith seemed destined for something greater, to spread her calming yet raging spirit to the masses. Or at least, for the time being, to the artist masses in New York City.

After working in a factory and attending some college, Patti left for “the big city,” as they say. It’s there that she met “the artist of her life,” Robert Mapplethorpe. Though the two were in love for a time, Mapplethorpe’s gradual recognition of his own sexuality split the duo apart romantically, while leaving them lifelong friends at the same time.

The breakup proved to be the fruit of many of Patti’s creative loins, Just Kids perhaps being the zenith. But in between, there were her seminal albums, Horses and Easter, the former of which’s album cover was photographed by Mapplethorpe. The lessons she learned from Mapplethorpe were not just artistic, but extended to an evolved view on sexuality. One of her great problems in life was being constantly mistaken for a man, adding to her understanding of both male and female plights, as well as their unique yet similar physical and emotional characteristics.

Another part of Patti’s natural wisdom seemed to stem from her constant reading starting from an early age. It was this love of literature that landed her a job at Strand even after she had hit it big with music. And this was one of the many actions she took in her life to prove that fame was merely a by-product of her talents and pursuits, not an end result.

Her values of the things that matter most–love of art and love itself–right from the start are what have always made her sapient and judicious beyond her years. The longer she lives, one imagines, this knack for philosophical acumen will only continue to reach its fullest potential.