Today is the birthday of the brilliant, inimitable, utterly wonderful Patti Smith. After all the deaths this week, and today’s surprising pop culture news, I thought it would be nice to celebrate something happy.
Aside from her incredible talent and skill as a writer and performer, I love Patti Smith because she is herself. She doesn’t hide or lie or pretend to be anything else. Her refusal to be what anyone else thinks she should be, to fit into any easy stereotypes, has probably cost her fame and money. But those are such fleeting things, and there’s so much more value in living the life you want to live. Smith has lived her life–all the joy and pain and anger and sorrow of it. And the art that has come out of that life has made the world a much better place.
Now it might seem odd that I chose a song from Gone Again, the mourning album she recorded after the death of her husband, Fred “Sonic” Smith. But “Farewell Reel” is one of my favorites, and I think it represents the kind of artist and person Patti Smith is beautifully. It’s open and honest, sad and joyful, both a eulogy for what she lost and a promise to keep living. That’s what I love about it.