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Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography

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"Patti Smith" came to New York at the age of nineteen, determined to become someone. And she did -- with a vengeance. Patti's intensely dramatic style, her sensuality, and her outrageous acts set her apart from other performers of the 1970s. She was an astonishingly bold and powerful artist. In "Patti Smith," Victor Bockris, the much-respected biographer of Lou Reed and Ke "Patti Smith" came to New York at the age of nineteen, determined to become someone. And she did -- with a vengeance. Patti's intensely dramatic style, her sensuality, and her outrageous acts set her apart from other performers of the 1970s. She was an astonishingly bold and powerful artist. In "Patti Smith," Victor Bockris, the much-respected biographer of Lou Reed and Keith Richards, and Roberta Bayley present the first full-length biography of one of the most revered female rock artists of all time -- as well as a fascinating portrait of the frenzied New York scene in which she rocketed to fame. From her roots in New Jersey to her reemergence after the death of her husband in the 1990s, this remarkable biography documents Patti Smith's life within the larger context of the ebullient artistic climate of the 1970s and examines her influence on the generation of women artists who followed. Bockris and Bayley explore Patti's complicated and intriguing relationships with Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Shepard and her friendships with Bob Dylan, John Cale, Lou Reed, and many other avant-garde musicians and artists, placing her at the heart of the New York art scene. But as quickly as she rose to acclaim, she did the unexpected: She dropped out of sight and moved to Detroit to marry and raise a family. Filled with little-known stories and anecdotes about some of rock's most famous names, Bockris and Bayley's stunning profile of this cultural icon confirms what ingrid Sischy wrote in an article in "Interview" magazine: "[Smith] gives us something that music and words are supposed to but, in fact, rarely deliver: the power to transport ourselves."


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"Patti Smith" came to New York at the age of nineteen, determined to become someone. And she did -- with a vengeance. Patti's intensely dramatic style, her sensuality, and her outrageous acts set her apart from other performers of the 1970s. She was an astonishingly bold and powerful artist. In "Patti Smith," Victor Bockris, the much-respected biographer of Lou Reed and Ke "Patti Smith" came to New York at the age of nineteen, determined to become someone. And she did -- with a vengeance. Patti's intensely dramatic style, her sensuality, and her outrageous acts set her apart from other performers of the 1970s. She was an astonishingly bold and powerful artist. In "Patti Smith," Victor Bockris, the much-respected biographer of Lou Reed and Keith Richards, and Roberta Bayley present the first full-length biography of one of the most revered female rock artists of all time -- as well as a fascinating portrait of the frenzied New York scene in which she rocketed to fame. From her roots in New Jersey to her reemergence after the death of her husband in the 1990s, this remarkable biography documents Patti Smith's life within the larger context of the ebullient artistic climate of the 1970s and examines her influence on the generation of women artists who followed. Bockris and Bayley explore Patti's complicated and intriguing relationships with Robert Mapplethorpe and Sam Shepard and her friendships with Bob Dylan, John Cale, Lou Reed, and many other avant-garde musicians and artists, placing her at the heart of the New York art scene. But as quickly as she rose to acclaim, she did the unexpected: She dropped out of sight and moved to Detroit to marry and raise a family. Filled with little-known stories and anecdotes about some of rock's most famous names, Bockris and Bayley's stunning profile of this cultural icon confirms what ingrid Sischy wrote in an article in "Interview" magazine: "[Smith] gives us something that music and words are supposed to but, in fact, rarely deliver: the power to transport ourselves."

30 review for Patti Smith: An Unauthorized Biography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Read Just Kids instead.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Kizer

    Don't read this book !! Victor Brockris published several of Patti's early poetry books and now acts as if she owes him something. While the early part of the book up to Radio Ethiopia is well informed it goes quickly down hill from there. By the end of the book Brockris is just pandering vicious rumors. None of Patti's friends or family helped with this biography so Brockris instead goes to a motley bunch who like the author just seem vindictive. Don't read this book !! Victor Brockris published several of Patti's early poetry books and now acts as if she owes him something. While the early part of the book up to Radio Ethiopia is well informed it goes quickly down hill from there. By the end of the book Brockris is just pandering vicious rumors. None of Patti's friends or family helped with this biography so Brockris instead goes to a motley bunch who like the author just seem vindictive.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    I liked this book overall---but not all the time. I need to read another biography of Patti to compare the viewpoints. This one seemed harsh at times, annoyingly so, like the author had little bit of an axe to grind--overall was not very flattering. It's no fun to be told that your heroes are neurotic, jealous, attention-seeking, co-dependant bitches, but no one said that cold reality was fun. Then again, some men cannot come to grips with women of genius, so it's hard to say where the reality b I liked this book overall---but not all the time. I need to read another biography of Patti to compare the viewpoints. This one seemed harsh at times, annoyingly so, like the author had little bit of an axe to grind--overall was not very flattering. It's no fun to be told that your heroes are neurotic, jealous, attention-seeking, co-dependant bitches, but no one said that cold reality was fun. Then again, some men cannot come to grips with women of genius, so it's hard to say where the reality begins, and who is really the attention-seeking neurotic. A moment in the book that is perhaps telling: For a couple of paragraphs in the fourth chapter, the narrative suddenly switches from 3rd person to 1st. I was completely confused at first, but as I read on, I realized that the author was a founder of the company that published Patti's first book of poetry (and she was apparently not very gracious for his support). I, of course, was just supposed to know who this guy was, being a such an important figure in the early NY punk scene and all. Please. Presumptuous--and poor writing.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Buzz

    I am thankful for Bockris's unauthorized Patti Smith biography for shaking us out of our Just Kids farce. Patti constructed herself as godlike, complete with authentic outsider status, androgynous feminist beauty, a peaceful friendship with Robert, and thus, a love for all gay people. But Bockris casually corrects us: we're dealing with-- yes, a very talented person--who is also a misogynist, homophobic social climber. Patti carefully constructs her fame by silently hanging around the Max's Kans I am thankful for Bockris's unauthorized Patti Smith biography for shaking us out of our Just Kids farce. Patti constructed herself as godlike, complete with authentic outsider status, androgynous feminist beauty, a peaceful friendship with Robert, and thus, a love for all gay people. But Bockris casually corrects us: we're dealing with-- yes, a very talented person--who is also a misogynist, homophobic social climber. Patti carefully constructs her fame by silently hanging around the Max's Kansas City crowd until the right moment to strike. Patti then disrupted feminist solidarity when she told Debbie Harry something to the effect of "step down, there's only room for one of us in this scene". To top it all off, Patti made Robert's queerness her enemy for reasons related to jealous gender-angst. Until he got AIDS. If this story played out in the current day and age, I'd read Patti's early body hatred as a seed of transgender identity, and therefore her attraction to Robert as a homosexual one, which would explain the jealousy. This argument would also explain these misogynist altercations: Patti has always been hostile to her lesbian fanbase for identifying with her androgyny, an arms length to push herself closer to gay men than other queers. Bockris reveals the backstory behind the distance between Patti and Robert before his diagnosis with AIDS, as well as her disappearance from New York for a period of Detroit domesticity. These scenarios help the reader understand Patti's trajectory of mounting fame, subsequent disappearance, and then the resurrection: a holy comeback which erased her drugged up toxicity from the collective memory. I appreciate the honesty and thorough documentation with which he tells Patti's story, complete with both accomplishments and foibles. I say go ahead, revere Patti as a saint, as long as you can deal with what she'd hiding in her monastic closet.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bblaire

    it's so good and inspiring and necessary for life to learn more about this womand and heroine. also, very necessary to discover her not so nice or adored face, because it is actually something to love and admire about her too. it's so good and inspiring and necessary for life to learn more about this womand and heroine. also, very necessary to discover her not so nice or adored face, because it is actually something to love and admire about her too.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Wendelle

    the portrait that emerges in this biography is of a wild and ambitious girl, confident of her future greatness, callous in her gratitude, unrepentant of the Abrahamic cost of giving away an unexpected baby, provocative in poetry and declarations, insatiably nomadic in both her artistic pursuits and artistic environments, a bit appalled by homosexuality-- who is nevertheless altogether validated by an inherent, boiling genius that shaped the artistic character of her decade and beyond. Well that the portrait that emerges in this biography is of a wild and ambitious girl, confident of her future greatness, callous in her gratitude, unrepentant of the Abrahamic cost of giving away an unexpected baby, provocative in poetry and declarations, insatiably nomadic in both her artistic pursuits and artistic environments, a bit appalled by homosexuality-- who is nevertheless altogether validated by an inherent, boiling genius that shaped the artistic character of her decade and beyond. Well that last part I kind of furnished by myself as a fact of Patti Smith without the book's help. I was a bit startled by the kind of character this book supposes Patti to be, it's a far cry from the gentle, subdued character who wrote M Train.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I like Patti Smith. The book........not so much.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

    I liked the book overall.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Peggy Gordon

    2.5

  10. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    partly catty as fuck, which became very irritating. beginning and end were good

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ad

    i haven't even listened to her music but as she was in the music scene at a particular important time more the underground artistic new york scene is interesting because also of her involvement with other big artists namely bob dylan and Lou Reed. her whole new york persona is inspiring the early days and how she went out of the spotlight for a long time to reamerge stronger as before. to me she's a true artist who took the risks for her art and won. this isn't a bad book however i'm having a lo i haven't even listened to her music but as she was in the music scene at a particular important time more the underground artistic new york scene is interesting because also of her involvement with other big artists namely bob dylan and Lou Reed. her whole new york persona is inspiring the early days and how she went out of the spotlight for a long time to reamerge stronger as before. to me she's a true artist who took the risks for her art and won. this isn't a bad book however i'm having a lot more fun with her autobiographical book 'just kids' like the time living in chelsea hotel told through her perspective. however this is a good overview book.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie Pedersen

    Victor Bokris wrote biographies of several NYC artists from this era, including Warhol, Lou Reed and Beat Punks (which I'd love to read when I have the time). This one, on Patti Smith, reads like it was written by an insider, someone who knew this very specific time and place. It's written in the style of a music magazine article, which isn't a bad thing. But this isn't literary-leverl non-fiction here. Plenty of anecdotes and tidbits, much of it new to me. Victor Bokris wrote biographies of several NYC artists from this era, including Warhol, Lou Reed and Beat Punks (which I'd love to read when I have the time). This one, on Patti Smith, reads like it was written by an insider, someone who knew this very specific time and place. It's written in the style of a music magazine article, which isn't a bad thing. But this isn't literary-leverl non-fiction here. Plenty of anecdotes and tidbits, much of it new to me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lina

    Ich liebe Patti und das Buch bietet wichtige Informationen auf Pattis Lebensweg. Es gibt viele Ausschnitte aus diversen Magazinen und Berichte von Leuten, die sie kannten. Ich finde es toll, mehr über mein Idol zu erfahren. Allerdings muss ich als Patti-Anbeterin den sachlichen Ton bemängeln. Viel lieber hätte ich eine Biographie eines Fans gelesen, der genauso begeistert von ihr ist wie ich. Es ist mir einfach zu nüchtern, weswegen ich "nur" drei Sterne gebe. Ich liebe Patti und das Buch bietet wichtige Informationen auf Pattis Lebensweg. Es gibt viele Ausschnitte aus diversen Magazinen und Berichte von Leuten, die sie kannten. Ich finde es toll, mehr über mein Idol zu erfahren. Allerdings muss ich als Patti-Anbeterin den sachlichen Ton bemängeln. Viel lieber hätte ich eine Biographie eines Fans gelesen, der genauso begeistert von ihr ist wie ich. Es ist mir einfach zu nüchtern, weswegen ich "nur" drei Sterne gebe.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    the author seemed to offer only the most strange and unflattering quotes from patti smith and many questionable inferences. i enjoyed the book but very much took it with a grain of salt. titles i enjoyed more that covered the same ground and/or specific incidents: "just kids", "the virgin of bennington", and even "please kill me". the author seemed to offer only the most strange and unflattering quotes from patti smith and many questionable inferences. i enjoyed the book but very much took it with a grain of salt. titles i enjoyed more that covered the same ground and/or specific incidents: "just kids", "the virgin of bennington", and even "please kill me".

  15. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    The best book about a rock star and the music industry that I have read, so far. Smith is a chameleon and dreamer, but also had her feet on the ground and worked hard to distinguish herself in the music scene. No fare well sister, she is totally male identified and short changes her female fan base.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jeanne T.

    LOVED this, but I LOVE Patti Smith. What a great book--Kept me engaged from the jump\. If you love Patti Smith, you will love this book.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    Interesting read with a lot of great excerpts from interviews and articles, both Patti's and others. Interesting read with a lot of great excerpts from interviews and articles, both Patti's and others.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sam T. Frost

    Vivid culture.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Leanne Staples

    Well done. At times, perhaps a little harsh. But it balances out the romanticized pretend who you are of Patti's persona. Definitely worth reading. Well done. At times, perhaps a little harsh. But it balances out the romanticized pretend who you are of Patti's persona. Definitely worth reading.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nikos Vlachakis

  21. 5 out of 5

    EmbryoBB

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katie Vogel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kristen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Corey Osboine

  25. 5 out of 5

    Dg

  26. 5 out of 5

    Therese

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

  28. 5 out of 5

    Emma

  29. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  30. 5 out of 5

    Valeda

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