Coming into New York City’s scene in the 70s, the ‘Godmother of Punk’ Patti Smith turned the tides for women, becoming one of the most influential rock n’ rollers of all time. Her distinctive musical fusion was not a statement; simply a product of following her own artistical muse whichever direction it took her.

‘Jesus died for somebody’s sins but not mine’ writes a rebellious Smith, casting off the shackles of her religious upbringing. Visceral from a young age, Smith began writing and performing very early. Untrained yet nevertheless expressive, she unintentionally created a rock band by speaking her poetry over Lenny Kayes guitar, later adding a pianist and bassist to the mix. In 1975, under The Patti Smith Group, her first album Horses combined punk-rock and spoken word. Blessed with a compelling stage presence, Smith enchanted audiences with impassioned melodies – yet music was not her primary vocation. It was about making art – whether this came in the form of putting pen to paper, painting, making music or posing for life long friend Robert Mapplethorpe’s photography – it was about expression of the self.

Smith dropped off the music scene in the 90s after settling down husband Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith. After his passing however, she continued to tour and perform her work with a fearsome intensity. Her commitment social activism has never waned. Throughout her career she has used her prolific status and musical flair to advocate against a number of issues such as the Iraq War and the West’s dispassionate attitude to AIDs. These pictures serve to remind us of her everlasting passion and mythic imagination.

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