Jersey punk receives the 2011 Polar Music Prize from Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf.
Patti Smith was awarded Sweden’s highest musical honor this past week.
The Polar Music Prize was first presented in 1992 and has gone to pop artists such as Sir Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, B.B. King, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and classical names such as Isaac Stern, Renée Fleming, José Antonio Abreu and Ennio Morricone.
Smith’s award was presented by one of her favorite authors, Sweden’s Henning Mankell. Speaking without notes, he credited Smith for inspiring women all over the world to write poetry and create music. He then read the citation, which lauded Smith for “devoting her life to art in all its forms” and for demonstrating “how much rock ‘n’ roll there is in poetry and how much poetry there is in rock ‘n’ roll.” Calling Smith “a Rimbaud with Marshall amps,” the citation said that she “has transformed the way an entire generation looks, thinks and dreams.”
In her acceptance, a visibly moved Smith had to stop for a moment to collect herself as she thanked her daughter Jesse Paris and son Jackson, as well as the musicians she has worked with for years, including “Lenny Kaye, who has played guitar by my side for over 40 years.” Smith also acknowledged the late Stig Anderson and “my late husband, Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith,” guitarist for the rock band MC5.
“Receiving the prestigious Polar Music Prize is both humbling and inspiring, for it fills me with pride,” Smith told the audience at the Stockholm Concert Hall. “It also fills me with the desire to continue to prove my worth. I am reminded always how collaborative the music experience is and so I would like to thank the people, for it is the people for whom we create and it is the people who have given me their energy and encouragement for four decades.
No longer outside of society, punk’s elder stateswoman discusses her past, the present and the creative process with Stockholm journalist Jan Gradvall.
Virginia Woolf put stones in her pocket, left home, and walked out into the River Ouse. It was March 28th 1941.
Drowning isn’t the easiest of deaths, it can take up to 7 minutes. We can pretend and romanticize it as much as we want, but it was not an easy death.
In January 1941, Woolf had dropped into depression, she wrote in her diary:
January 26th 1941
“A battle against depression…I think, of memoir writing. This trough of despair shall not, I swear, engulf me.”
Then 3 weeks before she took her own life:
Sunday March 8th 1941
“I intend no introspection. I mark Henry James’ sentence: observe perpetually. Observe the oncome of age. Observe greed. Observe my own despondency. By that means it becomes serviceable. Or so I hope. I insist upon spending this time to the best advantage. I will go down with my colours flying.”
Woolf fought. Woolf struggled. Woolf lost. Or, rather we lost. In a note to her husband Leonard, she wrote:
Dearest, I feel certain that I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier ‘til this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even write this properly. I can’t read. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that – everybody knows it. If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. V.
The fear of madness had always been there, and once described her nervous breakdown:
“My own brain -
“Here is the whole nervous breakdown in miniature. We came on Tuesday. Sank into a chair, could scarcely rise; everything insipid; tasteless, colorless. Enormous desire for rest.
“Wednesday - only wish to be alone in the open air. Air delicious - avoided speech; could not read. Thought of my own power of writing with veneration, as of something incredible, belonging to someone else; never again to be enjoyed by me. Mind a blank. Slept in my chair.
“Thursday. No pleasure in life whatsoever; but felt perhaps more attuned to existence. Character and idiosyncrasy as Virginia Woolf completely sunk out. Humble and modest. Difficulty in thinking what to say. Read automatically, like a cow chewing cud. Slept in chair.
“Friday : sense of physical tiredness; but slight activity of the brain. Beginning to take notice. Making one or two plans. No power of phrase-making. Difficulty in writing to Lady Colefax. Saturday (today) much clearer and lighter. Thought I could write, but resisted and found it impossible.
“A desire to read poetry set in on Friday. This brings back a sense of my own individuality. Read some dante and Bridges, without troubling to understand, but got pleasure from them. Now I begin to wish to write notes, but not yet a novel. But today scenes quickening. No ‘making up’ power yet: no desire to cast scenes in my book. Curiosity about literature returning; want to read Dante, Havelock Ellis and Berlioz autobiography; also to make a looking glass with shell frame. These processses have sometimes been spread over weeks.”
Even at its worst, Woolf’s desire for creativity, to create, to write, to survive, never weakened.
Monday October 25th (First day of winter time)
“Why is life so tragic; so like a little strip of pavement over an abyss. I look down; I feel giddy; I wonder how I am ever to walk to the end. But why do I feel this: Now that I say it I don’t feel it. The fire burns; we are going to hear the Beggar’s Opera. Only it lies about me; I can’t keep my eyes shut. It’s a feeling of impotence; of cutting no ice.
Here I sit at Richmond, and like a lantern stood in the middle of a field my light goes up in the darkness. Melancholy diminishes as I write. Why then don’t I write down oftener? Well, one’s vanity forbids. I want to appear a success even to myself. Yet I don’t get to the bottom of it. It’s having no children, living away from friends, failing to write well, spending too much on food, growing old. I think too much of whys and wherefores; too much of myself. I don’t like time to flap around me.
Well, then, work. Yes, but I so soon tire of work - can’t read more than a little, an hour’s writing is enough for me. Out here no one comes in to waste time pleasantly. If they do, I’m cross. The labour of going to London is too great. Nessa’s children grow up, and I can’t have them to tea, or go to the Zoo. Pocket money doesn’t allow of much. Yet I’m persuaded that these are trivial things; it’s life itself, I think sometimes, for us in our generation so tragic - no newspaper placard without its shriek of agony from someone. McSwiney this afternoon and violence in Ireland; or it’ll be the strike.
Unhappiness is everywhere; just beyond the door; or stupidity, which is worse. Still I don’t pluck the nettle out of me. To write Jacob’s Room again will revive my fibres, I feel. Evelyn is due; but I don’t like what I write now. And with it all how happy I am - if it weren’t for my feeling that it’s a strip of pavement over an abyss.
‘Virginia wrote The Waves for her brother, Toby. I think that’s part of the reason I chose to read from it. I feel very comfortable in those areas. I feel comfortable with her clawing her insides out to express her grief about her brother. I feel very comfortable when she writes about looking in the mirror and seeing the gaunt, greying face of her dying mother and also feeling strong and OK about that. Maybe that’s why I didn’t come to her work until late in life. I hadn’t gone though enough before to understand what she had to offer as a person and as an artist.’
Patti Smith is “waving to Virginia”, with accompaniment from her daughter, Jesse Smith on piano.
This Sunday night at 9p.m. on the USA network crime drama Law & Order: Criminal Intent, poet/rocker Patti Smith makes her acting debut. Smith will portray a Columbia University mythology professor. It was actor Vincent D’Onofrio’s idea to cast Smith in the role.
Titled “Icarus,” the episode, which also features guest star Cynthia Nixon, concerns the investigation of a Broadway musical after an actor dies on stage while performing a stunt. (Can you say, “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”?)
“I’ve never really acted, but I highly respect the craft,” says Smith. “I knew that it wasn’t going to be simple, but it was a little more daunting than I expected.”
I can’t embed it, but if you’d like a quick look at Smith’s performance, click here.
Below, a terrific live “Horses” on The Old Grey Whistle Test in 1976:
Nice homage to iconic female rockers with these cool skateboard decks, “Girls Girls Girls” from Girl’s 2010 Summer collection. Sadly, it appears they are no longer available on Girl’s website, but with a lil’ investigating, you’ll be able to find them. Ebay, perhaps?
Patti Smith appears on the Mike Douglas Show - March 8, 1978.
A giggling Kristy McNichol seems quite amused by Patti. Anne Meara, Jerry Stiller and William Shatner were also on the same program. Imagine a Shatner/Smith duet of “Rock and Roll Nigger.” One can only dream.
Patti is ostensibly on the show to promote her book Babel. Odd to see a poet making the daytime television rounds to promote a book of poetry that was published in a limited edition. She ends up spending most of her time talking about Muhammad Ali.
Patti Smith plays dress-up for a pirate-inspired photo shoot by Annie Liebovitz in the London studio where the latest Johnny Depp pirate movie is being filmed for Disney. The shoot took place last September.
In the video, Patti makes the connection between rock and rollers and pirates and manages to look like both.
While Dangerous Minds’ co-founder Richard Metzger is in the thrall of Monkeemania, I’d thought I’d share something with you and him that I found quite charming. This is Patti Smith (who I am always in the thrall of) doing an acoustic version of “Daydream Believer” last week in Paris. Lenny Kaye on guitar. Enjoy.
William Burroughs at home in Lawrence, Kansas smoking dope and shooting the shit with his friends Allen Ginsberg and Steve Buscemi as Patti Smith serenades them in the background. Filmed by Wayne Probst in August of 1996.
It seems El Hombre Invisible didn’t learn his lesson regarding lethal weapons. He flashes a knife around with careless abandon. But no one gets hurt.
In part two of the video Burroughs shows off his blackjack while Patti sings “Southern Cross” and Ginsberg eats dinner. Not much happening here, but goddamn it’s William Burroughs in his lair which is more than enough for me.
Gilda Radner as “Candy Slice,” her Patti Smith-like character from SNL’s glory days of the 70s. In hindsight, “Candy” seems much more like Amy Winehouse, of course, than Patti Smith, who was never much of a “rock-n-roll animal.”
The clip below is from Gilda Live, a document of Radner’s 1979 Broadway show. “Candy Slice & The Slicers” perform “Gimme Mick.” (Didn’t SNL’s writers know that Patti far prefers Keith???)
New Yorker Judy Linn’s photographs of Patti Smith are an indelible part of the collective consciousness of Patti’s fans and admirers. But, the Dylan one is new to me.
A book of around 100 black and white photographs Lynn took between the years of 1969-1977 of Patti, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Shepard, Gerard Malanga, among others, is being published next March by Abrams.
More of Linn’s photographs of Patti after the jump…