The Polar Music Prize 2011 is being awarded to American poet and musician Patti Smith. By devoting her life to art in all its forms, Patti Smith has demonstrated how much rock’n’roll there is in poetry and how much poetry there is in rock’n’roll. Patti Smith is a Rimbaud with Marshall amps. She has transformed the way an entire generation looks, thinks and dreams. With her inimitable soul of an artist, Patti Smith proves over and over again that people have the power.
I was born on a Monday...
Introduction to Patti Smith's biography "Just Kids"“
Patti Smith was born in Chicago in 1946 and raised in South Jersey. From an early age she gravitated toward the arts and human rights issues. She studied at Glassboro State Teachers College and moved to New York City in 1967. There she met photographer and the “the artist of her life” Robert Mapplethorpe. The two became close and encouraged each other’s artistic endeavors.
In February 1971, Smith performed her first public poetry reading at St. Mark’s Church on the lower eastside, accompanied by Lenny Kaye on guitar. In April of that year she co-wrote and performed the play Cowboy Mouth with playwright Sam Shepard. She continued to write and perform her poetry with Lenny Kaye, eventually adding Richard Sohl on piano in 1974. As a trio they played regularly around New York, including the legendary Max’s Kansas City, centering on their collective and varied musical roots and her improvised poetry.
Power of the words
Along with bands like Television, Ramones and Blondie, the Patti Smith Group became an important part of the Punk and New Wave music scene that centered around CBGB. Smith described their work as “three chords merged with the power of the word.”
Smith was signed to Arista and recorded four albums: Horses, Radio Ethiopia, Easter, which included her top-twenty hit “Because the Night,” co-written with Bruce Springsteen, and Wave,
Rock 'n' roll belongs to the people
In October 1979, Patti Smith retired from the public eye and moved to Detroit. In 1980 she married Fred “Sonic” Smith and they had two children. In 1988 they recorded Dream of Life, which included the classic anthem “People Have the Power.” She didn’t tour behind the album but made a rare appearance five years later, in 1993, at Central Park’s Summerstage, where she dedicated her poems and a cappella singing to two close friends who had recently died: photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and long time musical partner Richard Sohl. The year after, in 1994, her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith passed away at the age of 45. Only a month later Smith’s younger brother Todd, who had been working as a road manager in her early career, also passed away.
Back to music 1990-2012
In 1995 Smith released Gone Again, a highly acclaimed meditation on passage and mortality. The following tour, on which she opened for Bob Dylan, marked her re-emergence as a performer. By 1997 a new band was formed and they recorded Peace and Noise, an album that incorporated a blend of speaking and singing in Smith’s trademark incantatory style and reflected the natural interplay between members of a cohesive group. With Gung Ho in 2000, she drew on the inspiration of spiritual and political leaders and events, while heralding the efforts of the common man. Her eleventh studio album Banga, and the first album with new material since 2004, was released in June 2012. It was recorded with Lenny Kaye, Tony Shanahan and Jay Dee Daugherty at Electric Lady Studios in New York.
1972 – A Useless Death
1972 – Kodak
1972 – Early Morning Dream
1973 – Witt
1977 – Ha! Ha! Houdini!
1977 – Gallerie Veith Turske
1978 – Babel
1992 – Woolgathering
1994 – Early Work: 1970 – 1979
1996 – The Coral Sea
1998 – Patti Smith Complete
1999 – Wild Leaves
2003 – Strange Messenger
2005 – Auguries of Innocence
Stockholm August 2011
Polar Music Talks & Sessions is a two-day event taking place in Stockholm before the actual prize ceremony. These days feature exclusive interviews with the laureates, seminars and engaging conversations. The concept is based on verbal ”jam sessions” where inspiring lectures mix with trend spotting, panel discussions, debates and entertainment. Polar Music Sessions & Talks started in 2009.