Patti Smith, talking at Cooper Union on May Day 2010, advises young New York artists — Part II.
Patti Smith’s answers took on an intensified quality when the floor was opened to questions. Asked by an audience member what music she listens to, Smith said, “I listen to opera, really. I listen to my son and daughter. A lot of young kids give me their CDs – I’m just happy to see it prevail. They’re the people I invest my love in.” When asked why she left rock and roll to marry Fred “Sonic” Smith of the MC-5 and become a “midwestern housewife,” she answered that, at the time, she felt she had accomplished the mission she’d carved out for herself in rock and roll: “Wake the people up; create space for the new guard!”
Perhaps the most remarkable quality Patti Smith projects is intimacy, and a no-nonsense authenticity: no doubt, she rolls her socks the same way off stage as on. She commented on loving to see how human beings toil, and gave as an example her current book obsession, Roberto Bolano’s 2666. As for her favorite book of all time, Smith said, “Songs of Innocence [Blake]. My mother gave it to me when I was a child.” She says her goal in life is to “give to the children of the future one wonderful book that they will love as much as I loved Pinnochio.”
She offered heartfelt advice to young artists gathered to hear her experience, both musicians (“If a big corporation or a label won’t put out your record, take it out to the street”) and writers (“I write every day, even if it’s only two words. The mind, the heart and the imagination are all muscles, and must be exercised. After awhile, your body craves it. And buy yourself a nice pen and notebook!”). Patti Smith also noted that, for her, the nine-to-five job was the really painful situation, and admitted that, while she and Mapplethorpe were happy in their starving artist days, it would be almost impossible to do now what they did in Just Kids, “because of how New York has changed. New York has closed itself off to the young. My advice is…find a new city.”