Today, December 30, marks Patti Smith’s 70th birthday, a landmark anniversary in a year that has seen her delivering unforgettable performances in “Inside: Artists and Writers in Reading Prison”—one of the most acclaimed exhibitions of 2016 in the UK—and at the Nobel Prize ceremony, which she attended in lieu of laureate Bob Dylan.
While 2016 will be remembered as the year in which we’ve lost a huge number of music stars—including David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen, and George Michael—Smith, the underground heroine, is still going strong, remaining as relevant as ever.
To celebrate her birthday, we have put together a selection of images that survey her iconic personal life and career, from her youth in New York—first as the lover and then friend of Robert Mapplethorpe—and her early steps as a poet, to her maturing into a powerful rock star, and today, with her wit, charm, and unique style absolutely intact.
Her poetry, music, and writing are characterized by an uncontrived candor, especially when she relates anecdotes from her fascinating life, going back to her relationship with Mapplethorpe to seeking out the alternative scene in New York. After the release of her book Just Kids, in which she mourned his death, Smith again became a true inspiration to a younger generation.
Fans and friends from around the world have taken to social media today to share moments from throughout the musician and poet’s life. Here are some of the highlights:
On December 17, Patti Smith gave a performance, unannounced, to a crowd gathered in the lobby of the Museum of Modern Art in celebration of the birthday of Jean Genet, the French novelist and playwright and an idol of Ms. Smith’s. Here’s a video of her performance shot by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator at Large at MoMA and Director of MoMA PS1.
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