roll. It drew me from my path to a sea of possibilities. It sheltered
and shattered me, from the end of childhood through a painful
adolescence. I had my first altercation with my father when the
Rolling Stones made their debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Rock
n roll was mine to defend. It strengthened my hand
and gave me a sense of tribe as I boarded a bus from South Jersey
to freedom in 1967.
roll, at that time, was a fusion of intimacies. Repression bloomed
into rapture like raging weeds shooting through cracks in the
cement. Our music provided a sense of communal activism. Our artists
provoked our ascension into awareness as we ran amok in a frenzied
state of grace.
My late husband,
Fred Sonic Smith, then of Detroits MC5, was a part of the
brotherhood instrumental in forging a revolution: seeking to save
the world with love and the electric guitar. He created aural
autonomy yet did not have the constitution to survive all the
complexities of existence.
died, in the winter of 1994, he counseled me to continue working.
He believed that one day I would be recognized for my efforts
and though I protested, he quietly asked me to accept what was
bestowed - gracefully - in his name.
Today I will
join R.E.M., the Ronettes, Van Halen and Grandmaster Flash and
the Furious Five to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame. On the eve of this event I asked myself many questions.
Should an artist working within the revolutionary landscape of
rock accept laurels from an institution? Should laurels be offered?
Am I a worthy recipient?
I have wrestled
with these questions and my conscience leads me back to Fred and
those like him - the maverick souls who may never be afforded
such honors. Thus in his name I will accept with gratitude. Fred
Sonic Smith was of the people, and I am none but him: one who
has loved rock n roll and crawled from the ranks to
the stage, to salute history and plant seeds for the erratic magic
landscape of the new guard.
members will be the guardians of our cultural voice. The Internet
is their CBGB. Their territory is global. They will dictate how
they want to create and disseminate their work. They will, in
time, make breathless changes in our political process. They have
the technology to unite and create a new party, to be vigilant
in their choice of candidates, unfettered by corporate pressure.
Their potential power to form and reform is unprecedented...
roll drew me from my mothers hand and led me to experience.
In the end it was my neighbors who put everything in perspective.
An approving nod from the old Italian woman who sells me pasta.
A high five from the postman. An embrace from the notary and his
wife. And a shout from the sanitation man driving down my street:
"Hey, Patti, Hall of Fame. One for us."
I just smiled,
and I noticed I was proud. One for the neighborhood. My parents.
My band. One for Fred. And anybody else who wants to come along.
Patti Smith is a poet and performer. She was inducted into the
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 12, 2007.
You can read the entire essay here.