Words & Music
When Patti Smith is called punk rock’s poet laureate, the intent is more than rhetorical. While shaping the rock canon since 1975, she has also published more than two dozen books. First, there were the volumes of poetry, now yellowed and dogeared on so many readers’ shelves. Then, starting with the National Book Award-winning Just Kids in 2010, there was the turn to memoir with traces of autofiction, illuminating a remarkable life entwined with those of artists like Robert Mapplethorpe and Fred “Sonic” Smith.
Nowhere is the full Patti Smith more apparent and approachable than in Words & Music, a cozy, scruffy jukebox musical of a sort that only she could pull off. Reviewing an Off-Broadway production in 2018, The New York Times basked in the autumnal mood and “that shimmering clairvoyant alto” as Smith mingled her own poems, those by Rilke and others, songs, stories, and her usual frank digressions into a spellbinding but comfortably lived-in evening. The set included some of her own worn family furniture. “And yes,” Rolling Stone reported, “she even spat on stage.”