Previously on PWHNY: Patti Smith

We’ve had quite a bit of content on Patti Smith over the last however many years we’ve been running this site. She’s one of the figures from the downtown scene to whom we devote extended attention in our Writing New York class; students are expected to read Philip Shaw’s 33 1/3 volume on Horses, to search out and study the lyrics online, and to listen carefully to the album.

Our supplementary material on her and on the broader scene has been broad-ranging. I’ve linked to material I posted on another blog some years ago that offered a thumbnail of the trajectory from the Beats to the Punks that we’re tracing in this unit. On that same blog I prompted a discussion of Smith’s controversial song “Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger,” placing it in the context of racial cross-imagination or appropriation we’ve discussed throughout our course. On the PWHNY side of the fence, I once posted an entire Rolling Stone interview from 1978 in which she talks extensively about her use of the N-word and her understanding of cross-racial solidarity in the experience of dissent and alientation. (She talks about a lot of other things as well.) And I wrote up a quick review of Patti Smith: Dreams of Life, the documentary by Steven Sebring, from which I showed a few clips in today’s lecture.

For fun, last year, I also compiled a video playlist that traced the interlinking histories of Beats, 60s downtowners, and 70s punks, and we linked to another site with some great photos from the scene back in the day. All of this stuff should be useful — or at least interesting — to our students or to those with an interest in the downtown scene in that era.

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