Patti Smith's advice to Artists, Musicians and Writers

I'm sitting at breakfast with my Mom and her sister in a hotel in downtown Seattle. It's a LOVELY breakfast and beautiful view of the rain and November foliage outside... all of a sudden I feel this presence behind me. I look to my right and.... and.... is that Lenny Kaye? Why yes as a matter of fact it is! He sits down at the table next to ours with another gentleman I don't recognize. I steal a few glances but I don't want to be invasive, so I keep chatting with the relatives.

But then a woman walks up to Lenny Kaye. She's about 5'7" with long darkish gray hair, dark masculine clothing and a presence that shakes the room. I know in a flash it's Patti Smith. I had seen her speak the night before, and she had chastised audience from coming up and bothering her at breakfast, so even though I was squirming with excitement I knew to give her space. But it was fantastic. I wrote on a napkin "Mom don't say ANYTHING but Patti Smith is sitting behind Aunt Debby" and handed it to her. Mom gleefully took the note, but didn't really know who or what I was talking about:)

Little did she know we were sitting next to one of the most inspiring women of modern times.

Today is Patti Smith's birthday. She is one of my heroes: my female role model for living a full life as an artist and writer, and becoming an empowered and fascinating older woman.

(She's a Fire Dog by the way, 1946.... her and David Bowie...)

I had the good fortune to see her speak at this conference, but I've never posted my notes on her speech until now. They could be a Manual For Living for ANYONE. I really took her to heart, and this is pretty much how I live my life now.

Check it out:

The artist has a specific calling that the people need
Their gift belongs to the people - not the artist
The artist is to animate God, and inspire, inform and lead the people
The artist MUST take care of their own house (health, finances, etc..)
Being a musician is a sacrifice - doing the work, dragging equipment, being disciplined
Absolutely market yourself! You are sharing and spreading the word... "hear ye hear ye"

Female rock artists are not well represented in the music industry. Women do well in country music and as singer songwriters.... but not in rock music.
Everyone has the right to make money from their art.

Patti is often asked, "How do I make money from my music?" Her answer - "Get a Job!" Take care of your responsibilities.
Patti Smith worked from 1967 to 1974. You have to work hard and get funding for your work.
The important part is to tell yourself "I am not my day job. I'm doing this to fund my music."
She watched her mother work all day. When they didn't have enough money she would sew and do laundry for people at night. It gave Patti a strong work ethic.

Her mantra - People have the Power to change what's around us and within us.
Her favorite poet - Arthur Rimbaud

She saw the birth of rock music, and she's seen lots of ups and downs in the industry and society in general. But the times we're living in are the most corrupt, demoralizing, fearful times she's EVER seen. You have to be really tough to make it in the world today.

The answer is to work diligently on the things you CAN control. Make them your whole focus.

One thing you can control is your health. Work on your "inner house" - what's your nutrition?
Are you taking care of yourself?
Your teeth?
We have to be strong, clean and aware because the world is fucked up.
Get yourself together - get it physically together.

Conduct yourself in a manner that commands respect.

She also said, when people march together, or meet at conferences, we let each other know that we exist! Try to strengthen the numbers in your community.

Happy Birthday Patti Smith!


  1. A wise women, Patti Smith. Thank you for reminding us.

  2. I was a HUGE fan of the Patti Smith Group and still have the early albums (Horses, Easter, and Radio Ethiopia which was my favorite). Thanks for the insightful profile.

  3. the 1970's were an amazing era & Patti Smith personified the best of it, I love her.
    I've never been so scared in m life as when i saw her live in concert at 17, she is amazing, that concert defined my life path. She is sublime!