Patti Smith Calls Grief ‘Proof That We’re Alive’


Patti Smith has certainly earned her legendary status. The songwriter who’s often referred to as the “Poet Laureate of Punk” has been nominated for Grammy Awards, was named a Commander of France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and even won the National Book Award for her 2010 memoir Just Kids.

However, in her new interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Smith puts her notoriety aside for a moment to talk about something all-too-relatable: grief.

Patti Smith Lost Her Husband In 1994

There aren’t many artists out there who get to celebrate 50 years of a renowned music career. However, with the release of her new book, Book of Days, that’s exactly what Patti Smith is doing. Smith recently sat down with Harper’s Bazaar to reflect on her new book, remarkable life, and legendary career.

The lengthy interview provided insights from Smith’s peers, serving to highlight just how impactful her art has been to the music world. However, it’s in her interview that readers start to get a glimpse of the person behind the icon.

In an emotional moment, Smith reflected on the inevitability of experiencing loss at some point in life. “We feel pain; we have to ride it,” she told the outlet.

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Smith notably lost her husband, Fred Smith of the band MC5, in 1994 after 14 years of marriage. She and Fred raised two children before his tragic death from a heart attack. Not long after Fred’s passing, Smith lost her brother, Todd, to a stroke.

‘I Can’t Bear That Fred Isn’t Going To Come Back’

According to Smith, grief never fades. She admits that the emotion creeps up on her, and, in the moment, feels just as fresh as when she lost her loved ones.

“I can’t bear that Fred isn’t going to come back. He’s been gone for, I don’t know, 27 years or something. Or that my mother isn’t going to sit down and have a coffee,” Smith noted.

“And so maybe I’ll have a good cry. But now I’ve realized that these moments, which seem so devastating in the past, are almost friends. It’s like, ‘Ah, I’m feeling grief. …’ It’s just more proof that we’re alive and that we’re capable of feeling still a plethora of emotions.”

Smith, who will turn 76 on December 30, notes that she’s outlived plenty of her loved ones. However, she doesn’t think she’s doing anything special to accomplish that. “I haven’t survived all this time, and sadly survived many of my friends and loved ones, because of any special formula,” she told the publication.

“I’ve survived [because] I want to live. I want to be here… I want to be alive. I want to breathe. I want to do my work.”

Despite her long and enduring career, Smith has no plans to ever stop creating. Patti Smith is still writing and making music, although she tends to favor book writing these days. Her latest book, Book of Days, is on shelves now.

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