Despite being one of the music industry’s most enduring artists, Patti Smith says it is never too late in your career to learn a lesson or two in the value of failure.
In December, the 70-year-old Godmother of Punk suffered a crippling bout of stage fright while singing at the Nobel Prize ceremony in Sweden.
She paused in the second verse of laureate Bob Dylan’s A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall — too overwhelmed to find the words — and asked to begin the section again.
“I felt like a seven-year-old — I really wanted to run away,” she told 7.30.
Instead of running, she finished the song as Nobel attendees wiped their eyes and showered her in applause.
Now, four months on, the once “humiliating sting of failure” seems more a blessing in disguise.
“The next day I just wanted to apologise to everyone, but they just seemed so happy,” Smith said.
“Not to see me in a bad position but to be able to connect in a very human moment.
“We met on common ground. All these people with such great minds, who spend their time helping and enriching humanity.
“We all have rough moments where we have to take a deep breath and forge on.”
‘I still talk to Robert about art’
Patti Smith with her friend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, in 1969. (Supplied: Norman Seeff/Blender Gallery)
Patti Smith is touring Australia for the last time, four decades after the release of her seminal debut album Horses, because her doctor has cautioned her against long-haul air travel due to bronchial problems.
Speaking in between shows in Sydney, the punk rocker, poet and author reflected on her relationship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe and husband Fred “Sonic” Smith.
“It’s part of the privilege of being human that we have the moment that we need to say goodbye,” she said.
Mapplethorpe, whom Smith wrote about in her bestselling memoir Just Kids, died in 1989 due to complications from HIV/AIDS.
Fred Smith, the MC5 guitarist, followed in 1994 of heart failure.
“I still talk with Robert about art, about the future,” she said.
“I still talk to my husband about our children and I feel them within me.”
Patti Smith, pictured in 1974, is touring Australia for the last time. (Supplied: Frank Stefanko/Blender Gallery)
Smith remains one of the last standing icons of the 1970s New York art scene.
She forged an inimitable path among the likes of Lou Reed, the New York Dolls, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Television, the Ramones, and Blondie. For a time, she even called the legendary Chelsea Hotel home.
“Truthfully, I can remember being in the Chelsea Hotel and there’s Salvador Dali,” she said.
“Jean-Luc Godard comes in and the Allman brothers are checking in.
“It’s where I lived and it just seemed another day.”
Smith will perform this week at the State Theatre, the Sydney Opera House and Bluesfest.
Her final show in Australia will be at Festival Hall in Melbourne on April 20 with Courtney Barnett.
An exhibition of photos about Patti Smith is on at the Blender Gallery in Sydney until the end of April.