Chicago-born, New York-city based Patti Smith is one of the most influential female vocalists of the last 30 years. The daughter of a jazz singer, Smith left Deptford Township, New Jersey—the town that she grew up in—in 1967 to study in New York City. After a brief stint living in Paris, Smith returned to New York and formed the Patti Smith Group. Smith released her first album, Horses, in 1975 on Arista Records. Smith, who was one of the hottest names in New York City, quickly became known around the world. Horses is viewed by many as one of the finest debut albums of all time, and is a staple on many magazines' lists of greatest albums.
Her next release, under the moniker "Patti Smith Group", was 1976's Radio Ethiopia. The controversial album divided critics and fans. Though many critics thought that Smith had lost some of her edge, tracks like "Pumping (My Heart)" and "Ask The Angels" are great examples of Smith balancing slick melodies without losing the precocious energy of Horses. Though it did not sell particularly well, it is very popular among Smith fans. Her next album, Easter, saw Smith continue to lean towards more a more accessible sound. It featured perhaps her most popular song "Because the Night," a ballad about lovers co-written by Bruce Springsteen. It was Smith's first Top 20 album in America. Her follow-up Wave also hit the Top 20. Wave would be her last album for almost 10 years, as Smith retreated to suburban Michigan to focus on raising a family with her husband Fred Smith, the guitarist from MC5. She resurfaced with 1988's Dream of Life, an album that garnered great reviews but sold modestly.
Smith's life was rocked by the tragic passing of her husband in 1994, who succumbed to a heart attack when he was only 45 years old. After his passing, Smith also lost her brother Todd and the original keyboardist from the Patti Smith Group, Richard Sohl. Smith released her sixth album, Gone Again, in 1996 and went on to release four more albums over the next 11 years. 2007's Twelve, features 12 unique takes on classic songs like Jimi Hendrix's "Are You Experienced?," Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," and Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
Smith's cultural contributions do not end with music. Smith is an outspoken supporter of progressive politics, especially the anti-war movement. She openly spoke out against George W. Bush's war in Iraq, and she is currently working for freedom for Iran. She is also an accomplished poet and writer, as well as a visual artist. Her first book of poetry, Seventh Heaven, was released in 1972. Though Smith is not actively touring at the moment, she has continued to stay busy into her 60s. She still occasionally performs, and she recently released a live album with Kevin Shields. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in March of 2007, and a documentary about her, Steven Sebring's Patti Smith: Dream of Life, was released in January of 2008. Her music continues to influence scores of musicians and adoring fans.