Speaking to Uncut, American singer-songwriter Patti Smith has spoken of her appreciation for today’s top pop artists like Adele and Billie Eilish while insisting that she herself not “that good” at penning hit songs.
“I’m not really that good at writing songs,” the “Because the Night” hitmaker began. “I’ve written only a couple of songs that have been popular. I’m not a hitmaker. I would have loved to be somebody who could do that.
“You look at somebody like Michael Stipe, a great poet who also knows how to strike that pop chord. I admire that. Whether it’s Marvin Gaye or Bob Dylan or John Lennon or PJ Harvey – these people who can infuse a certain poetic element into a popular song.”
Patti also spoke of her love of the popular female chart stars, despite their music being notably different to her own.
“I love pop music. I like the same songs everybody else likes. I like Adele, I like Rihanna, I like Billie Eilish. I loved R&B songs when I was young. I loved Amy Winehouse. But for myself, I gravitate toward a different kind of expression.”
Patti Smith then went on to explain that while she has previously faced criticism for immortalising people in her songs, such as poets or musicians, it is simply what “comes naturally” to her.
“People have criticised me for that. Sometimes they don’t understand it,” Smith said.
“But whether the subject is my mother or Sylvia Plath, part of the beauty of being alive is remembering and giving continuous lifeblood to people that have passed. Even when I was young, it was something I did.
“‘Horses” has two homages, “Break It Up” was for Jim Morrison and “Land of a Thousand Dances” was for Jimi Hendrix. Both had died and both had inspired me,” she explained.
“Almost all of my records have an homage to an artist, poet or friend. It comes naturally. I’ve seen a lot of people die in my life, from a childhood friend to my brother, my husband, my best friend, my pianist, my parents, Sam Shepard.
“So many people I thought I would know forever. I’m very familiar with having to find a way to walk with people who have passed away.”