Patti Smith, “Wing”

Many of Patti Smith’s fans will tell you that she hasn’t gotten her due as a singer, songwriter, poet and visual artist in terms of popular recognition. As chronicled in the new HBO documentary The Defiant Ones, her biggest popular chart success came with “Because the Night” in 1977, and Bruce Springsteen actually wrote part of that. Much of what she’s recorded in her 45-year career has found a home in record store bins under headings that typically don’t appeal much to large mainstream audiences, like “punk” or “art rock.”

During the four decades since that single top 20 chart appearance, though, the very-prolific Smith has enjoyed a successful career without a lot of love from the masses. She went on to sell a respectable number of records, and became an award-winning Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member whose work influenced everyone from Madonna to R.E.M. Her 20 or so books of poetry, prose, lyrics and more can now be found in the same section of the library as the works of Angelou, Ginsberg and Kerouac. And her song “Wing,” from her 1996 album Gone Again, has become an anthem of sorts of independence and hope.

“Wing” means different things to different people. To some it’s a tribute to departed loved ones; to others, it’s a song about how they wish they could give their gift of lightness of being to others. But at its core it seems to be a song about the joy of personal freedom, each verse ending with the lines I was free needed nobody/ It was beautiful, it was beautiful. It was inspired by the work of Nobel Prize-winning philosopher Albert Camus, whose books The First Man and A Happy Death influenced Smith as a young... Sign In to Keep Reading

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