Patti Smith Opens Up About Her Extraordinary Life and Career: “I Never Planned To Be a Rock Star”

The one-of-a-kind Patti Smith recently sat down with Julia Louis-Dreyfus on her podcast Wiser Than Me—a Lemonada Media production—to talk about her unique life experiences, her unexpected career, and the great loves of her life. She spoke about aging, her past decision to leave New York City to raise her kids in Detroit, and her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith.

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“I never planned to be like a rock star,” Smith confessed. “I’m not a great singer. I had no training, no musical training.” Despite her lack of training, Smith went on the road, but soon felt she had stagnated. “I said what I had to say, and then I felt, as I was performing, somewhat redundant…I wasn’t growing. I was becoming agitated, somewhat demanding, stressed, I wasn’t writing, I felt that I wasn’t evolving as a human being.”

She revealed that she had already decided to spend her life with Fred “Sonic” Smith, who had been the guitarist for the band MC5. “I found the person that I really loved and wanted to spend my life with. And I didn’t like being parted with him,” she admitted. “[We decided] mutually, to leave the music business and live a quiet life and see where that took us. And so it was just time to see what I was made of. It wasn’t easy, but I’ve never once had any regret about it. I never regretted a thing. I loved my husband, and I went into that life willingly.”

[RELATED: Patti Smith Responds to Taylor Swift After Being Name-Dropped on “The Tortured Poets Department”]

Patti Smith on Aging, Leaving the Music Scene, and the First Review of Her Book Just Kids

At 77, Patti Smith is still thriving musically and creatively. She’s still performing live, still writing, and, as she admitted to Louis-Dreyfus, she’s accepted the fact that she is aging.

“I had a very youthful appearance for a long time, and in the last couple of years, I can see my aging process,” said Smith. “So I thought, okay, as long as I do good work, as long as I can… do good work and can be reasonably pleased with my appearance, that’s fine with me. I’m not so deeply connected with that anymore.”

Smith also spoke about the first review she received on her 2010 book, Just Kids, which chronicled her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe. She explained that she hid out on Johnny Depp and Vanessa Paradis’ complex in the South of France, in a renovated chapel. “And Johnny was very encouraging,” she added. “He would tap on the door, and then I’d open the door and there’d be a little tray of food. Sometimes a little glass of very good wine or something. But yes, [they] never bothered me. And that’s where I finished the book.”

She continued, “And I’ll never forget, when he was done the book, he knocked on my door like he stayed up all night long or whatever. And I said. ‘How is it?’ And he goes. ‘It’s a f—ing masterpiece.’ And I went, oh my gosh, that was my first review.” 

The full episode of Wiser Than Me with Patti Smith can be heard on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Amazon Music.

Featured Image by Rob Kim/Getty Images

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