Behind The Song: “Frederick” by Patti Smith

In celebration of Patti Smith’s 74th birthday today, her song for her husband Fred “Sonic” Smith

Patti Smith was born in Chicago on this day, December 30, in 1946. She moved with her family at four to Philly, and then to New Jersey.

In honor of her 74th birthday today, we bring her exultant song for her late husband Fred “Sonic” Smith, “Frederick.” It’s from her 1979 album, Wave, produced at Bearsville Studio in Woodstock, produced by Todd Rundgren.

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Patti’s longtime musical partner Lenny Kaye, with whom she still performs, was born in New York City on December 27, 1946, exactly three days before Patti’s birth.

Patti spoke about this song in our interview for this magazine. Unlike other songs she’s written which emerged full-blown in the studio, this one took some work.

Happy Birthday Patti Smith

PATTI SMITH: It’s a channeling. Burroughs always called it a shamanistic gift. Sometimes I feel I am channeling someone else. Part of it is experience from performing and understanding that, as a performer, one has a mission, like Coltrane, to take your solo out to talk to God, or whoever you talk to, but you must return. So it has structure. That’s one way that I write.

Others take quite a bit of labor. Often the simplest song is the hardest to write. “Frederick” was very hard to write because in its simplicity I also wanted it to be perfect.

By Patti Smith

Hi hello
Wake from thy sleep
God has granted
Thy soul to keep
All of the power
And all of the gain
Is entwined
In a single

Name of care
Fast asleep
In a room somewhere
Guardian angels/up above
On the one I love.

I am calling
As the young thrush
Caught in the crest
Astonished to death
On this night of wonder
On this night I know
I would give all
If you called
To say hello.

High! high!
Hey hey
Rejoin to me as
The light fades
My soul surrenders
In my glove
Take this message
My dove
To the one I love.

© Patti Smith BMG Rights Management

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