As a global and cultural melting pot, New York City has seen its fair share of famous and influential faces. But very few have stuck the same way Patti Smith has. Ask anyone at RUSSH about their favourite living new yorker, and the poet, punk musician and icon will invariably come up — alongside Fran Lebowitz, of course. The two are inextricably linked; both weaved into the fabric of the others history. As of December 27, Mayor Bill de Blasio made this connection official, by honouring Patti Smith with the key to New York City.
“This is an extraordinary pleasure and honour for me,” de Blasio said during the press conference. “Because for any of us who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, there were many, many voices out there, many artists out there, many musicians out there, but there was only one Patti Smith.” Last week de Blasio also honoured director Spike Lee with the key to New York City.
“To me, Patti Smith had an authenticity and has an authenticity that you just didn’t find, in my view, that many other places – an ability to cut through all the swirl around us and speak some more profound truths," he continued. “Some have called Patti Smith the godmother of punk. I think it’s a fair phrase, because she inspired so many people, helped shape a whole movement – a whole artistic movement – and, in many ways, a political movement as well. Her work as a musician, as a singer, as a lyricist, as an activist – so many elements influenced so many people and showed people a way.”
While the key is purely symbolic, Patti Smith did receive a physical key to commemorate the ceremony which she posted an image of on Instagram, accompanied by a signature stanza of poetry. During the ceremony she performed the song Ghost Dance off her 1978 album Easter.
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More than fifty years have passed since Patti Smith left New Jersey and pledged her allegiance to the sprawling city before her, one where The Velvet Underground had only just met Warhol and where Robert Mapplethorpe was still a "hippie shepherd boy". For all those have followed Patti Smith's remarkable life so far, you will know that none are more deserving.