Patti Smith, one of the greatest lyricists and punk vocalists of all-time, released her seminal debut album Horses on this day in 1975. Her brisk, conversational and poetic lyrics reached far beyond the New York City punk and art-rock scene of the ’70s as she’s still cited as a major influence by young musicians today.
The former college dropout, like many other quintessential New York musicians, moved to the city, specifically Greenwich Village, in the late 1960s. She was enthralled by literature, so it’s no wonder she later became one of the city’s skilled beat poets. After living in such a creative, musical environment, she decided to use music to accompany her stark poetry and eventually became the legend we know her as today. The New York City music scene at that time was loaded with talent and bands played in clubs like Max’s Kansas City and most famously, CBGB.
On August 11, 1979, she returned to play music at that historic CBGB club where she originally performed poetry between 1974 and 1976. She was backed by Lenny Kaye (guitar, vocals), Richard Sohl (keyboards), Ivan Kral (bass, guitar) and Jay Dee Daugherty (drums). She was known for her fiery live performances and she often mixed in classic rock covers with her avant-garde poetry. This live recording came after the release of her Todd Rundgren-produced Wave LP, and even though she was now filling large auditoriums, she knew she wanted to return to her roots at the modest CBGB club. Recorded for the King Biscuit Flower Hour radio show, Smith played a loose set filled with covers like John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey,” The Yardbirds’ “For Your Love” and The Who’s “My Generation.”
Listen to Patti Smith perform at CBGB in 1979 below.