I was about 19 when I first heard a Patti Smith record. It was Horses. I remember sitting there, very taken by the sound of her voice, this ferocious delivery. Later I was struck by how literate her lyrics were, how intellectual and political. I loved how, in her songs, she talked about anything other than the love in her heart for a man. And I loved her image: this non-glam look with the chopped-off hair, looking like a skinny boy. She was the complete opposite of the images that were pumped into me as a child, of what I was supposed to aspire to as a woman.
She is a soldier. She will not be defeated. I look at today’s charts, at the women who are selling the most records, getting the most column inches, and I’m terrified by how so many of them are controlled by a male corporate idea of what women and rebels should be. When some teen-pop singer is taken seriously as a rebellious figure, we have a huge problem. I’m just glad that Patti is still willing to get up there and fight for what she believes in. It makes me feel less alone. – Shirley Manson
Whether you like her music or not, Patti Smith still cuts a distinctive, empowering figure in the creative world. Never less than entirely herself, she has stubbornly endured the decades, the changes in musical fashions and her own personal tragedies to remain an inspiration to generations of female (and male) musicians, poets, writers and artists – yet there is still no-one else anywhere near like her.
And Shirley Manson is right. With the glut of manufactured pop bands and TV talent shows rapidly reaching tipping point, I, too, am glad that we still have women like Patti – and Shirley herself – within the music industry, making their music their way and standing up for what they believe in instead of being dictated to by what I can only describe as creepy Svengali figures with no understanding of exactly how powerful and empowering music can be (naming no names, but you all know who I’m referring to…).
It is women like Patti Smith who inspire music-mad young girls (just like I was) to aspire to far, far more than the dangerously plastic sexualization and paradoxically tuneless autotuned dirges of the pop world, to use their creativity and intelligence how they wish to rather than having them crushed by a frankly misogynistic industry, to think for themselves, to be themselves – and thank your deity of choice that they continue to do so: we need them more than ever….