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The iconic photograph of Patti Smith on the cover of her first album, Horses (1976), was taken by her longtime friend and sometime lover Robert Mapplethorpe, the controversial photographer who died in 1989 from AIDS-related complications. Five years later, Smith's husband, MC5 co-founder Fred "Sonic" Smith, would die of a heart attack, and not long after, her brother also died. Smith spent much of her creative energy after those deaths mourning the loss of her friends and family, and one result of that period is her recently released book, Just Kids, a memoir of her bohemian late-'60s life with Mapplethorpe and other creatives who orbited around the Chelsea Hotel in New York City. You can read a lengthy excerpt from the book on the NPR Web site. Voices Breaking Boundaries, the Houston non-profit organization whose goal is to "cross borders, sustain dialogue and incite social justice through art," brings Patti Smith to the University of Houston tonight for a reading from her memoir and a musical performance. The reading is $5 at the door, and VBB stresses that no one will be turned away. Expect to arrive early, however, because Rocks Off guesses Cullen Performance Hall will be packed.
Smith is often called the Godmother of Punk, but that title only encompasses a small portion of her influences and influence. Her creative ancestors include Bob Dylan, Arthur Rimbaud, Woody Guthrie, The Romantic Poets and the Beat Poets, Van Morrison and hundreds of woman throughout millennia who refused to succumb to stereotypes. In return, Smith has influenced everyone from 10,000 Maniacs, R.E.M., The Smiths, Sonic Youth, Sammy Hagar, Siouxsie and The Banshees an entire generation of feminists and even Juno actress Ellen Page. Smith is a Renaissance woman who, in addition to her extremely influential music, also paints and performs spoken word. Much of her poetry lately has been in protest of the Bush Administration and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a roundabout way, that's what brought Smith to Houston - she met VBB's founding director Sehba Sarwar in 2003 at LaGuardia Airport following a war protest in NYC. The two became friends, and Sarwar later interviewed the artist for KPFT. Sarwar will interview Smith again on KPFT at noon today in advance of the reading. Stream it online at kpft.org. The last time Smith performed in Houston was at the Meridian in six years ago, so Rocks Off has no idea what to expect from her short musical performance - if she'll sing something from her popular 2004 album Trampin' or old classics like "Because the Night," (co-written with Bruce Springsteen) and "Dancing Barefoot." She'll read an excerpt from the memoir, and we expect she'll also read a few other poems. Advance tickets can be purchased from Brazos Bookstore for $35, which includes a pre-signed copy of the book and preferred seating. Books will also be on sale following the event, and Smith will stick around for a while to sign copies.