Just Kids | Patti Smith


Patti Smith’s New York Love Affair:  An Excerpt From Her Memoir Just Kids


Smith looks back on her years of lean living – and artistic revolution – with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe


On July 3rd, 1967, Patti Smith — then 20 years old, a teachers-college dropout from New Jersey with shotgun passions for rock & roll and the French poet Arthur Rimbaud — boarded a bus in Philadelphia and, a couple of hours later, got off in New York to start life anew. “No one expected me,” she says in a new memoir, “Just Kids.” “Everything awaited me.” That included Robert Mapplethorpe, also 20, a former altar boy and an aspiring artist from Long Island. Smith met him that first day in New York, at an apartment in Brooklyn, and again later at a bookstore where she worked. Those encounters bloomed into one of New York’s great love stories, a romantic, spiritual and creative bond that Smith recounts in vivid detail for the first time in “Just Kids.” For five years, Smith and Mapplethorpe lived together, supported each other in illness and discovery (including his emerging homosexuality) and urged each other to new adventures in expression: Smith in her poetry, visual art and songwriting; Mapplethorpe in his stark, exquisite photography and sexually provocative portraiture. Their combined ambitions and ideals would culminate in Mapplethorpe’s iconic cover photo for Smith’s 1975 debut album, “Horses.” Smith recalls a conversation shortly before his death from AIDS in 1989: “We never had any children,” he said ruefully. Smith, by then the mother of two, replied, “Our work was our children.”
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