i just got through the part of just kids in which patti smith recalls her encounters with janis joplin and jimi hendrix, shortly before both of their deaths. to have lived in that time, and experienced first hand how extraordinary they both were, i can only imagine the profound sense of loss she and others back then must have felt. i wasn’t even alive yet but i am still incredibly saddened just thinking about it…i grew up listening to music from the sixties and seventies, and janis joplin was one of the first female artists i identified with. her and jimi’s performances at monterey pop are probably some of the best concert footage of all time, in my opinion.
i love the poem patti wrote about janis:
i was working real hard
to show the world what i could do
oh i guess i never dreamed
i’d have to
world spins some photographs
how i love to laugh when the crowd laughs
while love slips through
a theatre that is full
but oh baby
when the crowd goes home
and i turn in and i realize i’m alone
i can’t believe
i had to sacrifice you
her encounter with jimi hendrix took place at the opening of his electric lady studios in new york, when he found her sitting outside, nervous to go in.
“he spent a little time with me on the stairs and told me his vision of what he wanted to do with the studio. he dreamed of amassing musicians from all over the world in woodstock and they would sit in a field in a circle and play and play. it didn’t matter what key or tempo or what melody, they would keep on playing through their discordance until they found a common language. eventually they would record this abstract universal language of music in his new studio. “the language of peace. you dig?” i did.”
this reminded me of one of my favorite quotes of all time, which comes from jimi hendrix:
following their deaths patti describes a feeling of uncertainty about her artistic direction.
“i was both scattered and stymied, surrounded by unfinished songs and abandoned poems. i would go as far as i could and hit a wall, my own imagined limitations. and then i met a fellow who gave me his secret, and it was pretty simple. when you hit a wall, just kick it in.”
as i was reading i felt like i identified most strongly with patti at this point…full of ideas and creativity but uncertain how to express it. a few years ago i reached a point in my life where i felt trapped and my way of kicking down the wall was driving across the country, finding myself in san francisco.
much like patti’s time spent within new york’s rock and roll circle helped her realize her dreams, the creative energy of san francisco helped me realize mine.