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WFUV Pop Quiz with Patti Smith


With her outstanding career in the arts, Patti Smith has solidified her standing as a modern renaissance woman. A New Jersey native, Patti became a staple in the emergent punk rock scene in 1970s New York with her debut album Horses. After spending a lifetime of creating various works of literature, visual arts, and music, Patti still remains as prolific as ever with the recent release of her eleventh studio album, Banga. While doing an interview with WFUV's Eric Holland, she squeezed in some time to answer some WFUV Pop Quiz questions.

Aside from gear, instruments, my band, I don't go on the road without:

I always have a book. In fact, that's my greatest trauma. The thing that will make me late for my flight is trying to figure out what book I'm going to take, but I already know what book I'm going to take on our next tour, so I'm not going to be late for my flight.

What's the book?

I have the three paperback set of Murakami's 1Q84, so I'm really in a Murakami period. I like taking a big hefty book. My last big tour I took Bolano's 2666 in three paperbacks, so this time I'm taking Murakami.

What song did you wish you had written and why?

Oh gosh, of the nine million? Jeez, I really like "1983...A Merman I Should Turn to Be" by Jimi Hendrix. That's one of my most favorite songs just because it's so visionary. On the other side of the coin is this little song called "Today is the Day Marine Gray Sings." I don't know if you could call it a pop song, it's probably R&B, early rock and roll, but it is so exuberant, and it's such a sad song, you know? It goes something like "Today is the day that you're going away." It's the saddest teenage song in the world, but she sings it with such exuberance. I've been listening to it since I was like 14, and it still makes me so excited and happy.

Who do you wish had recorded one of your songs, dead or alive?

Wow, that's really hard. I mean, I always imagined hearing Dolly Parton sing "The Jackson Song," the song my husband and I wrote for my son Jackson. The range of it was a little difficult, even though we wrote it for me. When I sang it, I always thought Dolly Parton would sing this perfectly.

What song would you sing in the shower, but never in public?

When I'm in the shower, I always sing arias from opera that sound really good because I have a tiled shower and when the water's on, there's such a natural echo and I do my best singing. I always wish there was some way that I could record my vocals in the shower, but the water would have to be on because that adds to it. One of my favorites is the aria for the old coat in La Boheme, and I like to do Pavarotti's version in English. I sound pretty good, though sometimes if I'm tired, I'll sing it in fake Italian.

What's the first album you bought?

Well, when we were kids, we really didn't have the money to buy albums, but my mother joined the Columbia Record Club. Back in the 50s or early 60s, you could join the Columbia Record Club and get ten albums for a dollar. If I remember rightly, I got an Olatunji record, Let There Be Drums or something. Probably one of the first singles I had was Little Richard's "The Girl Can't Help It," but the actual first single I had was "Tubby the Tuba, Part 1 and 2." When we could go to the Columbia Record Club, I would get more albums: the first Bob Dylan album, Jimmy Smith albums, and Roland Kirk albums. I was deeply into jazz when I was young, so my first real albums were mostly jazz albums until I hit Coltrane, and then switched over to Bob Dylan. And my first rock and roll album, I know what that was: The Animals.