Few women in rock have had as enormous an impact and influence as Patti Smith. The first of the art-punk poets, Smith burst onto the early New York punk scene in 1975 with a series of "music poetry happenings" staged at the legendary CBGB club between 1974 and 1976. A former college dropout who moved to Greenwich Village in the late 1960s, where she developed her skills as a beat poet, Patti Smith eventually discovered that the energetic punk music scene of the mid-1970s could work as the perfect vehicle for her controversial poetry and singing style. Having worked initially with a music critic and record store clerk named Lenny Kaye, Smith eventually formed her own band, with Kaye, keyboardist Richard Sohl, bassist Ivan Kral and drummer Dee Jay Daugherty.
They found a home at CBGBs, and began to play there regularly. In 1976, just as The Sex Pistols were changing the face of modern music in the U.K., and as The Ramones were about to do the same stateside, Patti Smith won the attention of Arista Records prexy, Clive Davis. With punk bubbling just under the rock 'n' roll radar, Clive was looking to embrace it. The Patti Smith Group would be his first punk signing, and her debut album, Horses, remains one of the most important rock albums of all time. She became known for her electrifying live performances with her band, which often played classic rock covers as a backdrop for her avant-garde poetry.
This recording, made in 1979, after the release of the Todd Rundgren produced Wave album, is a classic CBGB performance long after Smith's career had exploded to the point where she was filling 5,000 auditoriums. Because it was a radio broadcast for the King Biscuit Flower Hour, and because they had returned to their punk roots at CBGB, Patti and the band play a very loose set filled with covers like John Lennon's "Cold Turkey," the Yardbird's "For Your Love" and The Who classic, "My Generation."
Although Smith remained a cutting-edge artist, her work with the Patti Smith Group eventually became predictable and she dropped out of music in the 1980s to marry former MC5 guitarist Fred "Sonic" Smith and raise a family. She has returned to touring and recording sporadically since marrying Smith in 1980, but her life took an unexpected twist when he died suddenly of a heart attack in 1994. To help deal with her grief, she returned to writing and recording, and in 2004, returned to the road with a revamped version of the Patti Smith Group.