In recognition of her music and historic connection to NYC, Patti Smith has been honoured with the key to New York City. The iconic punk poet received the award from Bill de Blasio December 27, with the outgoing mayor also granting Spike Lee the honour last week.
“This is an extraordinary pleasure and honour for me,” de Blasio said during the press conference attended by Patti Smith. “Because for any of us who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, there were many, many voices out there, many artists out there, many musicians out there, but there was only one Patti Smith.”
“To me, Patti Smith had an authenticity and has an authenticity that you just didn’t find, in my view, that many other places – an ability to cut through all the swirl around us and speak some more profound truths.”
“Some have called Patti Smith the godmother of punk. I think it’s a fair phrase, because she inspired so many people, helped shape a whole movement – a whole artistic movement – and, in many ways, a political movement as well. Her work as a musician, as a singer, as a lyricist, as an activist – so many elements influenced so many people and showed people a way.”
Receiving the key, Patti Smith reminisced about arriving in the city, and recalled meeting Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Shepard, and many other artists who she “evolved with”.
“I wish I could give New York City the key to me,” she added, “because that’s how I feel about our city.”
“With all its challenges and difficulties, it remains — and I’m quite a traveler — the most diverse city in the world… To receive this at 75, it makes me look even more forward to the next 25 years.”
Smith’s longtime lead guitarist Lenny Kaye (who has previously taken to the streets of NYC with Smith, to perform for the city’s residents), was also present at the ceremony. Together, the musicians performed “Ghost Dance”, a track from the 1978 Patti Smith Group album Easter.
Watch the performance around the 40 minute mark below, and watch Smith receive the key from 26:20.
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