Patti Smith memoir 'Just Kids' a eulogy for photographer Mapplethorpe

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The Independent Culture

Poet and performer Patti Smith releases a memoir about living at the fabled Chelsea Hotel in New York City with the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Called Just Kids, her first book of prose is released January 19, offering a portrait of the two artists as 20 year olds.

The Chelsea is the same hotel on West 23rd Street where Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote in 1953 and Bob Dylan lived and wrote "Sad-Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," which inspired Smith's play Cowboy Mouth, written with Sam Shepard, also at the establishment.

Smith promised Mapplethorpe when he was dying in 1989 of AIDS to write their story, but as she began the book, other deaths occurred, including her band's pianist, Richard Sohl, her husband, musician Fred "Sonic" Smith in 1994, and her brother Todd. It made conjuring up the loss of her friend difficult.

A love letter to their relationship and a eulogy for Mapplethorpe, the book chronicles the halcyon days for art of the late 1960s and early 1970s in Manhattan. Smith depicts their shared dreams and a commitment to be artists. Eloquently she details the bohemian lifestyle and memories that led to their fame.

Smith's first of 12 albums, the influential Horses from 1975, features Mapplethorpe's classic black and white photographic portrait of her. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and was honored for her artistry with the French Ministry of Culture's award, the Commandeur des Arts et des Lettres in 2005.

In addition, she has mounted a show of her paintings and photographs at the Robert Miller Gallery in New York's Chelsea neighborhood, through February 6. The show also features memorabilia seen in a documentary about her, Dream of Life, made over the last decade by photographer Steven Sebring.

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RC

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