Patti Smith's "Just Kids" is an intimate read and perfect tribute to a significant time in rock history. The punk rock legend provides a poignant and tender picture of her life and partnership with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, as well as her rise to musical stardom in the fast-paced art and music scene of 1970s New York.There is something for everyone in the punk legend's memoir even for those who may not be a fan of her music. We journey with Smith through her childhood and early life to the beginning and end of partner Mapplethorpe's short career and life. Her compelling ideas about living for art are a must-read for aspiring artists in any medium; and her stories of living among rock legends at the Chelsea hotel are a fascinating look at a special time for music and creativity.
While the stories of New York's art scene and celebrities are intriguing, the true heart and soul of the book lies in Smith's strange and wonderful relationship with Mapplethorpe, her creative and sometimes romantic partner, as they navigate how and what it means to live for art, beauty, and personal expression. Mapplethorpe was a boundary-pushing artist working mostly in the medium of photography and often producing graphic sexual images of New York's BDSM scene, but Patti Smith paints a different picture of him as a self-conscious creative, often unhappy with his place in life, and yet fiercely determined to become famous. Combined with her gentle and more easygoing spirit, they make a fascinating pair of people living as both artist and muse to one another.Smith's writing about living a life full of creative expression is inspiring and and full of wisdom that will speak to fellow artists and musicians: "I felt instantly confined by the notion that we are born into a world where everything was mapped out by those before us," she writes, of coming in to her own ideas about art and music while pursuing her creative work and eschewing a "normal" life.
Aspiring artists would do well to take Smith's advice on choosing to live for art and self expression and making the difficult choice to do so. Creatives are often told their dreams are unrealistic and irresponsible, but Smith's memoir encourages the idea that certain people are born to examine the world around them and create pieces of beauty. Smith's hard work and determination to live such a lifestyle made her into one of punk rock's pioneers, and an important artist in many mediums including poetry and visual art.
Patti Smith's "Just Kids" is considered one of the greatest rock memoirs of all time, painting a picture of a time and place long changed and many people long gone. Smith encounters many of New York's great thinkers and artists during her own rise to fame and writes about them with careful thought and examination. A perfect book from start to finish, "Just Kids" will stand the test of time thanks to Smith's natural storytelling style and fascinating view of the world.