Report From the 1997 Philadelphia Music Conference

Page 2 from the TagYerit Journal

Saturday November 8th

Somehow, I have always been aware that Patti Smith would be a powerful presence. And yet, I am ignorant to most of her poetry, song and performance. An inspiration to a generation and known as a founding member of the punk/new wave scene, that produced The Talking Heads among others, her sphere of influence never directly confronted me. If my attempts at recapturing her speech doesn't leave you wanting more, then, trust me, the failure is mine, not hers. She is the most passionate and articulate speaker I have heard since Dick Gregory in 1970. A good portion of the audience was visibly moved to tears. all the while she apologised for the inability to articulate her ideas properly. The following is as much as I could capture with my non-stenographic note taking skills. I've had to paraphrase and fill in some words. Hopefully it will at least give you a taste ...
©1997 Patti Smith

"It's great to be back in Philly. That's a statue of William Penn on top, right? I remember him from when Philly was an illicit trip for a south Jersey girl. Is King Pizza still around? It's the best thinnest pizza anywhere.
One of the best events in my life ... in 1963 at Peps (?) They took our money at the door - 15 minutes as underage kids seeing John Coltrane, before they asked us to leave...
... Why am I here? - because of the possibility of having just the smallest part of communication ... that one of the most important documents in the world was signed in this city.
What is happening to radio? I've watched radio most of my life. - a really charged time in the 60's. The DJs were people who really cared about community. They used their own minds. Their own thoughts. Not only did they play music, they talked. Over the past few decades, there's been a serious decline. Except for a few holdouts, the only area where people have guts has been public radio, and their (path) is rough. Give them money. Give them support. Public radio is one of the last vestiges, where we have a voice.
Mainstream radio on every level ... computerised programming. All radio will become is a huge advertising base for people who are already doing well.
These things may sound self serving, but I'm not talking about myself because I don't know how long I'll be here or how important I am, but I'm thinking about the new people, the next generations.
I wonder how people feel who work at the radio station. There's plenty of room for all kinds of programming. It shows me the strength of management. The DJs don't understand their responsibility to communicate with those peoplewho are their listeners. The biggest saddest thing since the 80's. We have become an extremely materialistic Nation. Everyone's concerned with what they are worth, their jobs, their cars, etc. These things are all important, but they're all fleeting.
I look across the board and I'm looking at a spiritually deprived Nation. Take out any document and read it. I don't care what it is. The Declaration of Independence, the Bible ... It sounds corny, but read it.
I'm not very articulate. You're intelligent people, you fill in the blanks.
I just got back from Japan. Japan was exciting, the people effusive. On the other hand it was heart breaking. I talked with kids everywhere on any level. A culture wanting to be modern. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, they have almost completely thrown away their cultural and spiritual tradition. In the U.S. we are responsible. Even though we're the ones that people love to hate and hate to love. People look toward us.
[In reponse to a question] Because we are not banding together. We've forgotten that we can take the power. Why do we have to wait until we have a disaster. It's not an artist's responsibility to serve the media. We're not working for each other (artist and media). We're working for the people. Twelve guys, 2,000 years ago banded around one idea, and look what the hell happened. (i.e. the twelve apostles)
[Now with her guitar to play one tune.] "Last Call" is on "Peace and Noise" written with Oliver Ray after hearing the news about Heaven's Gate. I found it heart breaking. There were 39 people who took their lives in pursuit of heightened lives. Those aspirations should always be respected. But they (the 38 followers) took their lives with a leader whose ideas are inadequate. But the youngest member, 26 years old, who wrote a letter to the others apologising for all of his doubts and questioning. This song is for him. "The mind of another man making decisions.../ And don't be lead away". [I wish I had the words of the bridge here to share with you. Very poignant and powerful]
[Q & A: concerning the influences of Robert Maplethorpe and Blue Oyster Cult] I met Robert Maplethorpe when we were 20. We grew up together... I met Blue Oyster Cult in 1971. Not directly an influence. But because they all believed I could do it (have a rock band). Everybody, at whatever stage of their life, needs encouragement."

Patti finished by reciting the lyrics to her song, "People Have the Power". (1988) Her husband Fred "Sonic" Smith (MC5) walked in to the kitchen while she was peeling potatoes, and said "Tricia ... People have the power! Write it." "As blasphemous as I am, I consulted scripture ...

People Have the Power ©1988 Patti Smith

I was dreaming in my dreaming 
of an aspect bright and fair 
and my sleeping it was broken 
but my dream it lingered near 
in the form of shining valleys 
where the pure air recognized 
and my senses newly opened 
I awakened to the cry 
that the people / have the power 
to redeem / the work of fools 
upon the meek / the graces shower 
it's decreed / the people rule 

The people have the power 
The people have the power 
The people have the power 
The people have the power 

Vengeful aspects became suspect 
and bending low as if to hear 
and the armies ceased advancing 
because the people had their ear 
and the shepherds and the soldiers 
lay beneath the stars 
exchanging visions 
and laying arms 
to waste / in the dust 
in the form of / shining valleys 
where the pure air / recognized 
and my senses / newly opened 
I awakened / to the cry 


Where there were deserts 
I saw fountains 
like cream the waters rise 
and we strolled there together 
with none to laugh or criticize 
and the leopard 
and the lamb 
lay together truly bound 
I was hoping in my hoping 
to recall what I had found 
I was dreaming in my dreaming 
god knows / a purer view 
as I surrender to my sleeping 
I commit my dream to you 


The power to dream / to rule 
to wrestle the world from fools 
it's decreed the people rule 
it's decreed the people rule 
I believe everything we dream 
can come to pass through our union 
we can turn the world around 
we can turn the earth's revolution 
we have the power 
People have the power ... 

We wish so much we could truly recapture for you the incredible power of her speech, and the wondrous energy of this special person. She gave every person in that room the gift of sharing her essence straight from her gut, as she encouraged all of us to take our own personal power and work towards change. If anyone out there taped Patti's speech, we would all very much appreciate a copy, as she touched every person in that room to the very depths of our souls.

If you found this page first, you may now want to go to Page one of TagYerit's PMC 1997 Journal   to get some of the gems we harvested from the panels as well as a recap of Little Steven's Friday Keynote Address or onward to Page three of TagYerit's PMC 1997 Journal   for my journal from Saturday's panels.
TagYerit Logo

We want to hear from you Email rich@

©1995; 1996; & 1997 R. &F. Newman. All rights reserved