Patti Smith Interview: Fire of Unknown Origin



Live performance. The first time Patti Smith performed on a stage she read the poem “Fire of Unknown Origin”, set to music by Lenny Kaye. Watch their performance of the poem again 41 years later at the Louisiana Literature festival.

When Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye performed ‘Fire of Unknown Origin’ in St Mark’s Church on February 10 1971 it aroused as much outrage as enthusiasm, Patti Smith says, and compares the episode to what Pussy Riot have been going through in Russia.

Here Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye perform the number, which Smith calls “scary” because it’s so long since she has done it on stage.

Patti Smith (b.1946) is an award-winning American punk rock musician, poet and visual artist, who became a highly influential figure in the New York City punk rock scene with her debut album ‘Horses’ in 1975. Smith fuses rock and poetry in her work, and has been dubbed the ”punk poet laureate” as well as ”the godmother of punk.” In 2007 she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and in 2010 Rolling Stone magazine put her on the 47th place of their list of 100 Greatest Artists. Among her many albums are ’Horses’ (1975), ’Radio Ethiopia’ (1976), ’Easter’ (1978), ’Gone Again’ (1996) and ’Banga’ (2012). Smith is also the author of several books, including ’Woolgathering’ (1992), ’Just Kids’ (2010) – which won the National Book Award and describes her relationship to her lover and friend, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe – and ’M Train’ (2015).

Edited by: Honey Biba Beckerlee
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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