patti smith Bibliography Home. From Patti Smith. Biography. Bibliography. Discography. Photos. Links. Specials. Editor.

an interview with
patti smith on auguries of innocence

page five

TODD BAESEN: You were in France recently after the riots broke out there, to play at a benefit peace concert that will be broadcast on the Arte TV channel (on December 29, 2005).

PATTI SMITH: Yes, I was in Paris, but I didn't actually see the riots, other than some smoke off in the distance. But this young guy who was about 22 was driving me to the airport, so I was curious about what a 22-year old French boy would think of this situation. I asked him, and he understood that in some ways it was futile and even wrong to create so much destruction, but his take on it was he thought one of the main reasons these young people were rioting was because they wanted people to know they exist. So it was a declaration of existence. Now, for some young people, picking up an electric guitar can be a declaration of existence, which I always thought was one of the beauties of rock and roll. I think America is a potentially great country, but to have a nationalistic government and a nationalistic President as we do, and to have this sense that we should be number one, and be the greatest country in the world… I mean, why should we be promoting that, when there are people all over the world who feel like nothing. And there's a big difference between being number one and being nothing. That's what we slowly have to become cognizant of: That the people who feel like nothing aren't going to stand for it anymore. We have to communicate with all our fellow men, or they're going to fucking burn it all down! For myself, I can't stop thinking about the Indian-Pakistan border, where there are hundreds of thousands of people that have no home or food after the earthquake. Their children are dying in their arms and that's their daily life. I don't know what we can do about it, and right now we're not doing anything about it, but we can at least be aware that they exist. They're a people in trouble and their strife is so much deeper than ours. We just can't help everybody, but we can at least be aware that these people exist.

Patti further elaborated on the widening divide between the rich and poor during her improvised rap while performing Rock and Roll Nigger the next night in San Francisco:

To be outside of society is a lot of responsibility. To be a sacred bum of art, a sacred bum of the earth, we can't stumble like some disconnected abstract telephone. We have to wire up, we have to look each other in the face, we have to let our numbers be known, we have to find our brothers and sisters, we have to strengthen our numbers, we have to rise up, and a new generation, they will rise up. Which way will they rise up? With an air of positivity? If we don't give it to them, every fucking thing will burn! We have got to give them something. We have got to give them some hope. We have got to give them some recognition, that they are alive, that they matter, that they're not just a bunch of mindless consumers. We have to give them love, we have to give them an example, we have to get clean, we have to get tough, we have to get ready, because if the revolution comes, man, we're going to be there and ready! AWAKE! AWAKE! Outside of society…

We the people, we must be a thorn in the side of the Bush administration, until they bleed rivers of their tainted blood!