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Why Patti Smith Matters

Why Patti Smith Matters

A meditation on the artistry and influence of Patti Smith

Series: Music Matters

Sales restrictions: Not for sale in the Commonwealth (except in Canada)
May 2022
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248 pages | 5 x 7 |

Patti Smith arrived in New York City at the end of the Age of Aquarius in search of work and purpose. What she found—what she fostered—was a cultural revolution. Through her poetry, her songs, her unapologetic vocal power, and her very presence as a woman fronting a rock band, she kicked open a door that countless others walked through. No other musician has better embodied the “nothing-to-hide” rawness of punk, nor has any other done more to nurture a place in society for misfits of every stripe.

Why Patti Smith Matters is the first book about the iconic artist written by a woman. The veteran music journalist Caryn Rose contextualizes Smith’s creative work, her influence, and her wide-ranging and still-evolving impact on rock and roll, visual art, and the written word. Rose goes deep into Smith’s oeuvre, from her first album, Horses, to acclaimed memoirs operating at a surprising remove from her music. The portrait of a ceaseless inventor, Why Patti Smith Matters rescues punk’s poet laureate from “strong woman” clichés. Of course Smith is strong. She is also a nuanced thinker. A maker of beautiful and challenging things. A transformative artist who has not simply entertained but also empowered millions.


Caryn Rose is a longtime music journalist whose work has appeared in Pitchfork, MTV News, Salon, Billboard, the Village Voice, Vulture, and the Guardian. Her essay on Maybelle Carter was included in Woman Walk the Line.


“This book is a book for the people. All of us. Every one of us. Yes—even you. It is a lovingly crafted devotional to Patti Smith’s truthful genius and her vast contribution to global culture from over half a century. As one of the most beloved and revered artists of our times and the last of her kind, Smith's importance and creative influence cannot be overstated.“
—Shirley Manson

“Why Patti Smith Matters overflows with energy and verve. Caryn Rose is that smart girlfriend who guides you through the music, showing how Smith lit the way to new possibilities.“
—Gayle Wald, author of Shout, Sister, Shout! The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe

“Why Patti Smith Matters is a perfect blend of deep research, fine-tuned musical analysis, incisive biography, and personal reflection. Caryn Rose doesn’t shy away from difficult aspects of Smith’s work, but she’s a trustworthy guide and her fandom illuminates in tandem with the criticism. Feminists of all ages--and genders--will welcome this thoughtful portrait of an icon.“
—Holly George-Warren, author of Janis: Her Life and Music