A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this music.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Patti Smith was, and is, considered the consummate punk poet. The lyrics on her 1975 debut album, Horses, are by turns -- or all at once -- dreamy, powerful, and disturbing. Specifically, the largely spoken-word song "Land" describes a homosexual rape in a high school hallway, and continually blurs the lines between innocent romance, violence, power, and sexual desire. Other tracks on the album include sexual and violent images, and "Redondo Beach" includes a suicide. Religious individuals may be put off by the opening line to Smith's reworked version of Van Morrison's song "Gloria"; the first line on the album is "Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine." Horses is a complex, poetic work of punk art that is best appreciated by teens and adults.
What's the story?
Patti Smith is a writer and performer who fused poetry with DIY punk music. HORSES, Smith's debut album, was made with her frequent collaborators: producer John Cale, guitarist/writer Lenny Kaye, keyboard player Richard Sohl, bassist/guitarist Ivan Kral, and drummer Jay Dee Daugherty. The album includes some spoken-word, poetry-set-to-music tracks, as well as more straightforward singing and playing. In the mid-1970s, when the album released, Smith created a new form of poetic art-rock, and inspired numerous performers and lyricists who came after. Subsequent albums such as Radio Ethiopia and Easter further perfected her style and approach. Patti Smith married Fred \"Sonic\" Smith of Detroit punk band The MC5 in 1980, and settled down for about 15 years to focus on family life with her husband and children; she made only one album (Dream of Life) between 1980 and 1995, the year her husband passed away. She has carried on to make more albums, tour, and work for political and artistic movements she cares about.
Is it any good?
Horses is raw as can be; with so much spoken-word poetry on the record, there are few tracks that realize Smith's great talent as a singer. "Gloria" is one that showcases her deep, throaty voice. However, Horses is a hugely important and successful record on other levels: the eloquence of the lyrics, the unique punk-meets-poetry point of view, the powerful deconstruction of familiar music ("Gloria," "My Generation," "Land" with "Land of a Thousand Dances"). Smith established herself in a big way with Horses, and this album -- as well as all of those that followed -- includes brilliant moments.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the intersection of poetry and song lyrics. How is Patti Smith's approach to song different from other artists'?
What do the two different voices singing in "Land" represent? And what do the two different images of "land" and "sea" represent?
What makes this album punk?
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