Patti Smith Reads Her Remaining Letter to Robert Mapplethorpe, Calling Him “the Most Stunning Work of All”

When you go to listen to Pat­ti Smith in con­cert, you count on her to sing “Beneath the South­ern Cross,” “As a result of the Night time,” and virtually cer­tain­ly “Peo­ple Have the Pow­er,” the hit sin­gle from Dream of Life. Like her 1975 debut Hors­es, that album had a cov­er pho­to by Robert Map­plethor­pe, whom Smith describes as “the artist of my life” in Simply Children, her mem­oir of their lengthy and com­plex rela­tion­ship. A excessive­ly per­son­al work, that ebook additionally contains the textual content of the transient however pow­er­ful good­bye let­ter she wrote to Map­plethor­pe, who died of AIDS in 1989. When you go to listen to Smith learn a let­ter aloud, there’s an honest probability it’ll be that one.

“Usually as I lie awake I received­der in case you are additionally mendacity awake,” Smith wrote to Map­plethor­pe, then in his ultimate hos­pi­tal­iza­tion and already unable to obtain any fur­ther com­mu­ni­ca­tion. “Are you in ache, or really feel­ing alone? You drew me from the darkish­est peri­od of my younger life, shar­ing with me the sacred mys­tery of what it’s to be an artist. I discovered to see by way of you and nev­er com­pose a line or draw a curve that doesn’t come from the knowl­edge I derived in our pre­cious time togeth­er. Your work, com­ing from a flu­id supply, will be traced to the bare track of your youth. You spoke then of maintain­ing palms with God. Remem­ber, by way of each­factor, you’ve got at all times held that hand. Grip it arduous, Robert, and don’t let it go.”

Smith speaks these phrases in the Let­ters Stay video on the high of the submit, shot just some weeks in the past in The City Corridor in Man­hat­tan. “Of all of your work, you’re nonetheless your most beau­ti­ful,” she reads, “essentially the most beau­ti­ful work of all,” and it’s clear that, 35 years after Map­plethor­pe’s loss of life, she nonetheless believes it. That will come throughout much more clear­ly than in Smith’s ear­li­er learn­ing of the let­ter fea­tured right here on Open Cul­ture again in 2012. Because the years cross, Robert Map­plethor­pe stays frozen in time as a cul­tur­al­ly trans­gres­sive younger artist, however Pat­ti Smith lives on, nonetheless play­ing the rock songs that made her identify within the sev­en­ties whereas in her sev­en­ties. And unlike many cul­tur­al fig­ures at her lev­el of fame, she’s remained whol­ly her­self all of the whereas — little question because of inspi­ra­tion from her previous buddy.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Pat­ti Smith Remem­bers Robert Map­plethor­pe

Vin­tage Footage Reveals a Younger, Unknown Pat­ti Smith & Robert Map­plethor­pe Liv­ing on the Famed Chelsea Lodge (1970)

Pat­ti Smith’s Award-Win­ning Mem­oir Simply Children Now Avail­ready in a New Illus­trat­ed Edi­tion

Pat­ti Smith Reads Oscar Wilde’s 1897 Love Let­ter De Professional­fundis: See the Full Three-Hour Per­for­mance

Pat­ti Smith Doc­u­males­tary Dream of Life Beau­ti­ful­ly Cap­tures the Creator’s Life and Lengthy Profession (2008)

The Life and Con­tro­ver­sial Work of Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Robert Map­plethor­pe Professional­filed in 1988 Doc­u­males­tary

Primarily based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His initiatives embody the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities and the ebook The State­much less Metropolis: a Stroll by way of Twenty first-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­ebook.

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