Rose Reflects on a Ribbon of Life & Why That ‘Matters’

Why Patti Smith Matters begins at a New Year’s Eve soirée at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. As confetti was flying in celebration, author Caryn Rose had an epiphany that she would be writing a book about the “Godmother of Punk.” Four years later, the book Rose dreamed about has materialized. Rose has stated, “I was eager to take on the formidable task of chronicling Patti Smith’s career because aside from Smith’s own work, the existing scholarship didn’t possess the kind of informed, careful perspective of her life and art that it deserves.” This is the first book written on Patti Smith by a woman containing vast, authentic research with interviews conducted with fundamental players, including Bruce Springsteen on the creation of their hit “Because the Night.” It is one in a new series of books called Music Matters from University of Texas Press covering the meaning and legacy of a wide range of popular artists. 

Rose takes a critical look at Smith’s career with adoration and respect from the moment she stepped on the platform in front of St. Mark’s Church for the Poetry Project’s weekly reading event on a chilly February 10, 1971 accompanied by Lenny Kaye to the critically acclaimed album Horses, her revealing memoirs, and everything in between. Just think of the author as a knowledgeable tour guide you trust to take you to locations most visitors would pass by without understanding what might be behind the entryway. Most music aficionados recognize Patti Smith influenced Michael Stipe – Florence Welsh, Eddie Vedder, Sonic Youth, U2, Shirley Manson, and countless others. However, they may not understand the breadth and scope of her work and its relevance. Why Patti Smith Matters covers the importance in 248 pages. It’s long enough to state the case and not too long to dissuade readers. It’s an ideal combination of biography, personal musings, and dissertation. 

Rose’s career as a longtime music journalist is impressive. Her 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. She’s the author of Gas, Food, Wifi: On The Road in the American Southwest, Raise Your Hand: Adventures of an American Springsteen Fan in Europe, One Girl, One Team, One City: The Best of, 2006-2012, A Whole New Ballgame, and B-Sides and Broken Hearts (a personal favorite). 

“Patti Smith taught us how to kick the doors in, and she continues to teach us how to live with integrity, to keep our name clean, to take chances, to keep the memories of our loved ones alive, to continue after they’re gone, even when we think we cannot, and how to persevere through it all,” Rose said. Why Patti Smith Matters is a testament to that very statement. This book gave me all the feels – more adoration for the subject and a new found kinship with the wordsmith. Why Patti Smith Matters belongs in your bookcase if you’re a melomaniac or love the art of great storytelling.