Patti Smith + David Lynch's Enlightening Conversation
We don’t like to play favorites, but it’s safe to say that if we did, both Patti Smith and David Lynch would be high up on that list. Alright, I guess we’re admitting we’re playing favorites, but how can anyone not be deeply infatuated with the queen of poetic punk rock and the master of eerie surrealism (and occasional athletic-wear designer #Neverforget)?
The veteran artists sat down to converse with each other at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris for BBC Newsnight’s Encounters series. Here’s what we learned from two of the greatest creatives of our time as they chatted in a room red enough to be in Twin Peaks.
The origin of Patti’s song ‘Grateful’
The ballad from the Gung Ho album has its roots in another musician’s work: Jerry Garcia. Smith shares that one time when she was particularly depressed about her aging – silver hair peeking from her roots and all – she had this epiphany-like image of the Grateful Dead singer smiling at her with a head (and beard) full of white hair. She says, “this little song POOF, came…fully formed. I quickly wrote it down, I found the chords on my guitar, and I called it ‘Grateful’ because I felt Jerry had given it to me.”
The fragments that influenced Blue Velvet
Lynch not only shares his creative process in general, but he specifically talks about how hearing Bobby Vinton’s version of the song ‘Blue Velvet’ made him think initially of “red lips at night in a car and some green lawns with some dew at night,” and how “the next thing that came was a severed ear in the grass.” I think we all know what the image of the ear turned into…
Patti’s advice to Pussy Riot
Lynch asks Patti about her involvement with the ladies from Pussy Riot, whom she’s been in communication with recently. She shares, “One of the things they were saying to me was ‘Everyone wants us to speak to them but what are we supposed to say?’ and I said ‘You should say that we are all you…we are all potentially in danger. Tell the younger generations to speak for themselves.’”
The aesthetic that Lynch finds beautiful
We’ll let this quote speak for itself: “I like bad painting, I like organic phenomenon, I like nature to help me as much as anything, I like fire and smoke, I like to bite my paintings. It’s beautiful to me when many things come together that I don’t control, like I said nature gets involved, and not clean, not pretty, not so perfect – there’s something in there which is really beautiful to me.” Bless you David, we couldn’t have said it better.
Video courtesy of BBC.
Photo of Patti Smith by Steven Sebring