Patti Smith Pens Moving Tribute to Tom Verlaine

"He possessed the child's gift of transforming a drop of water into a poem that somehow begat music"

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 31, 2023

Over the weekend, we lost the force behind Television that was Tom Verlaine — news broken to the world by Patti Smith's daughter, Jesse Paris Smith. For The New Yorker, the elder Smith has penned a gorgeous essay remembering the late musician, who was one of her closest contemporaries.

In the poetic piece, Smith remembers growing up near Verlaine (born Thomas Miller) but only being brought together years later by New York's rock scene. She reflects on the first time they met and her first time seeing Television play, as well as the guitarist's final days.

An excerpt reads:

The club was CBGB. There were only a handful of people present, but Lenny and I were immediately taken with it, with its pool table and narrow bar and low stage. What we saw that night was kin, our future, a perfect merging of poetry and rock and roll. As I watched Tom play, I thought, Had I been a boy, I would've been him.

I went to see Television whenever they played, mostly to see Tom, with his pale blue eyes and swanlike neck. He bowed his head, gripping his Jazzmaster, releasing billowing clouds, strange alleyways populated with tiny men, a murder of crows, and the cries of bluebirds rushing through a replica of space. All transmuted through his long fingers, all but strangling the neck of his guitar.

Smith and Verlaine were briefly a couple, but maintained a highly collaborative relationship over the years — the latter played on the former's debut 1974 single "Hey Joe," as well as on her most recent album, 2012's Banga.

Read the full essay here.

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