Patti Smith Performs at Westport Library

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Patti Smith wowing the Westport crowd with her smash hit "Because the Night". | Photo by Sammy Warshaw '12

Sammy Warshaw ’12
A&E Editor

Martin Scorsese. Tom Brokaw.  Patti Smith. What do these people have in common? They are all A-list celebrities and masters of their field. They also have another thing in common: they have been honored right in Westport.

Every year, the Westport Public Library hosts a “Booked for the Night” event, where the Library honors notable people in society who have been involved with literature in one way or another.

Fresh off her 2011 National book award for autobiographical novel Just Kids, legendary “godmother of punk” Patti Smith paid the Westport Library a visit on May 19th. Nearly 400 people from around the area gathered in the Great Hall, celebrating and revering both the musician and the library. Smith was given the opportunity to play an intimate show, and receive a literary honor.

The crowd, ranging from teenagers to octogenarians, was undoubtedly excited as they arrived.

Joan Hume, director of the Festival and Community Relations director for the Library, explains the reasoning behind having Smith come to library, as opposed to someone else.

“She won the national book award. It’s not very often when a rock star wins the book and we couldn’t miss this opportunity,” said Hume.

It is also important to recognize that Smith has graced the library with her presence ten years before, coming to the library and showcasing her poetry with a public crowd.

However, Smith was not the only star who received special treatment. The library was sure to recognize her musical collaborator and long time friend Lenny Kaye. Kaye, a prominent figure in both her autobiography and music, spoke on behalf of Smith, telling the crowd of his wonderful experiences of being involved with such an inspirational figure.

Kaye explains why he decided to convince Patti to do such an intimate event.

“A library is a wonderful place where we can learn about our glorious past. Patti and I have always loved libraries, and it is an honor to be in such a beautiful place,” said Kaye.

This type of reverence for the library was a common theme throughout the night, so much so that when Smith took the stage to receive her award and play a mini-set, she made reference to her love for libraries and the people who visit them.

“When I write poetry, I do it for me, and that is the only person I do it for. But, when I write songs, I do it for you guys,” said Smith.

While her performance certainly was not an hour long set, Smith still managed to throw in some of her patent lyrical spontaneity that makes her such a master of her craft. Claiming that she had no idea that she would be asked to play, Smith still eagerly picked up her guitar and quickly made up a set list with her fellow stage mates on the spot.

She ended the show with her most notable song “Because The Night,” and she let the joyous crowd sing along with the chorus.

When asked about why Smith would go through such an effort to receive the honor, Westport Library Director Maxin Bleiweis said it very simply.

“[The honored people] get it. They understand the beauty and uniqueness of such a gathering.”

 

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