1978 Patti Smith – Because The Night
In the late sixties, Patti met controversial photographer/artist Robert Mapplethorpe, and the pair became involved in a romantic relationship for a few years. Patti used Robert’s pictures for the covers of several of her albums. Although they did not continue as lovers, they remained close friends until Robert’s death in 1989.
Patti moved to Paris in 1969 and began busking and doing performance art. She also began a relationship with Sam Shepard, and the two of them wrote a play together.
When she returned to New York City, she acted in a few plays, wrote more poetry, and recorded some spoken-word projects. Blue Öyster Cult considered hiring Patti as their lead singer. That didn’t work out, but she wrote some lyrics for the group’s music and sang vocals on at least one of their songs. She also began writing about music for Creem and Rolling Stone magazines.
Patti eventually formed The Patti Smith Group, and the group released its first single in 1974. Hey Joe included a spoken word intro followed by a vocal performance of the traditional rock song. Two albums and five more singles followed over the next two years, but nothing charted.
Bruce Springsteen wrote Because the Night and recorded it with the E Street Band in 1977 on the first day of sessions for Darkness on the Edge of Town. He hadn’t even finished all the lyrics and abandoned the song after struggling with it for about four months. Producer Jimmy Iovine had worked on the sessions, doing some of the mixing, and was also producing Patti’s new album at the same time. When it became clear that Bruce would not finish the song, Jimmy asked for permission to have Patti record it in hopes of finally getting her a hit record. Bruce agreed, and Jimmy took a copy of the most recent recording to Patti. She added some lyrics of her own and recorded the song.
The result was Patti’s most successful single. Because The Night peaked on the Hot 100 at #13 in 1978. While she did not follow that up with any other hit singles, her brand of punk rock helped inspire a generation of future musicians. Michael Stipe credits Patti’s first album as his inspiration to form R.E.M. He also sang backup vocals on some of Patti’s later recordings, and she sang backup vocals on at least two of R.E.M.’s songs.
10,000 Maniacs performed an acoustic version of Because The Night live on MTV Unplugged in 1993. They released the song as a single and it peaked at #11 on the Hot 100.
Bruce released several live versions of Because The Night before finally providing a studio recording for the 2010 album The Promise.
Patti continues to both appear live and record occasional music for special projects. Patti’s last new album came out in 2012, but she has continued to record spoken-word albums in which she reads books she has written.
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