Posts Tagged ‘Patti Smith’


Encouraged by Andy Warhol, photographer Leee Black Childers captured Rock and Rollers, celebrities, and the interesting characters that passed through The Factory, various rock clubs, and down dirty alleyways. Originally a tour manager for rock acts, he had rare access to a cool creative class of the 1970’s and 80’s, but wanted to be a photographer. Andy Warhol said to him, “Say you’re a photographer, and you’re a photographer”, so he was a photographer.

Sadly he passed away last week, but will be remembered for his (mostly black and white) portraits of Debbie Harry, Patti Smith, Lou Reed, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, and The Sex Pistols. His 2012 book, Drag Queens, Rent Boys, Pick Pockets, Junkies, Rockstars and Punks captures this amazing underground society that few got to see in person.

Above: Photograph of Iggy Pop by Leee Black Childers


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The new book, Fear of Music by Jonathan Lethem about the Talking Heads album, by the same name, has just come out on the bookshelves. Also,Banga, the great new album by Patti Smith was just released. And, last but not least, Keith Haring’s show at the Brooklyn Museum is a hit. It feels like 1979 all over again.

In 1979, as a sophomore with an undecided major at Indiana University, I decided to take art seriously. Until then, I took some art classes, but equaled them out with practical business classes… just in case. Maybe I would be an architect, or maybe an art historian. Until then I was very afraid of making the wrong decision. After all I thought, once you make a choice you cannot change your mind.

I’ve always love to draw, and art was a passion ever since I could use my hands. Raised to be scared of the future, by seeing my dad make some irrational decisions that were not always for the best, an art career didn’t seem like a good investment of my money. I worked hard to attend college, and am proud that I paid for my entire education, but I knew that to continue working at the odd jobs I took to support this education was an even worse career path.

Thankfully, some amazing art teachers, two friends named Jim, and music changed my life forever.

My first printmaking class opened my eyes to the business of art. Just maybe, I could make some money as a graphic designer if I desired. And, on top of that, the professor encouraged me to pursue my comic book and hieroglyphic prints.

In that same year, Jim, an United States Olympic hopeful, let me run with him when I wanted. It was an amazing opportunity. When running together, we didn’t talk much, and I never had any idea how many miles we would run on any given evening. In the rain, on the ice, or in the heat, we ran. Maybe six miles, maybe, eighteen miles. We ran, and I never questioned him. I was always ready for the challenge. Up until very recently, I was not even aware that his patience, pursuit of excellence, and pushing me harder helped me with focus and confidence in later years.

At the same time, (another) Jim, a pre-dental school studen,t introduced me to The Who’s, Quadrophenia, The Clash, and the University library. I was one of those “lucky” guys in high school who never studied, and got all A’s. But, I never knew learned how to study, and was rapidly falling behind. Jim (2) was smart and driven, and would drag me to the library every day after class. He would not leave until he was done with his work, and for some reason I stayed. I not only learned how to study, and completed any English and History assignments, I would read about artists and technique. Afterwards, we would go back to his dorm room to play music (that was new to me) really loud!

Obviously, I was a sponge, eager to learn, and extremely lucky not to to hang out with losers. It could have been bad.

I’ve always loved music and bought my first single at the age of 6. While I don’t remember the actual single, I do remember saving my money to buy music every week at the drug store (next to the grocery my mom shopped). Here are 5 albums that changed my life back in school.

  • Fear of Music (1979) is brilliant. But I had to buy the album Talking Heads: 77 (1977) three times because I wore out the vinyl. I played this record on my pitifully cheap record player over and over again while I drew cartoons, maps and cityscapes alone in my room. The music was such a departure from the music of the late 1970’s, and I absolutely fell in love with this record. The Talking Heads were revolutionary, and the inspired me to think while making art.
  • For some reason I never heard Born to Run until years later after I heard Darkness on the Edge of Town (1978). It didn’t matter, because until hearing Bruce Springsteen’s record, I thought there might not be any option but spend the rest of my life in South Bend, Indiana. It is still hard to believe that I was so naive. It was not a bad place, but not a place for me. When I hearing this album, I knew that I could move on, and be okay.
  • In the late 70’s, Patti Smith’s music was the bridge between the hippies and the punks. She was mystical, an earth mother, brave, heroic and profound, and still is today. For this wide-eyed college student, she opened my eyes wider. And, I am so happy that Easter (1978) still stands up as one of the great albums around. Her music mashes up art, poetry, music and power unlike any other.
  • In college, I would go to Karma Records in Bloomington, Indiana every Friday to see what the newest releases were. I was always broke, but still I allowed myself one record a week (unless it was an import… then I had to go without the following week). I remember when Elvis Costello’s,  My Aim is True (1977) came out. I think I danced to that album for days. A group of us saw him in concert about a month later, and couldn’t believe it was not sold out. I wouldn’t say I was ever star-struck, but I forced my friends wait in line to meet Elvis after the concert. He was kind and appreciated that we were there, and I tried to repay his kindness by spreading the word about his music for months. His television show, Spectacle, shares his love of musical knowledge to the world, and keeps me listening.
  • The Who released Quadrophenia back in 1973, but I didn’t hear the album until six years later. My friend, Jim was right. It was brilliant, and special. It spoke to this teenager then, and even now, when I hear the sounds of waves washing on the beach (like on the opening of the record), it takes me back to 1979.

Now, I would never want to go back to that time. I was obviously very influenced. And I am not one of those old guys who only listens to just the music from back in the day (I guess I am one of those guys who says back in the day, though). I still crave exciting new music, and if you have a recommendation, I will gladly listen to about anything you’ve got. But, it better be fresh, and interesting. There is always something new that can move me. Music can make me smile or cry, or give me something to think about. And, that is the power of good music.

Photo above: Christopher Jagmin, from his personal LP collection.

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