Saturday, June 26, 2010

My hero / Patti Smith by Joseph O'Connor

Patti Smith

Patti Smith by Joseph O'Connor

'She has been a poet, an acclaimed photographer, a memoirist, a mother, perhaps the last truly uncompromised artist in rock music'

Joseph O'Connor
Saturday 26 June 2010

n my 14th birthday, I bought a record that changed my life. I had never heard of the artist. It was the album sleeve that captivated me. It showed a woman of mournfully beautiful gauntness, jacket draped over her shoulder. It was like a still from a French movie too cool to be made. The record was Horses by Patti Smith.

I had never seen anyone who looked quite like her. A lovesick Yeats wrote that Maude Gonne had "beauty like a tightened bow", and the old priest who taught us English (and who had once seen Gonne on a Dublin street) would spend eternities explaining the simile. But when I saw that photograph, I knew what it meant.

The first time I heard Smith singing is one of the defining moments of my life. It was East Village garage meets the sulphur of the blues. And that voice like a whip-crack: impish, transgressive, swooping from a mutter to a scream. She'd snarl like an angry Dylan or croon with tenderness, punctuating Lenny Kaye's guitar work with murmured incantations.
The rebels of culture haunted her work. Rimbaud, Jimi Hendrix, Virginia Woolf and The Who, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Baudelaire, John Lennon: they loomed behind her vision. Maddening, gorgeous, insolent, unique, she has been a poet, an acclaimed photographer, a memoirist, a mother, perhaps the last truly uncompromised artist in rock music. At 63, she's still making work of importance and beauty. She's been my hero for three decades. I don't know what I'd have done without her.

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002 My hero / Harley Granville-Barker by Richard Eyre
003 My hero / Edward Goldsmith by Zac Goldsmith
004 My hero / Fridtjof Nansen by Sara Wheeler 
005 My hero / Mother Mercedes Lawler IBVM by Antonia Fraser

007 My hero / Ernest Shepard by Richard Holmes
008 My hero / JG Ballard by Will Self
009 My hero / Alan Ross by William Boyd
010 My hero / Ben the labrador by John Banville

011 My hero / Vicent van Gogh by Margaret Drabble
012 My hero / Franz Marek by Eric Hobsbawm


017 My hero / Jack Yeats by Colm Tóibín
018 My hero / Francisco Goya by Diana Athill
019 My hero / Max Stafford-Clark by Sebastian Barry
020 My hero / Arthur Holmes by Richard Fortey

036 My hero / Robert Lowell by Jonathan Raban
037 My hero / Beryl Bainbridge by Michael Holroyd
038 My hero / Charles Schulz by Jenny Colgan
039 My hero / Oliver Knussen by Adam Foulds
040 My hero / Annie Proulx by Alan Warner

041 My hero / David Lynch by Paul Murray
042 My hero / Edwin Morgan by Robert Crawford
043 My hero / Anne Lister by Emma Donoghue
044 My hero / Jane Helen Harrinson by Mary Beard
045 My hero / Edmund Burke by David Marquand
046 My hero / Shelagh Deleaney by Jeanette Winterson
047 My hero / Christopher Marlowe by Val McDermid
048 My hero / Gwen John by Anne Enright
049 My hero / Michael Mayne by Susan Hill
050 My hero / Stanley Spencer by Howard Jacobson

051 My hero / William Beveridge by Will Hutton
052 My hero / Jean McConville by Amanda Foreman
053 My hero / Alexander Pushkin by Elaine Feinstein
058 My hero / Cy Twombly by Edmund de Waal

079 My hero / Gene Wolfe by Neil Gaiman
087 My hero / Alberto Moravia by John Burnside
096 My hero / Isaac Babel by AD Miller
097 Lucian Freud by Esi Edugyan
100 Thomas Tranströmer by Robin Robertson
102 My hero / David Hockney by Susan Hill


190 My hero / Iris Murdoch by Charlotte Mendelson
194 My hero / René Descartes by James Kelman
199 My hero / Albert Camus by Geoff Dyer


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