Very few musicians in history could be legitimately classed as poets. Patti Smith and Jim Morrison, however, are two of them in a very literal sense considering, of course, that both have seen poetry anthologies published.
Although some people criticise Morrison’s work as being rather juvenile, that is exactly why fans adore it in the first place. There are enough wistful Byronian odes to bluebells to allow for Morrison to hold up the more visceral ending of the poetic spectrum. Besides, that sort of verse pairs better with a searing riff.
Thus, in a very direct sense, there is a kinship between Smith and Morrison. But as the Godmother of Punk told CBS during a Q&A regarding her memoir Just Kids, the connection runs somewhat deeper than that.
Although in her book Smith states that when she saw The Doors live her reaction was “I could do that”, she took the opportunity to clarify just what that meant. “I went to see Jim Morrison in 1967 and I was sitting there thinking I could do that,” Smith commented. “I also was a little embarrassed that I thought that. It’s not that I wasn’t inspired, I just felt this strange kinship.”
“I was just a girl from South Jersey working in a bookstore,” Smith continues. “I don’t why I thought that. It was a mystery to me. Of course, I admired him and still do. Jim Morrison was one of our great poets and unique performers, his body of work will always endure.”
So, it wasn’t so much that Smith believed she could better, more so that he inspired her by illuminating the possibility that rock ‘n’ roll is for everyone and praise, in fairness, does not come much higher than that. “There was a few different times in my life when it never occurred to me to perform or ever be a rock ‘n’ roll singer. Then I had this strange sense of something that I still can’t explain.”
However, this isn’t where the connection stops between the duo and, moving forward, it continues up to the point that they first met when Smith was merely a punter in New York, penning poems privately but not operating publicly.
“I did meet Jim Morrison once,” Patti explains, “Just once, it was the early 1970s, probably around ’70s and they used to have press parties for rock bands and sometimes the rock bands would be there and we never had enough food so I would go to these because there was lots of free food so I would go to these bring a bag and just take the food because I didn’t really like the parties.”
Morrison, however, was a man who liked his food. In an interview with Howard Smith, he declared that fat is beautiful and demanded to know why “it was so odorous to be fat?” before continuing to regale him with a story about how he collected food tickets in college and gorged himself on the free starchy products. This prioritising of food made the party a rather appealing one for Patti.
“The Doors party was cool,” she continues, “Because they had all these long tables with all the food and then you went into the party, so the food was first. I had this big bag and I’m getting all this food for me and Robert [Mapplethorpe] and I hear this voice going ‘the Hamburgers are really good too’ and I look and way at the end, sitting all by himself was a guy and it was Jim Morrison.”
Caught out but undeterred by his casual ambience, Smith simply went up and took a hamburger off the man who inspired her to join the rock ‘n’ roll scene in the first place, such is the strange mystic ways of rock history.