People Have the Power

Patti Smith is the poet laureate of the punk movement, on this we’re pretty much agreed. As such, and inevitably, she has to have written the kind of an anthem that brings stadiums of people to their feet. Though she is, of course, all of the superlatives, and has risen out of the league of cesspool dive bars, she is not an artist who fills stadiums. She is too much of a ink-stained witch to have that many people like her. Her anthem, however, has a life of its own. This song, apparently, has been adopted by U2 as their big entrance song on their big stadium tours. This is somewhat gross, because there’s something inherently mawkish and cheap about U2’s desire to make people pump their fists en masse. There’s is also the itchier problem of just how does a man of Bono’s stature get off trying to be a voice for the underdogs. The authenticity gap between the self-satisfied millionaire and outsider artist is wide and uncomfortable. None of which is Patti Smith’s problem, of course. She may even relish how the song she wrote to deliver in basements has grown far beyond her own reach.


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