Patti Smith and Lorraine Ali in conversation for the Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange.

Patti Smith and Lorraine Ali in conversation for the Los Angeles Times Ideas Exchange.


WORDS Julian de la Celle

Patti Smith, one of rock n roll’s last true poets, loves being alive and she’s not wasting any time doing it. She just released a new memoir entitled Year of the Monkey, which centers around one transformative year in her life, blending dreams and reality, and ultimately ending with the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States. While the book deals with loss and heartbreak and frustration, she still finds ways of turning those more negative feelings into positive outcomes with her incredible wit and empathetic fierceness. “I wanted to write a book like we’re just hangin’ out together,” says Smith. She is currently on a book tour in which she holds a conversation about the book, answers a few questions from the audience and then performs a few songs acoustically.


Last night, the Los Angeles Times hosted their Ideas Exchange with Patti Smith at the historic Alex Theatre in Glendale. Television critic, and former LA Times music editor, Lorraine Ali held a discussion with Smith in which they discussed parts of the book, dealing with loss and Smith’s joie de vivre. “Like a lot of people, I have experienced a lot of loss in my life,” says Patti. “In the course of this book two really heartbreaking losses, but you know, it’s still life, I love being alive! I think it’s important to know that it’s okay, as we’re mourning our loved ones, to have fun, and to laugh.”

She then answered a few questions from the audience, but one stood out amongst the rest. It read “Patti, do you ever have any regrets about opportunities that you have missed?” Smith replied, “No. I have had wonderful opportunities that I couldn’t do… because of the choices I made. But there are always other opportunities. Regret is really wasteful. It’s like being negative or pessimistic. Nothing constructive can come out of negativity, pessimism or regret...well, unless you wrote ‘Non, Je ne regrette rien’.”

Afterwards, Smith performed four songs, some accompanied with excerpts from her memoir read almost as pre-thoughts to the tracks. She finished the set with “Pissing in a River” which created a strong magnetism in the air, sending chills down your spine with each note sang. Smith couldn’t help but hold her hands out in front of her, shaking them as if she could feel that same magnetism, or the more likely scenario, she was creating this magnetism herself.