Patti Smith Writes A Moving, Poetic Eulogy For Tom Verlaine
On Saturday, Tom Verlaine, the hugely influential guitarist and Television frontman, died at the age of 73. The person who broke the news of Verlaine’s death was Jesse Paris Smith, Patti Smith’s daughter. Over the years, Verlaine was one of Patti Smith’s closest contemporaries. Verlaine and Smith both came out of the New York rock world at the same time, and they were briefly a couple. They collaborated many times over the years. Verlaine played guitar on Patti Smith’s 1974 debut single “Hey Joe,” and he also played on her most recent album, 2012’s Banga.
Now, just a few days after Tom Verlaine’s death, Patti Smith has written a powerful New Yorker eulogy for Tom Verlaine. In her New Yorker piece, Smith writes about growing up near Verlaine, meeting him for the first time, and the moment that she first saw Television play:
The club was CBGB. There were only a handful of people present, but Lenny and I were immediately taken with it, with its pool table and narrow bar and low stage. What we saw that night was kin, our future, a perfect merging of poetry and rock and roll. As I watched Tom play, I thought, Had I been a boy, I would’ve been him.
I went to see Television whenever they played, mostly to see Tom, with his pale blue eyes and swanlike neck. He bowed his head, gripping his Jazzmaster, releasing billowing clouds, strange alleyways populated with tiny men, a murder of crows, and the cries of bluebirds rushing through a replica of space. All transmuted through his long fingers, all but strangling the neck of his guitar.
Smith also writes about how she and her children were with Verlaine in his last hours. It’s a tremendous piece of writing, and you can find the whole thing here.