“Because the Night” by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen

On February 10, 1971, Patti Smith publically performed a reading of her poetry for the first time, an event at which she also first decided to marry her poetry to music. Prior to this happening, Smith’s work had remained largely a private showcase shared solely amongst the people she felt closest to within her artistic and personal life. This public display of previously protected poetry, freshly paired with music and melody, revealed to New York City, and later the world, the uniquely captivating perspective and voice of Patti Smith.

The lyrical expression demonstrated by Smith on that fateful February day, led to the eventual debut of her first album in 1975, Horses. Teeming with an intoxicatingly vibrant energy and an unmatched level of skilled wordplay, that which only an accomplished poet is capable of producing, Horses achieved critical and commercial success. In the years since its initial release, Horses has been deemed by many as one of the earliest examples of punk rock music.

Similarly, throughout the early 1970’s, Bruce Springsteen also began debuting his own distinctive and powerful presence on the stage and in the recording studio. Like Horses, in 1975, Springsteen released, Born to Run, completely capturing the hearts and minds of critics and commercial audiences alike. Infused with an intoxicating level of intensity, passion, and rebellion, Springsteen’s Born to Run showcased his innate ability to connect and inspire his listener, not only within the 70’s, but for generations to come.

Though these two artists often utilized differing elements within the vast spectrum of rock and roll, both Smith and Springsteen represent a raw and humanistic quality which attracted their fans and readily prepared them for a successful and distinctive collaboration.

Legend has it that a young Jimmy Iovine, future co-founder of Interscope Records, delivered Patti Smith a tape recording of a fresh song that Bruce Springsteen had developed the music and melody for, but had no lyrics. Instantly inspired by the thunderous tune, Smith composed the lyrics to what would become “Because the Night” in one evening while awaiting a phone call from her then boyfriend and later husband, Fred Sonic Smith, guitarist for the MC5. Soon after, Iovine and Smith took to the studio and recorded “Because the Night,” the first single off of Smith’s 1978 album, Easter.

“Because the Night” would become Patti Smith’s greatest commercial success. The balanced pairing of Bruce Springsteen’s intense and passionate melody with Smith’s honest and haunting lyrics and vocals casted “Because the Night” into a super-song, entirely unique and impossible to ignore. Over the years, the pair have performed the song together only a handful of times, but have a clear respect and admiration for one another’s art, world-view, music, and role in the creation of their massive hit song, “Because the Night.”

–Victoria Shaffer

Sources:
“Bruce Springsteen.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 2 Jan. 2020, http://www.biography.com/musician/bruce-springsteen.
Hughes, Hilary. “Patti Smith on ‘Because The Night’ at 40: How Her Bruce Springsteen Collaboration Is ‘A Whole Life in A Song’.” Billboard, 21 Feb. 2020, http://www.billboard.com/articles/columns/rock/8462017/patti-smith-because-the-night-40th-anniversary-oral-history.
“Patti Smith.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 17 Dec. 2019, http://www.biography.com/musician/patti-smith.
Smith, Patti. Just Kids. Bloomsbury, 2019.
Songfacts. “Because The Night by Bruce Springsteen – Songfacts.” Song Meanings at Songfacts, http://www.songfacts.com/facts/bruce-springsteen/because-the-night.

7 thoughts on ““Because the Night” by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen

      1. All good. Yeah, that was probably the last concert I will see for a while. COVID has brought live music to a grinding halt. Glad I got to see her. She was awesome!

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