What Patti Smith and Neil Young won’t be doing at BEA
May 22, 2012 | 10:32am
The nation’s biggest publishing conference, Book Expo America, announced Monday that it had scored a rock ‘n’ roll coup: On its second day, Patti Smith will interview Neil Young on stage. That’s far more rock power than the annual conference, taking place June 5-7 in Manhattan, usually has in-house.
Publishers have come to see that Smith, a legendary rocker since the release of her 1975 album “Horses,” and longtime poet, is a literary asset. Her recent memoir “Just Kids,” in which she wrote of her early years in New York with the artist Robert Mapplethorpe, was a runaway bestseller. It was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize, one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 books of 2010, and won the National Book Award for nonfiction.
Maybe some of that literary fortune will rub off on Young, who enters the publishing marketplace with his own memoir “Waging Heavy Peace” in October. The book, publisher Blue Rider Press promises, chronicles his youth in Canada, playing in Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and his years with the band Crazy Horse. It will include, among other things, stories of “the LSD-laden boulevards of 1966 Los Angeles.”
The conversation at Book Expo between Smith and Young promises to be a highlight of the conference, for 2012 and over its long history. The two will have a lot to talk about, and who knows, maybe they’ll even hum a few bars.
But no matter what creative sparks fly between them, nothing can compare to the performance above. Despite the low-quality video, the performance of Neil Young’s song “Helpless” is stunning. When Patti Smith comes in, around the 4:29 mark, she is a majestic, commanding force, and her additional lyrics give the song a whole new dimension. Keep watching: she and Neil Young share a mic for the chorus at about 6:40.
The performance was in 1996, at one of Young’s annual Bridge School Benefits. Pearl Jam was also on the bill that year. They won’t, as far as I know, be joining them at BEA.