Horses at 50: Critical Approaches to the Works of Patti Smith

(Roundtable)


Cultural Studies and Media Studies / Women's and Gender Studies

Noah Gallego (California State Polytechnic University-Pomona)

2025 marks the golden jubilee of the release of Patti Smith’s iconic debut album, Horses (1975), which revolutionized the musical landscape of the 1970s and galvanized the nascent punk rock scene on both sides of the Atlantic. A visionary piece of work hailed by one music critic as “far beyond what most rock records even dream of,” Horses launched Patti’s career into the stratosphere. Ranking #26 on Rolling Stone’s updated 2023 edition of their “500 Greatest Albums of All Time,” the album was also preserved by the Library of Congress into the National Recording Registry in 2009 and inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2021. Despite the clear institutional and popular recognition, critical examinations of Smith and her work remain scarce. Thus, in the spirit of this album’s 50th anniversary and this conference’s theme: “(R)EVOLUTION,” this session invites scholars from across the disciplines to join in a collective investigation of Smith and her work, including Horses and beyond, and celebrate its revolutionary impact. In addition to her five-decade career as a singer, having produced a dozen albums, she has published poetry and several literary works such as her memoir, Just Kids (2010), which won the National Book Award, as well as M Train (2015) and recently, Year of the Monkey (2019). Themes of aging and grief, youth and coming of age, queerness and femininity, and faith and spirituality populate her works, both literary and musical, which scholars are encouraged to engage critically in order to draw new conclusions about this mythical matriarch’s relationship with gender, politics, and mysticism, among other discourses.
2025 marks the fiftieth anniversary of the release of Horses (1975) by the unofficial punk poet laureate, Patti Smith. This roundtable will initiate discussion about the revolutionary impact of Smith’s music and literary output from across these past five decades.