The singer, poet and author Patti Smith has written a farewell note to her longtime friend and collaborator Sam Shepard. Published on Tuesday in the New Yorker, the piece comes in the wake of the playwright and actor’s death at 73 last week due to complications from ALS.
Called “My Buddy,” the short essay focuses on a friendship that endured nearly six decades and extended across continents as the two artists were making their mark on culture.
“We knew each other for such a long time,” writes Smith. “Our ways could not be defined or dismissed with a few words describing a careless youth. We were friends; good or bad, we were just ourselves. The passing of time did nothing but strengthen that.”
Smith met Shepard in New York when he was drumming for the experimental folk band the Holy Modal Rounders, she wrote in her memoir, “Just Kids.” Despite Shepard being married, the pair developed a relationship that culminated in the theatrical work “Cowboy Mouth.”
It was at Shepard’s urging, in fact, that Smith first toyed with the idea of turning her poetry into musical performance pieces. Although their romantic relationship ended, the two remained close in the decades to follow, which is evident from Smith’s words.
In “My Buddy,” Smith writes of Shepard’s final moments: “The rain fell when he took his last breath, quietly, just as he would have wished. Sam was a private man. I know something of such men. You have to let them dictate how things go, even to the end. The rain fell, obscuring tears. His children, Jesse, Walker, and Hannah, said goodbye to their father. His sisters Roxanne and Sandy said goodbye to their brother.”
Smith adds that when Shepard died, she was…
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