The interview pertained to her career and her relationship with her soul mate Robert Mapplethorpe. Both had a love for art, but it was Smith who touched fame first with the help of a photo taken by him. Proof of their natural affinity was abundant – Smith’s first words of the man were of his rescue of her. This particular rescue dated back to the first months of their relationship, where Mapplethorpe pretended to be Smith’s boyfriend to help her ward off the advances from her then-boss.
Smith wrote a song about death with a reference to Hotel Chelsea. In the song, there is a plea from an individual for something of value back, for a rescue, almost. The title is called “Fire of Unknown Origin”, and it is unknown in that it is unpredictable because the prose of the lyrics are not typical and do not fit in the verse-verse-chorus-repeat model.
Interestingly, the Hotel Chelsea experienced cycles of death and life. Its first purpose was as a co-opt building. Then the H.C went bankrupt because the theatres around it relocated. In 1905 it reopened as a hotel, but quickly went back into bankruptcy. The Hotel Chelsea was finally repurchased by a group of wealthy men and managed as a hotel until the 1970s.
While listening to “Fire of Unknown Origin” I found it difficult to understand what Smith was saying during her songs, if only for the incoherence in her pronunciation of consonants. Nevertheless, it was stimulating to hear a hybrid of poetry and music. After all, it was her mission to “merge poetry and rock and roll, and to reach out to other disenfranchised people.”
-Megan P. Low