ROME — Questions have been raised surrounding the announcement that the “godmother of punk” who once sang the lyrics, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine,” will be performing at the Vatican Christmas concert next month.
Patti Smith, now 67, is among 18 other artists scheduled to play at the Conciliation Auditorium on Dec. 13 during the Vatican’s annual Concerto di Natale. According to reports, she had been personally invited by the Pontiff, known as Francis, after meeting him at St. Peter’s Square last year. She recently told reporters about the invite, “I like Pope Francis and I’m happy to sing for him.”
Some have applauded the invitation, stating that references to religion can be seen throughout her music.
“The person who did this really understood how Catholic imagery and atmosphere is woven into Patti Smith’s work; and the life or death urgency her work represents—it’s about salvation and redemption,” wrote Anthony DeCurtis of Rolling Stone.
But others have expressed concern over the content of one of her songs from nearly 40 years ago, as she sang, “Jesus died for somebody’s sins, but not mine. My sins my own; they belong to me.” The committee Portosalvo called for a rock star to be banned from performing at a local church in Naples, stating that bringing rock music into a “consecrated” building would be “blasphemy.”
On Tuesday, Smith was asked about the controversy during a press conference at the Museum of The Moving Image in New York.
“Anyone who would confine me to a line from 20 years ago is a fool!” she said. “I’m not playing to the pope. He may not even be there. But I expect there’ll be a bunch of cardinals… It’s a Christmas concert for the people, and it’s being televised.”
Smith has also been known for using profanity to express herself, and did so during the press conference as she defended herself against critics who took issue with her 1975 lyric.
“I’ll sing to my enemy!” she declared. “I don’t like being pinned down and I’ll do what the [expletive] I want, especially at my age.”
“I had a strong religious upbringing, and the first word on my first LP is Jesus. I did a lot of thinking. I’m not against Jesus, but I was 20 and I wanted to make my own mistakes and I didn’t want anyone dying for me,” Smith said. “I stand behind that 20-year-old girl, but I have evolved.”
The singer, who recorded music for Darren Aronofky’s Hollywood film “Noah,” was likewise vocal earlier this year when she denounced corporate greed during a concert in Chicago.
“Our governments, our corporations would like us to feel defeated, but we have it with our numbers if we use it. Don’t forget it!” she proclaimed. “People, you can change the [expletive] world! Take heart, don’t give up! Globally unite for peace! It’s not [expletive] corny; it’s what we [expletive] need!”
Others set to perform at the concert include Cristina Scuccia, a nun who won Italy’s “The Voice” earlier this year and covered Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” for her first recorded single.
Photo: Beni Kohler