Boston honored Patti Smith over the weekend, the city’s mayor noting how the iconic musician “defined a new breed of artist through her mystical poems and urgent rock and roll.” As big an event as it was, perhaps the most touching moment for Smith this week came when a fan helped to reunite her with some very precious items, thought to have been lost nearly 40 years ago.
On Sunday, Smith was at Illinois’ Dominican University giving a reading in support of her new memoir M Train when she was approached by someone named Noreen Bender. According to a witness’ report and the Chicago Tribune, the woman gave Smith a bag containing clothing that had been stolen from the rocker’s tour van back in 1979 following a local show. Among the possessions recovered was a shirt Smith wore on Rolling Stone’s 1978 cover (seen below), a Keith Richards t-shirt, and a section of cloth given to her by her late brother, a personal effect that literally moved the musician to tears.
“Before long, half the audience was crying with her … [Some] were asking where, how, why, but Patti just put her hands out and said she doesn’t care how, she’s just so grateful to have these priceless items back,” the witness described in an online forum. “She couldn’t stop touching them, eventually slowly slipping the bandana into her pocket … and proceeded to do a ripping version of ‘Because the Night’ with her son on acoustic guitar.”
According to the Tribune, Bender said she’d discovered the items “decades ago through a male friend of her Chicago roommate,” who had once been a U-Haul employee. It’s unclear exactly how the belongings ended up where they did, but Bender added, “I just thought, Oh my god, these are her clothes and they still have her sweat on them.”