Patti Smith weeps at return of stolen goods – 36 years on

PATTI SMITH

Woman interrupts reading to give the singer a bag of her possessions, taken from her tour truck in 1979

When musicians are on tour, they often create a comfort zone of routines, rituals and objects to cope with the grind, so it can be devastating if that is disrupted by a robbery that deprives them of their most-cherished things. Equally, it can be overwhelming to get them back, as Patti Smith showed when she burst into tears when a selection of items were returned to her – 36 years after they were stolen from her tour van.

Smith was reading from her memoir M Train at Dominican University in Illinois when she was approached by a woman named Doreen Bender, reports Consequence of Sound (via the Chicago Tribune). “A woman stood up and told Patti that she had a bag of clothes that belonged to her 40 years ago and would like to return it. Smith (and everybody) looked totally confused, but asked the person to come up to the stage and hand her the bag. Patti looked inside and just froze,” said one music messageboard poster.

The poster continued: “Turns out that 40 years ago the band’s truck was stolen in Chicago, all their equipment/clothes/personal things ... basically everything they owned. These clothes among them. So Patti pulls out these items of clothing and talks about them (the shirt she wore on the Rolling Stone cover, the Keith Richards T-Shirt you’ve seen her wear in a hundred photos) and then gets to the bottom of the bag. Here was a bandana that her beloved late brother had worn and then given to her, and she starts to weep. Before long, half the audience was crying with her.”

Smith said she didn’t want to know how the items had returned to her, she was just grateful to have them back. Bender told the Chicago Tribune a male friend who had worked for the U-Haul removals and storage company had given her and her roommate the possessions many years ago. “I just thought, ‘Oh my God, these are her clothes and they still have sweat on them,’” she told the Tribune. She added: “The feeling of making your hero happy, it was a moment. It was the highlight of my life.”

Rolling Stone suggests the items were taken from the truck stolen from outside a Chicago hotel in June 1979.

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