When singer, songwriter, poet, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and proclaimed Godmother of Punk, Patti Smith and her late husband, noted guitarist of influential rock group the MC5, Fred “Sonic” Smith wrote the now iconic track, “People Have The Power,” they likely didn’t know that it would ultimately resonate with so many people. They didn’t know that it would be employed as the anthem for a variety of protests and causes around the world many years later. But it has. For an interview she did with music and culture platform, NME, Smith confirms, “I’ve seen people. I’ve walked in marches all over the world where people spontaneously started singing it, you know, whether it’s been in Paris or with the Palestinians or, you know, in Spain or New York City, Washington D.C.” But although they didn’t know that would be the case it was indeed their hope that it would inspire people in that way. In that same interview she confirms, “What we wanted to do was remind the listener of their individual power, but also of the collective power of the people, how we can do anything.” It was, in particular, the desire of her husband who actually encouraged the song by sharing the title idea and concept with Patti, urging her to write the lyrics. He wrote the music and she did indeed write the words. Fred Smith unfortunately didn’t get to see the impact the song would in fact make, but Patti affectionately adds in that talk, “It’s so moving for me to see his dream realized.”
Needless to say, during these pivotal and transformative times the significance of the song, its message and purpose were also not lost on many including accomplished singer, songwriter, guitarist and producer, Tomás Doncker. Doncker, who is a past featured artist HERE, was so inspired by it that he set out working on a cover of the timeless track. He got part of the way through when he ran into a creative impasse that would require change to it that he respected the lauded song too much to just take license to do. So he halted work on it. But often when things are cosmically ordained, paths to their completion are made clear. A chance introduction to Patti Smith’s daughter, musician Jesse Smith, in of all places, a neighborhood pharmacy Doncker was at picking up a few things before heading off to Finland for some work, led to a surprise FaceTime talk with the legend herself, right there in the store. Doncker, who they were familiar with and admired his work, explained his dilemma to Patti and to his great surprise, she gave her blessing to approach covering the song however he decided. And indeed he did deliver a hip, soulful and energetic rendition that doesn’t disappoint. The Smith family clearly agreed because a cover of the song with Doncker, Jesse Smith and her brother, musician Jackson Smith and introduced by their mom, Patti that was recorded and filmed at Electric Lady Studios will be featured as part of the A VIRTUAL FESTIVAL FOR RESTORATION AND RECOVERY happening this Friday, June 4, 2021 at 3pm EST, in honor of World Environment Day, which is officially on June 5th.
You see, needless to say, the song’s impact and intent was not lost on Patti and Fred’s kids, Jackson and Jesse Smith either. In particular daughter, Jesse, who with cellist, Rebecca Foon and no doubt in the spirit of the song, founded in 2014, Pathway to Paris. As described in their mission statement, Pathway to Paris, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to turning the Paris Agreement into reality through finding and offering innovative and ambitious solutions for combating global climate change. The organization brings together musicians, artists, activists, experts, academics, politicians, innovators, all citizens of the planet to participate in a series of events, dialogues, and leading initiatives.
Pathway to Paris is joining 350.org, and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) North America Region to present the A VIRTUAL FESTIVAL FOR RESTORATION AND RECOVERY in celebration of the planet. The concert event will feature a diverse array of international music performances from the likes of Dave Matthews, Patti Smith, Jack Johnson, Ben Harper, Michael Stipe (REM), and several more including Tomás Doncker.
The concert event will stream live on June 4th at 3PM EST on these Facebook pages: www.facebook.com/pathway2Paris, www.facebook.com/350.org, www.facebook.com/unep, and www.facebook.com/UNEnvironmentNA.