Leading Ladies

Two new memoirs celebrate rock legends, Grace Jones and Patti Smith.

Grace Jones

Grace Jones and Patti Smith, two rock royals from the disparate kingdoms of disco and punk, come out with exciting memoirs this season. The provocative Jones, a former Studio 54 fixture, has penned I’ll Never Write My Memoirs (Gallery Books), a spirited romp through her rise from Jamaican schoolgirl to New York sensation. Along the way, we catch glimpses of her extreme party antics; taboo-shattering persona (her lover, Jean-Paul Goude, photographed her oiled and naked long before his photo of Kim Kardashian “broke the Internet”); and infamous divadom (clad in forest green Azzedine Alaïa, with Andy Warhol on her arm, she waltzed into Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s wedding while they were both kneeling at the altar). “I am disco, but I am also Dada,” she writes of her dual desire for art and artifice. Smith, on the other hand, carries no such shield. Unvarnished and intimate, tender and frank, as a musician, artist, and writer, she presents a singular self. In this follow-up to Just Kids, her acclaimed early-days memoir of life on the edge with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, she picks up not where she left off, as a young wife to her great love, the musician Fred “Sonic” Smith, but in the present. In M Train (Knopf), she invites us to ride along with her over the course of a year. “I offer my world on a platter filled with allusions,” she writes. As she ventures to the places the mind goes when one is alone—dashing back to the past and then to the kitchen to feed the cat—and travels the world to commune with artists long gone, we’re reminded how lucky we are that she’s still here, and still working.

Photos: Leading Ladies

An argument between Grace Jones and Jean-Paul Goude prompted this moment in her 1983 video of “Living My Life,” which he directed. Adrian Boot

Jones’s memoir. Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Smith’s memoir. Courtesy of Random House

Patti Smith, photographed by her husband, Fred, on a trip to French Guiana to celebrate their first anniversary, 1981. Fred Smith