The annual “The Music Of” tribute extravaganzas at Carnegie Hall are a fount of interesting covers and artist pairings. (Archival footage is often scarce, but by way of some surprising on-paper examples: Todd Rundgren covering Aretha Franklin; Cee-lo Green covering Talking Heads; Elvis Costello playing Prince… the list goes on.) Many of the illustrious performers who’ve been involved in the series’ 20 years of live shows have just appeared once, but Patti Smith—long one of New York City’s most legendary “local” artists—has been game enough to stop by Carnegie for seven appearances with the series. She may be the most consistent through-line this series has had, in fact, covering Bob Dylan in 2006; R.E.M. in 2009; The Who in 2010; Neil Young in 2011; Bowie in 2016; Van Morrison in 2019. Last week, she came by the Carnegie Hall stage for one more appearance paying tribute in this year’s installment to Paul McCartney with a cover of The Beatles’ “She’s Leaving Home.”
Though she has some significant history with many of the other artists noted above, this appears to be Smith’s debut performance of the Sgt. Pepper track. She offers a spare and slowed-down rendition, but what’s most striking about her take is its off-the-cuff spoken-word outro, a surreal and somber note from a runaway to her distraught parents: “Dear mother and father /I’m sorry if I hurt you/But I had to leave to find what you already have/Companionship, love/To find laughter/To find freedom/And to find, most of all, myself.”
Watch a clip of the performance below.
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Check out more Patti Smith covers here.
Check out our list of The 50 Best Paul McCartney Covers Ever.