“She continues to be a beacon in the darkness”: Garbage’s Shirley Manson on why Patti Smith is one of her heroes

Patti Smith and Shirley Manson
(Image credit: Luciano Viti/Jeff Hahne/Getty Images)

When Shirley Manson speaks, you should listen. The Garbage frontwoman is one of rock’s most entertaining and eloquent figures and back in 2021 she told this writer that a huge part of who she is was down to what she’d learned from watching her heroes. Asked to pick just one, Manson homed in on legendary New York punk-poet Patti Smith.

“Someone like Patti Smith continues to be a beacon in the darkness and has remained inspirational and brave and hard as nails and soft as a kitten’s belly,” Manson said. “I’m in awe and I’m in her thrall.”

The Garbage singer said she first met Smith when the two were playing a festival together in Greece. “The irony of the music business was that she was actually before us on the bill – that just shows you how stupid festival bookers are and how short-sighted everybody in the industry is,” she continued. “The fact that she was onstage before us just felt appalling to me. But the promoter that we were working with, god bless him, knew that I was an obsessee and brought me in to meet Patti in her dressing room and that was the first time we met and I absolutely lost my shit. It was awful, like I started crying.”

Smith knew how to handle the situation, Manson recalled. “She put her arm around me and she was just really solid and powerful and quiet,” she remembered. “She didn't try and pacify me in any way. She just put her arm around me and it was such a gangster move. I was so impressed by her, so that was the first time we ever met. It was glorious and it was everything I hoped it would be.”


Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.