The lasting image is also the first: the photograph of Patti Smith that everyone knows was taken just weeks before the world learned who she was. In it, she's wearing a white shirt and braces, their crisp elegance at odds with the scruffy thatch of her hair. With the jut of her hip, the jacket slung over her bony shoulder and that slight tilt to her chin, the effect should be completely insouciant. But then there are her fragile-looking hands gathered effeminately, self-protectively at her heart. Shot by her soulmate, Robert Mapplethorpe, this is the cover of 1975's Horses, her first album and the record that was the catalyst for punk. She looks simultaneously defiant and vulnerable – a perfectly apt combination for a musician, poet, painter and photographer whose art has always been as much about grace as ferocity.
Horses is an iconoclastic record; the songs are full of the ecstatic violence of things being shattered in order to be remade. It's the sound of Smith ("Rimbaud with amps," as the Polar prize committee called her last year) claiming her place among her poet heroes and doing so with her signature mix of kinship and contempt. In the months after the release of Horses, the Patti Smith Group played CBGBs, making that shabby downtown New York dive bar the centre of a global movement and the "godmother of punk" epithet has stuck.
She'd long been a cultural icon when 2010, she published Just Kids, her elegiac memoir of her youth in New York with the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Now, at 65, an age when many female cultural figures seem invisible, she's more gloriously visible than ever – her mannish black outfits, still wild hair and huge easy grin make her an arresting figure. There's less vulnerability in her expression now. Instead, she looks almost bashful at just how hard the world continues to love her.
A consummate badass, poetic visionary and one of few living musicians for whom the distinction "icon" is valid, Patti Smith – with her 11th album, Banga out next week – remains unassailably, unapologetically herself. She shows us how to be an artist… and she also shows us a way to live. Hermione Hoby
Martha Wainwright, singer songwriter: 'She's not only a renegade poet, she's a wise women'
I just did a show with Patti on Mother's Day, which obviously was a tricky night for me because my mother [the folk singer Kate McGarrigle] died a couple of years ago, but it was amazing to watch Patti interact with her daughter, talk about her own mom and show this very feminine side and just be herself. The thing that was always extraordinary to me was that she gave up music to bring up her children for 10 years. Apparently when they moved back to New York after Fred ["Sonic" Smith, her husband] had died, those kids had no idea that their mother was this huge rock music icon. That she had the confidence to leave and move back was amazing. What was interesting at that show we did was that she's a very nice person, very generous and then she goes out there and she's a fucking rock star – you just can't contend with it! Everybody's wonderfully afraid of her – it's hard not to be a fan.
I remember being struck by the image of her on the cover of Horses. Her physique is remarkable and although she's not playing with sexpot identity, it's there, and she's so young, too, so you see that vulnerability. The shirt she's wearing has this very masculine image and I thought it was amazingly refreshing. I'd been brought up with my mother's music, which was one way women could sound. And Patti was the other way women could sound. It was an eye-opener to me.
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I was very moved by Gone Again, the record she made after her husband died. I was in my early 20s and that record was on repeat all the time. It seemed to me that, speaking from her late 40s, she had an understanding and a voice that was very wise. So for me she's not only a renegade romantic poet but a wise woman as well. It really is amazing what she's accomplished just by being herself and knowing herself so well.
Juliette Lewis, singer and actor: 'Nobody else could write like that, male or female'
I first got turned on to Patti Smith through Oliver Stone when I was acting in Natural Born Killers. He used a track of hers in the film called Rock n' Roll Nigger. It's a powerful song that uses the word to say that all radicals are niggers. She does this rant: "Jimi Hendrix was a nigger! Jesus Christ and grandma too!" I don't know anybody else who could possibly write like that, male or female. She's always been the only one saying what she says, in the way that she says it.
But her appeal is much richer than that. She has an uncommon intelligence and the way she views things is incredible, mixing her imagination, references and her perspective on politics or pop culture. All you have to do is read her lyrics and poetry to understand where she comes from. For me, the greatest artists do that – they connect with you but then they open your eyes to something deeper.
Johnny Marr, former Smiths guitarist: 'She felt that art and rock'n'roll were in the same place'
Like a lot of people, I discovered Patti Smith when Horses came out – I liked her straight away. First of all, I was struck by her voice. It was unique and wasn't trying to be pretty, but it seemed to be saying a lot. When Radio Ethiopia came out, people seemed a little down on it, but I loved it. Her voice came into its own on that record. I would listen to it before I went to school and it would be in my head all day. And my body. "My heart starts pumping, my fists start pumping…" She had a gift for investing a real passion into things that on paper sound really dumb.
She has always put out the vibe that art and rock'n'roll are in the same place if you want it and know where to look. She was making connections between Rimbaud and Jean Genet and Ginsberg and Burroughs and rock'n'roll and seemed really to live it, which was great to be turned on to as a fan.
Reading this on mobile? Click here to see Patti performing Soul Kitchen
I saw her live at the Apollo in Manchester when Easter came out. I was 15 but really serious about my music by then. It was the first time I saw anyone bringing a whole lifestyle with them on to the stage. I was right up front and it was awe-inspiring and not just because I was so young. It was more than entertainment, like being involved in some incantation. The vibe was that she was definitely having an experience on the stage rather than putting on a show for you.
She was a massive influence on me, so was obviously a huge influence on my band. Along with the New York Dolls, she gave new energy to American garage rock – which had disappeared for while, or was certainly not represented in the UK – by doing cover versions of Time is on My Side and Gloria, songs from a different era. Her cover version of Be My Baby got me into the Ronettes and Phil Spector. It was unusual in the mid- to late-70s to be living in Manchester and hearing versions of Be My Baby.
Ana Matronic, singer Scissor Sisters: 'She's unabashedly herself, and that's a radical statement'
There are two things that first struck me about Patti. One is that she is unabashedly herself, and that was a really radical statement, especially when she started out. It was the beginning of the women's movement, and punk rock was on the tail end of people expressing their identity and demanding rights. She was revolutionary in the portrayal of women as people. She is not a doll that is dressed up and sings songs, she is a real human being who expresses all the beauty and ugliness of life.
And second her words are very, very lasting. She brought a real sense of poetry and she sees herself, I believe, as a writer first and a rocker second. My favourite song of hers is Privilege (Set Me Free): she quotes the Bible in it and it's such a powerful rejection of society, of the giant entities that have ruled individuals' lives for so long. It was a really important thing in the 70s for women to make wild statements, to break out of these heavily constructed moulds that we'd been in for so many hundreds of years and unleash the mother lion, as it were.
Her attitude has influenced me, for sure. More than anything, I love being scary – it's not working unless I'm just a little scary! I will get in your face and I hope people will in turn get in my face, because I don't want them to recoil in terror; I want to inspire the same sort of ferocity. She's just a roaring voice for the individual.
Ed Harcourt, singer songwriter: 'I love it when she spits. She's the mother of unconvention'
I first saw Patti perform Because the Night on a rerun of The Old Grey Whistle Test and I came across her music in dribs and drabs after that. Then Horses made its way into my record collection about 10 years ago, and I was completely hooked. It spoke to me. I was playing that album to my three-year-old daughter the other day and she said: "Daddy, I want to be in this music", which I thought summed it up, really.
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Her music combines the head and the heart: the intellectual literacy and visions of the poets with the raw, burning heart of rock'n'roll. I don't think anyone had done that since Dylan.
Patti Smith completely inspired, influenced and empowered a whole new generation of female singers, but I think the idea of people fawning over her for something she did more than 30 years ago would probably disgust her. She's a true artist in the sense that she really doesn't look back. She just keeps on making music.
I think she once said: "Freedom is the right to write the wrong words", which was a really wonderful thing to say. For me, her work is nourishing. She's one of those artists who, when you hear them, it's like a light bulb switching on, or going from black and white to Technicolor.
In 2005, I was asked by the organisers to play at her Meltdown festival and then I gradually got drafted in as a resident session musician. I started off playing Peaceable Kingdom, just me and Patti on stage. That was the first order of nerve-racking, but it was so cool, because she said my playing reminded her of Richard Sohl, who played on Horses, which was a massive compliment.
Backstage, she was quite quiet and almost insular, very normal. But on stage, she's proper rock'n'roll. She really doesn't care what anyone thinks of her. I love it when she just randomly spits. She's the mother of unconvention.
Shirley Manson, singer with Garbage: 'Next to my mother and grandmother she's my biggest influence'
When I was 19, I was in a band called Goodbye Mr Mackenzie and the lead singer of that band, Martin Metcalfe, decided to educate me in the types of records he thought I should be listening to. Patti Smith was his number one and I just fell madly in love with her. When you're young, your compass is spinning so fast that you tend to gravitate towards artists who help you define yourself. Patti Smith taught me I can draw my own door and walk right through. When I feel the weight of ageism and the weight of sexism pushing down on my shoulders, I think of her and try to negotiate my life in the same way she has hers.
It just seems to me like she's not reduced by her age. Instead, she becomes like one of these tribal leaders – she gets more magnificent and more impressive. She is one of the very few female artists who continues to be captain of her own ship. I'm so grateful to her, next to my mother and my grandmother she's had the most influence in my life of any woman.
I've had the honour of meeting her several times and we've played with her. The first time I met her I was speechless – and I'm not speechless very often. I felt overwhelmed and I burst into tears! I think she understood why I'd responded to her that way because she just put her hand on my shoulder and sort of smiled and said: "I'd like to introduce you to my band." Which was such a gorgeous thing to say because it stopped all the awkwardness and allowed me to pull myself together. The irony is she was opening for us that night, which remains a source of embarrassment for me because it shows you how ludicrous the music industry is. When we came off stage, she'd slipped a note under my dressing room door. It said something about our show and then underneath she'd written: "Power to the people, Patti Smith." A spectacular moment. You can't top that, can you?
Patrick Wolf, singer songwriter: 'She saw my instruments and said: let's do a show'
When I met Patti, I was a little bit lost in terms of having someone to look up to, of staying true to artistic integrity and being fearless. My working relationship with Patti has been totally inspiring. I met her on a staircase at the Dylan Thomas poetry festival in Laugharne in 2009. She asked whose instruments were in the hallway, and when I said they were mine, she said: "Let's do a show." It was rare to meet someone with this spontaneous energy, who wasn't scared of strangers and went with 100% instinct. It was also refreshing not to have to go through about 20 managers to create something.
I wasn't aware of her work when I met her and she had no idea about me. The first song I played with her was Wing. When I got back to London, I started listening to the songs I'd played with her and I realised the magnitude of them and I fell in love with her voice. My introduction was song by song; the first album I really delved into was Wave. It's a really special record and is deeply personal to me now, hearing this beautiful declaration of love and falling head over heels. She views it as her disco record but it comes through as a really great Patti Smith pop moment.
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She is able to find poetry and beauty in reality, whereas I used to live in a dream land. I take my art a lot more seriously now I've witnessed the power of her words and her communication. There's nothing disposable about Patti. When she gave me her lyric book, she told me she'd like me to cover Boy Cried Wolf. Now that song feels like the song I share with Patti. She is the ultimate renaissance woman. She carries her camera everywhere with her. Her eyes are always open for inspiration. It's so rare to meet people who are creating just for the sake of creating.
Emmy the Great, singer songwriter: 'Her music is unique and honest – it doesn't age'
My introduction to Patti Smith came when I bought a Riot Grrrl compilation and Concrete Blonde covered Dancing Barefoot. I loved that song and only found out later that it was a cover of Patti Smith's song. I was in my mid-teens so I did that thing where you buy absolutely everything by that one artist and spend a month becoming the biggest fan ever.
I've never stopped listening to her – her music is unique and honest and real. It doesn't age. The first song I ever wrote was called Gloria and was based on her cover. My last single, Paper Forest, was based on lyrics from Dancing Barefoot. It's about what it means to be blessed among women. Listening to her music is a totally different experience from listening to other people's – it's like she's trying to teach you something. Wave is my favourite album. Piss Factory was an early favourite track – it's a piece of work. Even without the music it would be a great poem. I remember this article I read about her from the late 70s, which said she used to be a music journalist and is obsessed with context. I always think about that when I listen to her music, how many people out there have contributed to art in so many different ways. She's really made a craft of using language. She pushed forward the idea of nonconformity. She is so completely "her" and nobody else.
Banga is out on 4 June on Columbia, and a recently reissued edition of Patti Smith's book Woolgathering is published by Bloomsbury