Tearful reunion

After 36 years, Patti Smith’s beloved stolen clothing returned

Singer and songwriter Patti Smith. ( FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

In June 1979, punk icon Patti Smith and her band had finished a show in Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom when a Ryder rental truck containing $40,000 worth of musical equipment was stolen from outside of the hotel where they were staying. Some of Smith’s personal items, including the shirt she wore on the cover of Rolling Stone a year prior and a Keith Richards shirt she was photographed in numerous times, are said to have been in the van.

The items eventually ended up in the hands of fan Noreen Bender, who told The Chicago Tribune that she recalled thinking, “Oh my God, these are her clothes and they still have her sweat on them.” (She was given the items by an “unnamed male friend,’” according to Rolling Stone.) Bender had long dreamed of returning the items of to Smith and was able to do so this week at Illinois’ Dominican University, where the artist was reading from her new memoir M Train (which, oddly enough, is largely focused on items lost throughout time).

According to a member in the audience, who spoke of Smith’s reaction in an online forum, the response was emotional. “Patti looked inside and just froze … [she] pulls out these items of clothing and talks about them (the shirt she wore on the Rolling Stone cover, the Keith Richards t-shirt you’ve seen her wear in a hundred photos) and then gets to the bottom of the bag. Here was a bandana that her beloved late brother had worn and then given to her, and she starts to weep. Before long, half the audience was crying with her.” Todd Smith, Patti’s brother and road manager, died just months after her husband, Fred, in 1994. The impact of both deaths on the artist are recorded in M Train, which was released earlier this month.

Read the full story at The Chicago Tribune.

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