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Fred "Sonic" Smith

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Fred "Sonic" Smith
Background information
Birth nameFrederick Dewey Smith
Born(1948-09-14)September 14, 1948
Lincoln County, West Virginia, U.S.
DiedNovember 4, 1994(1994-11-04) (aged 46)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Guitar
  • bass
Years active1964–1988

Frederick Dewey Smith (September 14, 1948 – November 4, 1994), known professionally as Fred "Sonic" Smith, was an American guitarist and member of the rock band MC5. He married and raised two children with poet and fellow rock musician Patti Smith. The couple also collaborated musically.

Early life


Frederick Dewey Smith was born on September 14, 1948[1][a] at his family's residence on Broad Branch in the Big Harts Creek area of Lincoln County, West Virginia.[3] His mother gave birth to him in the home's kitchen during an electrical storm.[3]



Known professionally as Fred "Sonic" Smith,[4] he was a guitarist with the MC5 and later went on to form Sonic's Rendezvous Band, which released one single, "City Slang", during Smith's lifetime.[5]

In 1988 he collaborated with Patti Smith on her album Dream of Life.

In 2018, Smith was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame[3] alongside Hasil Adkins and Ann Magnuson.[6]

Influence and legacy


In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Smith #93 in its list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.[7]

Patti Smith has spoken of how Fred Smith encouraged her writing, crediting his influence on a number of the songs she released after his death, as well as the prose works she created during their time together in Michigan. He was the inspiration for her song "Frederick",[8] a single from her 1979 album Wave. Her 1996 album Gone Again features several songs inspired by, co-written by, or in tribute to, her late husband.

The band Sonic Youth took its name from Smith's nickname.[9]

Inducted into West Virginia Music Hall of Fame 2018. Award given by Lenny Kaye and accepted by Patti Smith, Jesse Smith and Jackson Smith.[10]

Personal life


Smith first married Sigrid Dobat; their only child died of SIDS.

While still married, he met and began an affair with singer and poet Patti Smith.[8] Patti Smith's guitarist, Lenny Kaye, introduced Fred and Patti before a show they were both playing. The two subsequently married in 1980.[8]

The Smiths had two children together, a son, Jackson (born 1982), and a daughter, Jesse (born 1987). Jackson, a guitarist, was married to Meg White, formerly of the indie band The White Stripes.[11] Jesse is a pianist. Both have performed on stage with their mother and the rest of the Patti Smith Group.



On November 4, 1994, Fred Smith died in Detroit, at age 46. He had been in poor health for years and succumbed to heart failure.[4]

Musical equipment



  1. ^ Some sources show 1949 as Smith's year of birth.[2]


  1. ^ "The MC5". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  2. ^ Deming, Mark. "Fred "Sonic" Smith". Allmusic. Retrieved September 15, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Fred "Sonic" Smith", West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, 2018, retrieved June 17, 2020
  4. ^ a b Strauss, Neil (November 9, 1994), "Fred (Sonic) Smith, 44, Guitarist With Rock Bands of 3 Decades", The New York Times, retrieved January 14, 2011
  5. ^ Shimamoto, Ken. "Lost and found: a short history". Archived from the original on August 2, 2008. Retrieved August 3, 2008.
  6. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductees, Class of 2018", West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Inductees, Class of 2018, 2018, retrieved June 17, 2020
  7. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. September 18, 2003. Archived from the original on June 10, 2008. Retrieved May 2, 2009.
  8. ^ a b c McLeese, Don (2005). Kick out the Jams. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 113. ISBN 978-0-8264-1660-5.
  9. ^ Azerrad, Michael (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life. New York: Little, Brown. p. 236. ISBN 0-316-78753-1.
  10. ^ "Fred "Sonic" Smith". Wvmusichalloffame.com. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  11. ^ "White Stripes drummer ties knot". BBC. May 27, 2009. Retrieved October 15, 2012.