As Nick Tosches wrote in his 1978 Creem magazine review of the Patti Smith Group’s Easter, the album (which contains Smith’s biggest hit, “Because the Night”) is …
“… an album of Christian obsessions, especially those of death and resurrection.
” ‘If we die, souls arise,’ Smith rejoices in ‘Till Victory.’ In ‘Ghost Dance,’ the music of which is mindful of the tribal sounds of East Newark, what dominates is the dire, repeated chant, ‘We shall live again.’ The 23rd Psalm finds a place in ‘Privilege (Set Me Free),’ a song that starts with a high-mass organ.”
And then, of course, there is the album’s epic title track itself.
But below is a video for a 2010 Smith performance of the Easter album track that, I believe, has become associated with the Easter theme more than any other: “Ghost Dance,” co-written by Smith, who grew up in Deptford Township, and her guitarist Lenny Kaye, who is from New Brunswick.
The song obviously shows the influence of Native American music and culture, but also has Christian imagery (“Here we are, Father, Lord, Holy Ghost/Bread of Your bread, host of Your host/We are the tears that fall from Your eyes/Word of Your word, cry of Your cry”).
“We shall live again,” Smith and her bandmates sing, over and over.
New Jersey celebrated its 350th birthday in 2014. And in the 350 Jersey Songs series, we marked the occasion by posting 350 songs — one a day, from September 2014 to September 2015 — that have something to do with the state, its musical history, or both. To see the entire list, click here.