Lenny Kaye will read from ‘Lightning Striking’ book at free Montclair Public Library event

LENNY KAYE montclair



Lenny Kaye — a founding member of the Patti Smith Group who is also a seasoned music journalist, author, producer and songwriter — will read from his evocative 2021 book, “Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll,” and be interviewed by me, at the Montclair Public Library, June 24 at 4 p.m.

The event is part of the library’s popular literary conversation series, Open Book/Open Mind, and is presented by both the Montclair Public Library and NJArts.net.

After the discussion, Kaye will play a few tunes, answer audience members’ questions and sign books. The event is free and requires registration at bit.ly/OBOM_KayeLive.

In the book, Kaye takes a journey to 10 places and eras where rock was developed. At the reading, he will discuss some of those scenes, including Elvis Presley’s Memphis in 1954, The Beatles’ Liverpool in 1962, San Francisco in 1967, The Sex Pistols’ and The Clash’s London in 1977, and Nirvana’s Seattle in 1991.

Kaye writes about the communal energy that creates such a scene, and what it felt like to be part of the CBGB scene in New York in the ’70s.

I will speak with him about these scenes and his adventures over the years, as well as his current projects. Learn about why he calls himself Zen Len and about his longstanding friendship with Patti Smith.

The cover of Lenny Kaye’s book, “Lightning Striking: Ten Transformative Moments in Rock and Roll.”

Is there a connective thread in the scenes he chose to write about in “Lightning Striking”?

“Yearning,” he said in a prior interview. “A sense that you can be a part of something, that you can express yourself through music, that you can be who you’ve always hoped to be, by being in a band.”

He said that these scenes exist “where it’s not just the musicians onstage, but it’s the audience, how people are dressing, what they’re reacting to, what the social situation is. All of these things go into the ecology of this transformative moment where all of a sudden, things move up the evolutionary scale in the music.”

Kaye writes the same way as he speaks, with the intensity of an electrifying guitarist and the urgency of a beat poet.

Kaye has worked with a wide range of artists over the years, including Suzanne Vega, Jim Carroll, Allen Ginsberg, Jessi Colter and Soul Asylum. His other books include “Waylon: An Autobiography,” about Waylon Jennings (and co-written with him); and “You Call It Madness: The Sensuous Song of the Croon.”

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2021 as a member of the Patti Smith Group and is currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of Nuggets: Original Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968, the influential garage-rock anthology he produced.


Since launching in September 2014, NJArts.net, a 501(c)(3) organization, has become one of the most important media outlets for the Garden State arts scene. And it has always offered its content without a subscription fee, or a paywall. Its continued existence depends on support from members of that scene, and the state’s arts lovers. Please consider making a contribution of any amount to NJArts.net via PayPal, or by sending a check made out to NJArts.net to 11 Skytop Terrace, Montclair, NJ 07043.


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