Fred "Sonic" Smith

Fred "Sonic" Smith
Birth name Frederick Dewey Smith
Born (1948-09-14)September 14, 1948
West Virginia, U.S.
Died November 4, 1994(1994-11-04) (aged 46)
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
Years active 1964–1988
Associated acts

Frederick Dewey Smith (September 14, 1948[1][a] – November 4, 1994), known professionally as Fred "Sonic" Smith, was an American guitarist, best known as a member of the influential and political Detroit rock band MC5.[3] At age 31, he married and raised a family with poet and fellow rock musician Patti Smith. The couple collaborated musically, and raised two children together.


Smith 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.[4] 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[5] alongside Hasil Adkins and Ann Magnuson.[6]

Personal life

Smith was first married to Sigrid Dobat. They had a baby who passed of SIDS. Fred was still married to Sigrid when he started an affair with Patti Smith. Smith was born on Broad Branch in the Harts Creek area of Lincoln County, West Virginia.[5] He was born in his family's kitchen during an electrical storm, delivered by his grandfather.[5]

He and his band opened a show for singer and poet Patti Smith.[7] Patti Smith's guitarist, Lenny Kaye, introduced Fred and Patti before the show. The two were married in 1980.[7]

Together the Smiths had a son, Jackson (born 1982) and a daughter, Jesse (born 1987). Jackson, a guitarist, was married to Meg White (formerly of indie band The White Stripes).[8] Jesse is a pianist. Both have performed on stage with their mother along with other members of the Patti Smith Group.

A resident of St. Clair Shores, Michigan (a Detroit suburb), Fred Smith died in Detroit in 1994. He had been in poor health for years and succumbed to heart failure.[3]


In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Smith #93 in its list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.[9]

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",[7] 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.[10]

Inducted into West Virginia Music Hall of Fame 2018. Award given by Lenny Kaye accepted by Patti Smith, Jesse Smith and Jackson Smith.[11]

Musical equipment


See also



  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 Strauss, Neil (9 November 1994), "Fred (Sonic) Smith, 44, Guitarist With Rock Bands of 3 Decades", The New York Times, retrieved 2011-01-14
  4. ^ Shimamoto, Ken. "Lost and found: a short history". Archived from the original on 2008-08-02. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
  5. ^ a b c "Fred "Sonic" Smith", West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, 2018, retrieved 2020-06-17
  6. ^ "Hall of Fame Inductees, Class of 2018", West Virginia Music Hall of Fame Inductees, Class of 2018, 2018, retrieved 2020-06-17
  7. ^ a b c McLeese, Don (2005). Kick out the Jams. Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 113. ISBN 978-0-8264-1660-5.
  8. ^ "White Stripes drummer ties knot". BBC. 27 May 2009. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
  9. ^ "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". Rolling Stone. 18 September 2003. Archived from the original on June 10, 2008. Retrieved 2009-05-02.
  10. ^ Azerrad, Michael (2001). Our Band Could Be Your Life. New York: Little, Brown. p. 236. ISBN 0-316-78753-1.
  11. ^ "Fred "Sonic" Smith". Retrieved 5 August 2020.

External links