Legendary musician Patti Smith talks Trump, climate change and growing old

Since she rose to fame out of the 1970s New York punk scene, Patti Smith has been one of the most influential musicians of her generation.

Her iconic sound has inspired artists from Madonna to CourtneyLove.

But Patti Smith is far more than a rock star: a poet, activist and award winning writer, Smith, now aged 72, has always rigorously fought being put in easily defined boxes.

She is in the UK to promote her book, Year of the Monkey, a follow up to her acclaimed 2010 memoir Just Kids, and her ode to love and grief M Train, released in 2015.

Year of the Monkey details her travels around America during 2016, a momentous year both politically and personally for the singer.

It is a tale of loss, ageing, and a dramatic shift in the political landscape of America.

Patti Smith in concert. Credit: AP

The tumultuous events of that year have given Smith a new relevance; appropriately for a woman who has long been an activist, Smith's 1998 hit, People are the Power has now been adopted by people around the world as a protest song, a rallying call against environmental complacency and a political landscape veering towards the right.

Smith applauds the recently galvanised climate crisis protests led by Swedish schoolgirl activist Greta Thunberg and believes her generation have a part to play in a new generation's fight to force change.

"Young people are confronted with a lot more than we were confronted (with), so we have to be fair," she told ITV News.

"What are they doing that is productive?" she continues. "And what are they concerned about and how can we help them, and even more important, support them?

"So, like what young Greta says, 'don't think of youth as being our hope, get out there and join us'."

"They're burgeoning, they're beloved dandelions, wildflowers, and they're sprouting all over the world."

Patti Smith in 1998. Credit: AP

It is perhaps no surprise Smith is no fan of the current incumbent of the White House, describing Donald Trump as "very narcissistic" and "not very honourable".

She tells ITV News: "It bothers me that a person representing our country, also representing us, is such an uneducated man, lacking empathy, compassion, a sense of history, a sense of the importance of allies, the importance of opening up one's door to people who are experiencing strife.

"What he's done to our environment, his lack of comprehension of the importance of the global conversation about our environment... It's like every single day, one can be angry, humiliated, or shocked at the things that he does."

She says she hopes people around the world understand he "does not not represent the views of the lion's share of the American people."

Patti Smith with the Dalai Lama, who came on as a guest during her set on The Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, 2015. Credit: PA

Now in her 70s, Smith is beginning to reflect on a life in and out of the limelight and growing old, themes explored in Year of the Monkey.

But while she confronts mortality in the book, she claims the only thing she misses from her own youth is her "really black hair".

"But also, the trade off I find myself being able to articulate myself better when I'm writing. All the experience I have as a performer, as a singer. I think just keeping engaged and happy, smiling, are very good youth serums."