Monday, September 14, 2009

RIP - Jim Carroll

Poet, Punk Rocker and Outlaw Enfant Terrible Jim Carroll died on Friday in his Manhattan home. He was just 60 years old.

He was a teenage basketball star for the elite Manhattan private school Trinity when he first became addicted to both heroin and poetry. The combination of all three aspects made his 1978 memoir of those years, The Basketball Diaries, a cult classic.

While still a teen he fell under the spell of words, spending any time not on the court at St. Mark's Poetry Project in the East Village. In 1967, he self-published a pamphlet called Organic Trains, which won him a small following. His 1970 follow up, 4 Ups and 1 Down was even more successful, and his fame was compounded when The Paris Review published excerpts from his journals.

Now acclaimed by such lights as Patti Smith and Allen Ginsberg as the most original poet of his generation, he began a frenetic period, briefly attending Columbia and falling in with Andy Warhol's factory scene. He lived for a time with Smith and artist Robert Mapplethorpe.

After Living at the Movies, his first poetic work with a mainstream publisher, was released in 1973 to great acclaim, he fled New York for California. While there he cleaned up, got married and got divorced. He also published, in 1978, The Basketball Diaries, beginning his series of publications of his journals. The memoir was widely acclaimed and became one of the seminal wild youth cult books.

Around this time, with some encouragement by Patti Smith, he formed The Jim Carroll Band and released his first album, Catholic Boy. With its classic single People Who Died, the album has been hailed as the last great American punk album of its time. Carroll was seen as the heir apparent to fellow rock n' roll poet Lou Reed. Though their follow up albums weren't as successful, Carroll kept his hand in music, writing for other artists and recording as late as 2000.

He also continued to release books of poetry. His last collection, Void Of Course, was published in 1998.

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