Jack Kerouac, born Jean-Louis Lebris de Kérouac, was born on March 12, 1922. He was an American novelist and poet that was a pioneer of the beat generation alongside William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. However, he was actually raised in a French-speaking home due to his French-Canadian ancestry.
Kerouac served during WWII in the United States Merchant Marine. This is where he completed his first novel which was published 40 years after its death. His most famous novel was the second one he wrote entitled On the Road in 1957. This made him a beat icon.
Jack Kerouac and Beat Writing
He actively disliked labels such as “beat icon.” His method was heavily influenced by the explosion of jazz music. He additionally included Buddhist ideologies that he accumulated over time and studied. He called this style “spontaneous prose.”
Although his prose was spontaneous and purposefully without edits, he wrote primarily autobiographical novels about events from his life and the people he met. These types of writings include Visions of Cody, and Big Sur.
The central features of his writing include breath which was borrowed from jazz and Buddhist influence. Also, including the improvisation of words and inherent structures of mind and language. This is all accompanied by limited revision.
Connected with these ideas was the elimination of the period. This was substituted by dashes (this connects into the idea of breath). When his prose was spoken aloud, the words take on a musical rhythm and tempo.
Kerouac would go on and on, often drunk, to his friends about this method. Some were critical of this such as Truman Capote, who said “That’s not writing, its typing.”
Jack Kerouac’s Legacy
Jack Kerouac’s works had a major impact on the popular rock music of the ’60s. These artists included Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Grateful Dead, and The Doors. They all have noted that Kerouac influenced not only their music but their lifestyles as well. Jim Morrison, frontman of The Doors, quotes Kerouac’s On the Road as one of the band’s greatest influences.
The keyboard player of The Doors states in his book Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors “I suppose if Jack Kerouac had never written On the Road, The Doors would have never existed.”
Kerouac’s legacy and his impact on rock music transcended into the 2000s. The Barenaked Ladies song “Baby Seat,” references Kerouac.
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