Jack Kerouac’s Poetry & Prose Read/Performed by 20 Icons: Hunter S. Thompson, Patti Smith, William S. Burroughs, Johnny Depp & More

Image by Tom Palum­bo, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Last year, we fea­tured a few read­ings and per­for­mances of the work of Jack Ker­ouac by musi­cians like Pat­ti Smith, John Cale, Thurston Moore, and Joe Strum­mer. Those tracks got laid down for 1997’s Ker­ouac: Kicks Joy Dark­ness, a trib­ute to the author of On the Road and The Dhar­ma Bums and an Amer­i­can cul­tur­al pres­ence as res­o­nant as they come. Now, you can lis­ten to the whole thing on Spo­ti­fy (whose free soft­ware you can down­load here) and rev­el in ren­di­tions of Ker­ouac’s poet­ry and prose by an even wider selec­tion of beloved alter­na­tive musi­cians: War­ren Zevon, Pearl Jam’s Eddie Ved­der, REM’s Michael Stipe, Son­ic Youth’s Lee Ranal­do show up on the ros­ter, to name but a few.

It also fea­tures con­tri­bu­tions from a great many sub­cul­ture-defin­ing non-musi­cians, includ­ing writ­ers like Hunter S. Thomp­son and William S. Bur­roughs, come­di­an Richard Lewis, actor Matt Dil­lon, poet Mag­gie Estep, and a gen­uine Beat emi­nence like Lawrence Fer­linghet­ti. It even brings in cul­tur­al fig­ures who, though known for oth­er pur­suits, also estab­lished enough of a side career in music to hold their own in the record­ing stu­dio, like John­ny Depp and The Bas­ket­ball Diaries author Jim Car­roll. We even hear Ker­ouac as inter­pret­ed with the help of no less a life­long musi­cian — and no less unex­pect­ed a musi­cian on an album like this — than Aero­smith’s Steven Tyler.

“Four­teen of the 25 tracks on this 79½-minute disc are drawn from Ker­ouac’s poet­ry book Pomes All Sizes,writes All Music Guide’s William Ruhlmann. “The rest come from his nov­els (noth­ing from On the Road, though) and let­ters, with some unpub­lished work also includ­ed.” Ruhlmann points out Ker­ouac’s own lack of enthu­si­asm for rock and pref­er­ence for jazz, high­light­ing Ranal­do, Zevon, Dil­lon, and Lewis’ con­tri­bu­tions as clos­est to the man’s own sen­si­bil­i­ty. But alto­geth­er, he writes, they “present a good sam­pling of Ker­ouac’s lit­er­ary con­cerns, and, whether appro­pri­ate or not, the record­ings demon­strate his exten­sive influ­ence” — a per­fect demon­stra­tion of how the cool of one era can inspire the cool of anoth­er.

Ker­ouac: Kicks Joy Dark­ness will be added to our list of col­lec­tion, 1,000 Free Audio Books: Down­load Great Books for Free.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jack Kerouac’s Poems Read by Pat­ti Smith, John Cale & Oth­er Cul­tur­al Icons (with Music by Joe Strum­mer)

Jack Ker­ouac Lists 9 Essen­tials for Writ­ing Spon­ta­neous Prose

Pull My Daisy: 1959 Beat­nik Film Stars Jack Ker­ouac and Allen Gins­berg

Jack Ker­ouac Reads from On the Road (1959)

Jack Kerouac’s Naval Reserve Enlist­ment Mugshot, 1943

Col­in Mar­shall writes on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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