Monday, September 14, 2009

Jim Carroll is Now One of the People Who Died

Jim Carroll, an icon of the underground for his memoir, 'The Basketball Diaries,' died Friday, Sept. 11, in his New York City apartment of a heart attack, his ex-wife Rosemary Carroll told the New York Times. He was 60.
I met Jim in 1986, when he read some of his poetry at San Jose State University. Afterward, we shared a beer and some other non-heavy drugs. He was a really great guy--we watched an NBA game on TV and chatted for a couple of hours. Every time I meet a great writer, I go home and write. Jim re-excited me about writing back during a down period in my life.
Carroll also enjoyed success as the frontman for the band that sported his name, with the touching punk rock ode, 'People Who Died,' a furiously paced list of his fallen comrades, enjoying alternative radio success in the early '80s and turning up surprisingly on the soundtrack for 'E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial,' when Steven Spielberg chose the song for the opening scene of the film. He recorded multiple albums, including 'Dry Dreams' and 'I Write Your Name.'
Carroll's music connections always ran deep, with his stream of consciousness flow and storied life, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the film adaption of 'The Basketball Diaries,' being a perfect fit with the New York CBGB scene of the '70s. In fact, it was Patti Smith, who brought Carroll up on stage to share his poetry during a late '70s tour, that led him to form the Jim Carroll Band. He was eventually signed to Atlantic Records at the urging of Keith Richards. And while Carroll would take a 14-year absence from music, returning in 1998 with 'Pools of Mercury,' he remained a force in the music world, writing lyrics for acts like Blue Oyster Cult and performing live occasionally with the Doors' Ray Manzarek as part of a spoken word act.
He has been largely out of public eye in recent years, working on a novel he had been speaking of for some time, but the influence of 'Basketball Diaries' has never waned, with a new generation of musicians, like Pearl Jam, who recorded the title track to 'Catholic Boy' with Carroll for the film version of the book, Rancid, who invited Carroll to write part of the track 'Junky Man,' and Marilyn Manson and Drive-By Truckers, who covered Carroll songs, sharing his legacy.
He also wrote 'The Basketball Diaries' sequel 'Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries, 1971 - 1973,' and the critically lauded collections of poetry, 'Book of Nods' and 'Fear of Dreaming.' But it was 'The Basketball Diaries' for which he will forever be immortalized. I spent an afternoon with Carroll in 1998 in NYC and he talked about the influence of the book. "I remember doing this radio show to promote the soundtrack album to 'The Basketball Diaries," he recalled. "All these kids would call in and sayin' I saw the movie & how could you put out all that stuff about your life, how did you get the nerve to do that? I'd say something like, which is true, if you're going to be a writer you have to be able to put out everything about yourself."
Carroll is survived by a brother, Tom.

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