14 Songs, 36 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jack Kerouac recorded three albums of his readings between 1958 and 1959. Each is a classic in its own right, but the first, Poetry for the Beat Generation, is arguably the most aurally appealing. Comedian/TV personality Steve Allen was a champion of visionary artists like Kerouac and Lenny Bruce, bringing them on his show to offer them mass exposure. But his support of Kerouac became more personal when Allen improvised jazz piano accompaniment for the iconoclastic writer's readings of the pieces on this recording. Allen provides just the right amount of sympathetic counterpoint without crowding Kerouac, as the Beat hero delivers his evocative, imagistic prose in his gruff-toned Massachusetts accent. Sometimes Kerouac's pieces are lighthearted and capricious, like "Goofing at the Table"; sometimes they're bittersweet narratives, like his account of his time as a train brakeman on "October in the Railroad Earth." But they consistently capture the human predicament in all its joy and sorrow, especially with Allen adding extra emotional coloring.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Jack Kerouac recorded three albums of his readings between 1958 and 1959. Each is a classic in its own right, but the first, Poetry for the Beat Generation, is arguably the most aurally appealing. Comedian/TV personality Steve Allen was a champion of visionary artists like Kerouac and Lenny Bruce, bringing them on his show to offer them mass exposure. But his support of Kerouac became more personal when Allen improvised jazz piano accompaniment for the iconoclastic writer's readings of the pieces on this recording. Allen provides just the right amount of sympathetic counterpoint without crowding Kerouac, as the Beat hero delivers his evocative, imagistic prose in his gruff-toned Massachusetts accent. Sometimes Kerouac's pieces are lighthearted and capricious, like "Goofing at the Table"; sometimes they're bittersweet narratives, like his account of his time as a train brakeman on "October in the Railroad Earth." But they consistently capture the human predicament in all its joy and sorrow, especially with Allen adding extra emotional coloring.

TITLE TIME
7:07
1:04
3:43
3:17
0:47
1:43
3:52
1:15
0:30
6:10
1:52
3:23
1:36
0:37

About Jack Kerouac

Jack Kerouac was the major writer of the "Beat" movement in the '50s. His major work was On the Road (1957), an autobiographical novel describing his travels in the company of a unique character named Dean Moriarty (in real life, Neal Cassady). In later novels, Kerouac told other tales of life on the road and also wrote of his childhood and upbringing in Lowell, MA. Although he was a profound influence on the youth of the '60s (and although Cassady, in contrast, enthusiastically joined in on the hippie movement as part of the Merry Pranksters and as a mentor to the Grateful Dead), Kerouac largely disavowed the hedonism and drug use of the '60s counterculture. His poetry and novels continue to influence young people decades after his death. ~ William Ruhlmann

  • ORIGIN
    Lowell, MA
  • BORN
    March 12, 1922

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