Back in my mid-20s I went through a really dark period in my life. It was the mid-90s, “grunge” music was still pretty big even though Kurt Cobain just died. I was anti-social to say the least, so I dove head first into music and reading books, mostly poetry and biographies about tortured artists. I fell in love with Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Wurtzel and Truman Capote.
In 1995 the major motion picture “Basketball Diaries” came out. Embarrassed, I didn’t know who Jim Carroll was, so it didn’t make much difference to me. Then I saw the soundtrack featuring The Cult, Green Apple Quick Step, P J Harvey, Pearl Jam, The Posies, Soundgarden etc. and that changed everything.
There were spoken word pieces from Carroll scattered through the soundtrack and it drew me in like something I never really felt before. Carroll’s voice, crackling, almost shuddering finding the words as he spoke about the dark times in New York just amazed me being a kid from a small corn-fed town.
I went to the book store and bought the screenplay for “Basketball Diaries” and a few of his other books: “The Book of Nods” (which was my favorite), “Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries: 1971-1973” and “Fear of Dreaming: The Selected Poems.” Soon I was swimming in books by Carroll. They inspired me, they comforted me, they took me on adventures my mind hasn’t ever seen before.
I went a step further into my Carroll obsession, purchasing his CDs ‘Catholic Boy,’ ‘Dry Dreams,’ and ‘Praying Mantis.’ His music was good, but his books were far better. His music only spawned one hit with “People Who Died,” a song that was in daily rotation of my CD player.
As dark as those times were in my life, those were good times too; hiding out in my room with Sylvia and Jim. Plath died a long time ago and more recently Carroll lost his life too. I can’t imagine touching people, making a statement for people like Carroll did. He was far from a saint, he was an addict, make no bones about it. I was never an addict, in fact I’ve never done any drugs, but for some reason, for that one moment in time, Jim Carroll, the addict, the poet, the punk rocker, was figuratively my friend and picked me up through his weakness.
Thank you, Jim Carroll, may you rest in peace and your legacy live on forever.