Poet Jim Carroll wrote his best-known work, The Basketball Diaries, when he was only 12 years old. He was the type of writer who didn’t hold back anything about himself. And The Basketball Diaries tells the true brutal story of drug addiction and life on the streets for a teenager in New York City. But in the end, Carroll sobered up and started reading his poems on the literary circuit and he started to combine his readings with live instrumentation.
Jim wasn’t the first poet to record with musicians, but he took the marriage of music and spoken word to new heights. He formed a super tight rock group, The Jim Carroll Band, and their punk-pop song “People Who Died” hit number 2 on the charts in 1980, second only to John Lennon’s song “Imagine.” The Jim Carroll Band’s album Catholic Boy is still an underground cult favorite among indie music fans. Jim Carroll collaborated with other musicians too, like Patti Smith, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Lou Reed, Rancid, Pearl Jam and Sonic Youth. This episode from our KEXP Documentary series “Poets and Music” brings you an inside look at Carroll’s writing, music and the man behind the image.
Jim Carroll’s last novel, The Petting Zoo, was just released. You can pick up a copy at catholicboy.com.
KEXP Documentaries are created by Michele Myers with assistance from John Felthous, Tiffany Grobelski, Mary Janisch and Executive Producer Kevin Cole. If you would like to follow along more closely in the creation of these radio stories, we post research materials, songs and videos on our Facebook page and on Twitter.