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Howl: A Soundtrack to Ginsberg

Artist Song
Billie Holiday, remixed by Tricky  Strange Fruit (orig. 1938; remix 2000) 
Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane  Epistrophy (1957) 
Bob Dylan  Subterranean Homesick Blues(1965) 
Velvet Underground  Heroin (1967) 
Patti Smith  Gloria (1975) 
The Clash  Ghetto Defendant (1982) 
Tom Waits  9th & Hennepin (1985) 
Nirvana   Rape Me (1993) 
At the Drive-In  Invalid Litter Dept. (2000) 
Ani DiFranco  Garden of Simple (2001) 


This was an assignment for a class, believe it or not. It's a soundtrack organized around some thematic element to Ginsberg's "Howl and Other Poems" (the text was my choice from a long list- probably the most difficult, actually).

These songs are organized chronologically, on the assumption that Beat poetry and specifically the text of "Howl" pts I-III and "Footnote to Howl" desire and work intertextually with music. It's about the creation of a youth culture, the tendency of any of the keepers of "high art" to dismiss a counterculture movement as substanceless and adolescent- thus the Nirvana track, Velvet Underground track (Beats after all initated the Lower East Side avant garde scene the Velvets later thrived in). Patti is a descendant of that movement too; she revises Van Morrison's male text/song "Gloria", as Ginsberg revises/rewrites Whitman. Monk & Coltrane = bebop standard; the Beats loved bebop- bop prosody, ya know ya know. Et cetera. The Clash track is pure urban misery and calls out to the "ghetto prince of ghetto poets"- in this case Rimbaud, for the sake of the soundtrack Ginsberg. Ani revises the first line of "Howl" to: "the best minds of my generation can't make bail" in a rant about technocracy and a pill-addled America that ignores its cultural wealth (ie, the poets and songwriters).

The Dylan track- Ginsberg actually appears in the background of the video for this, uncredited. First Dylan album to be partially electric; lyrics align him with the spontaneity and beatitude of the Beats.

Tom Waits- ultimate contemporary poet of cityscapes and underdogs. This is a sweet two minutes of Waits growling out a grimy scape for us to contemplate.

And finally- At the Drive-In: a modernist take on Kerouac-type babble, raised to political snarl. "Dancing on the corpse's ashes.."

I totally failed this project, but hell, the mix is good. Organized chronologically for the sake of the paper, but some great tracks that might never have made it onto one of my mixes all together otherwise.
image for mix


Date: 4/30/2004
Way to go!
bonnie heart clyde
Date: 4/30/2004
this is really great.
p the swede
Date: 5/1/2004
way cool
Date: 5/1/2004
"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,".

Excellent choice, great execution and damm fine mix!
James Jackson
Date: 5/1/2004
Wow! This is excellent. If this was an assignment for a class, I wanna meet that professor. A mighty fine job here. 5 stars!!!
Date: 5/1/2004
great choices, nice looking mix.
Sean Lally
Date: 5/1/2004
i dig it!
609Cs Corner
Date: 5/2/2004
Mega rad!