People Who Died
Making it onto the Billboard Chart’s Top 100 list in 1980, the Jim Carroll Band’s hit single “People Who Died” had – and continues to have - multiple lives. The fifth track on the Jim Carroll Band’s first album Catholic Boy, “People Who Died” is name-checked in novels (Jennifer Ball’s Catalyst; Michael Muhammad Knight’s The Taqwacores). It is summoned in autobiographies (Steve Rutz’s Renewing Your Mind; Vanessa Gezarri’s The Tender Soldier). We hear it in films as various as Steven Spielberg’s ET: The Extra Terrestrial; Fritz Kierch’s Tuff Turf; and Zack Snyder’s 2004 remake of George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. And yet, despite the way Carroll’s “People Who Died” has resonated across the decades, few critics even bother to mention that Carroll’s song is inspired directly by Ted Berrigan’s poem “People Who Died,” first published in 1969. This chapter analyzes how the last great punk song on the last great punk album was actually modeled on a New York School poem.
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