Poet and punk rocker Jim Carroll, whose life story was famously documented in his autobiography The Basketball Diaries, died following a heart attack on Friday, September 11th in New York City. Carroll was 60, the New York Times reports. The Basketball Diaries — which detailed Carroll’s struggles with drug use as a teenager in the 1960s — depicts his fall from prep school basketball star to heroin addict who turned to prostitution, all before Carroll was even 17 years old. Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Carroll in the 1995 film version of the book. Besides Basketball, Carroll’s other notable works include 4 Ups and 1 Down and 1973’s Living at the Movies.
After establishing himself as a poet, Carroll next turned to music, coaxed in part by his friend Patti Smith. Carroll caught the eye of the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards, who helped the Jim Carroll Band secure a three-record deal. Their first album, 1980’s Catholic Boy, is considered a landmark of the New York punk scene. Carroll followed the debut with two more LPs, 1982’s Dry Dreams and 1983’s I Write Your Name, then released a fourth album, Pools of Mercury, in 1998.
The soundtrack for the Basketball Diaries film also found Carroll collaborating with Pearl Jam on a new version of his song “Catholic Boy.” Carroll’s “People Who Died,” a Catholic Boy ode to Carroll’s friends who died too soon, also featured on the soundtrack of Steven Spielberg’s E.T.
“I met him in 1970, and already he was pretty much universally recognized as the best poet of his generation,” Patti Smith told the New York Times this weekend. “The work was sophisticated and elegant. He had beauty.” Rolling Stone spoke with Jim Carroll in 1999 following the release of Pools of Mercury, when Carroll discussed his songwriting process, Basketball‘s impact, the death of beat poets Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs and meeting Kurt Cobain. Read our interview with Jim Carroll below:
Carroll also contributed an untitled poem to the pages of Rolling Stone, which we have reprinted here:
It’s sad this vision required such height.
I’d have preferred to be down with the others, in the stadium.
They know the terror of birds.
I am left, instead, with the deep drone…
The urgency to deliver light, as if it
were some news from the far galaxies.
[From Issue 321 — July 10, 1980]