Turning Jack Kerouac’s Lyrical Prose into Beautiful Music

esperanza_songsfromjackkerouacJack Kerouac was the leading light of that maverick pack of 1950s writers who forged the Beat Generation and sparked a cultural revolution. While the image of Kerouac as a freewheeling spirit of the open road has endured, his 1960 novella Tristessa reveals his obsession with the darker recesses of human experience. In the grand scheme of the Kerouac timeline, Tristessa slices in between the adventures recounted in On The Road and his emotional breakdown chronicled in Big Sur.

Set in the seething cauldron of Mexico City in the 1950s, the story follows Kerouac’s love affair with Tristessa, a morphine-addicted prostitute. Reimagine Music has assembled what I feel is a stellar group of popular Indie Rock artists responding to this under-appreciated novella, adapting its themes to music, inspired by the lyricism of Kerouac’s prose: William Fitzsimmons, Tim & Adam, Gregory Alan Isakov, Peter Bradley Adams, Alela Diane, Wintersleep, Marissa Nadler, Joshua James, Lee Ranaldo (of Sonic Youth), Hey Rosetta!, Will Dailey, Willy Mason, Matt Costa, The Low Anthem, Neal McCarthy with Barbara Kessler, and Tony Dekker with Hanne Hukkelberg.

Esperanza: Songs from Jack Kerouac’s Tristessa was released on September 17. Reimagine has also released an abridged audio book reading by William Fitzsimmons.

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