While I’m still thinking of it, in 2009, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo (and Son Volt) wrote and recorded an album of songs for a documentary about Jack Kerouac, using lines Kerouac wrote in his novel Big Sur.
I’ve always thought this was a cool idea, but I think some of my interest comes from not being able to trust it. Like, the songs are catchy enough, in that Death-Cab-let’s-go-sit-in-the-sun-is-my-hair-perfectly-mussed sort of way, but the more you turn it over, the more problematic it is.
Did Kerouac get a credit? Does this really feel like something he had in mind or would have put his name on? Like, I’m sure Kerouac was aware of Woody Guthrie, but jazz tends to figure much more prominently in his work, and whether or not the songs are good, they’re linked to him now, whether or not he would’ve wanted them to be.
So what does that make One Fast Move Or I’m Gone, if not some sort of bizarre tribute album, a posthumous addendum to Kerouac’s published works he had no say in? What is music taken from prose, configured into a style that wouldn’t have been available to the original writer?