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Saturday, April 7, 2012

On Jim Carroll's Crow


A while back (in 2010) I got a call from Dave Nazworthy who was helping a friend of his (the super cool Tyson Cornell, Rare Bird Lit, http://www.rarebirdlit.com/) assemble an event at the Echo in Los Angeles to celebrate the release of a posthumous collection by Jim Carroll, The Petting Zoo.  The event was officially called the Nervous Breakdown Literary Experience II celebrating the release of Jim Carroll's new posthumously-released novel The Petting Zoo  and took place November 13, 2010. I didn't know any of the other people involved, but I was flattered to be asked just the same. There was a band assembled to knock out a half dozen songs, and I asked to do Crow, one of my favorite songs from the Catholic Boy lp. I was hardly ready for such and undertaking, but wanted to participate just the same. It was awkward, and I felt like a Martian. The story of my life.

Crow was written about Patti Smith. The two met in 1970 at a poetry reading, and for a brief time Carroll lived with Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. Carroll's most famous work is the autobiographical Basketball Diaries which chronicled his transformation from Catholic high school basketball star to poetry, and eventually into heroin addiction.

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"Crow" 

(from Catholic Boy, Jim Carroll, 1980)

It must be strange to just fall from the stage
and snap a bone that is so close to the brain
And be attended to by so many down below
I saw a doctor tie you up from so far above
And you start sinking just like light through a black floor
You’d start sliding like burned skin to a side door

But crow, when you throw yourself under
Singing's hard when you can't lose control
They don't know, to them in the dark you don't whisper nothin'
And they're' all gonna try and rip the wind from your soul

Must of been hard to be a cashier in a bookstore
And to be surrounded by the history of your true loves
And you'd get naked between the deep shelves in the back room
And have your brain get tan by sharp fluorescent light tubes
And you start spinning like the pillars in the temple
You'd start screaming just like Sister Aimee Semple

But Crow, when you throw yourself under
The streets are hard when you cannot lose control
They don't know, to them the dark don't whisper nothin'
And they're all gonna try and rip the wind from your soul . . . 

Crow

It was so sweet when you brought donuts to the junkies
Hey, you'd give us something we'd go slip into our coffee
And we'd start reading lines from poems that didn't matter
You covered me with blankets in the Chelsea Hotel lobby
And I’d start reachin' for the scar along your belly
They'd start takin' us ‘cause winning is their hobby

But Crow, when you throw yourself under
The streets are hard when you cannot lose control
They don't know, to them the dark don't whisper nothin'’
And they're all gonna try and rip the wind from your soul . . . 

Crow 

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I am hardly a good source for minutia on Jim Carroll, but in the Basketball Diaries, and later through the record Catholic Boy, and books Forced Entries and Living at the Movies- I discovered a compelling story of an incredible life and its choices. 

For more on Jim Carroll I suggest this great resource as a starting point http://www.catholicboy.com/index.php and suggest that if you haven't seen the Leonardo Dicaprio film the Basketball Diaries, that you skip it for now, and go straight to the source.

Jim Carroll (August 1, 1949 to September 11, 2009)    

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