Happy Birthday To The ‘Pope of Dope’

5 Feb

William S. Burroughs (5.2.1914 – 2.8.1997)

220px-William_S._Burroughs_at_the_Gotham_Book_Mart

He’s hard to condense in tribute as there was so much going on with the man … but my naivety prevails and I’ll go ahead anyway. Because love him or hate him, he was a one of the purest of human beings who lived every atom of his life – wretched and stapled with genius.
“In the magical universe there are no coincidences and there are no accidents. Nothing happens unless someone wills it to happen.”  William Burroughs

William Seward Burroughs was born on this day in 1914. His family, of wealthy means stemmed from St. Louis, Missouri and his upbringing was modeled on the conservative bearings of his family’s background of the time. Throughout his puberty, ambivalence to his own sexuality – he states, was a product of his repressed upbringing. He kept journals relating to the erotic attachment he’d had to another boy at boarding school – he later destroyed the journals. Throughout his life he was sexually and romantically involved with both men and women.
He went on to study English at Havard University, afterwards attended medical school in Vienna. After his move to New York in 1943 he befriended Alan Ginsberg and Jack Karouac – all three were at the helm of the ‘Beat Generation’, fiercely opposing the dominant values of their society. He also met Joan Vollmer Adams in 1944 with whom he lived with and had a child together (Billy Burroughs, who died prior to his father in 1981, after fighting the symptoms of alcohol addiction). Vollmer was  accidentally killed by Burroughs when he shot her during a drunken game of ‘William Tell’ in Mexico 1951.
This event was said to have marked his writing from then on. Stated to have said “I’m forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death,”  – that he also quoted the poet Edwin Arlington Robinson: “There are mistakes too monstrous for remorse.”
Burroughs opened up his own can of worms, spooning them into his writings – drugs, his own addiction – his torment with addiction, the grotesque and pornographic underbelly of society labelled the ingredient on the can. His third and probably best known novel ‘Naked Lunch’ (1959) was his first non linear work of which David Cronenberg directed the film of the book in 1991.

William Burroughs  influenced many musicians. His cutting of texts inspired by the artist and close companion Bryan Gysin went on to inspire the work of David Bowie. Patti Smith cited him as having influenced her becoming an artist, Lou Reed, Sonic Youth, Kurt Cobain, Joy Division, Thom Yorke and many more have also had their 10 peneth to say on Burroughs. He’s depicted on the cover of The Beatles ‘Sargeant Peppers…’ Album (2. row next to Marilyn Monroe) and the band Steely Dan is named after a dildo in Naked Lunch.

Burroughs last entry in his book ‘Last Words’ before he died were: ” Love, the most natural painkiller what there is.”

So with that rather long lead, here are a couple of birthday songs for Mr William Seward Burroughs.

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