Neal Cassady

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Neal Leon Cassady (born February 8, 1926 in Salt Lake City , † February 4, 1968 in San Miguel de Allende , Mexico ) belonged to the literary group of the Beat Generation , less as an author than as a source of inspiration .


Born in Salt Lake City and raised in part by his alcoholic father in Denver, Cassady spent his youth either with him or on a trip through the USA in shabby hotels and preschools where he was sent for car theft or the like.

His importance for the Beat Generation developed from 1946 when he met Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University . He quickly became part of the Beatniks , traveled extensively with Kerouac through the United States and was in closer contact with Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs over the next two decades . Cassady lived in a shared apartment with Ginsberg and Charles Plymell in the 1960s. Cassady was a huge influence on the beatniks, especially Kerouac. His way of speaking became the model for Kerouac's style of prose. He was also the protagonist of a large number of his books, for example as Dean Moriarty in Kerouac's best-known work On the Road , as Cody in Visions of Cody and as a literary figure in Dharma Bums , Big Sur and Desolation Angel .

Allen Ginsberg, another beatnik poet, mentioned him in his most famous poem Howl as " NC, secret hero of these poems ... ". He is also one of the protagonists in Tom Wolfe's book The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test . The band Grateful Dead sang him as cowboy Neal in The Other One and dedicated the song called Cassidy to him in 1970 (actually the name of a baby who was born at the time, but the lyrics fit Cassady). Ken Kesey wrote in The Day After Superman Died about the day he heard the news of Cassady's death.

Cassady himself has only written one book, the autobiographical novel The First Third , which was published posthumously because he himself did not value it. Gordon Lish and Lawrence Ferlinghetti had urged him after he broke his leg and had no time for loitering. After Kerouac “retired” early, Cassady joined Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters , the forerunners of the hippie and psychedelic movement, in the early 1960s .

Cassady's wife Carolyn wrote about her relationship with Cassady in Heart Beat , which was later filmed with Nick Nolte (as Neal) and Sissy Spacek (as Carolyn). In January 1968, Cassady was touring Mexico with George Walker and girlfriend Annie Murphy. They moved into a beach house south of Puerto Vallarta and were soon joined by Barbara Wilson and Walter Cox of Berkeley.

After a wedding reception at San Miguel de Allende on February 3, 1968, Cassady walked along the railway line to get to the next town. Despite the cold and rainy night, he was only dressed in jeans and a T-shirt. In the morning he was found in a coma, and a few hours later he died in the hospital. An overdose of alcohol and other drugs was given as the cause of death .

The film How I first committed suicide (1997) with Thomas Jane in the role of writer is based on the "Joan Anderson Letter" that Cassady wrote to Kerouac. In 2007 the biopic Neal Cassady was released , which deals with Cassady's life after the publication of On the Road .

Cassady in popular culture


  • 1957: Jack Kerouac: On the Road. The original version. Reinbek near Hamburg, December 2011. ISBN 978-3-499-25383-6
  • 1968: Tom Wolfe: The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Reinbek near Hamburg.
  • 1968: Charles Bukowski : Notes of a Dirty Old Man. (4th story) Frankfurt a. M. 2012. ISBN 3-596-90515-X



  • 1968: Grateful Dead : The Other One (as Cowboy Neal in the lyrics ).
  • 1977: Tom Waits : Jack & Neal , on the album Foreign Affairs .
  • 1982: King Crimson : Neal and Jack and Me , on the album Beat .
  • 1996: Fatboy Slim : Neal Cassady Starts Here , single b-side.
  • 2014: Morrissey : Neal Cassady Drops Dead , second song on the album World Peace Is None of Your Business .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Cassady, Neal .: The Angel's Wing: Autobiographical, personal testimonies, letters to Jack Kerouac . Hannibal, St. Andrä-WIERT 1997, ISBN 3-85445-136-9 .
  2. "I got to know Kerouac's hero Neal Cassady before he lay down on those railroad tracks in Mexico."
  3. : The Other One - Lyrics.