Neal Cassady was a leading figure in the Beat Generation during the late 1940s and through the 1950s. Although he wasn’t one of its most famous writers, he was the leading muse for them. Cassady was the inspriation behind Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, and Allen Ginsberg immortalized him in his famous poem “Howl”: “N.C., secret hero of these poems”. Cassady made strides in literature that are often overcast by the works of his fellow Beatniks, but for those same writers his work was greatly inspiring. He would write lengthy stream of conscious letters to his loved ones that Kerouac believed were the best American writing he’d ever read. His writing was impulsive and lacked discipline, but was presumably therapeutic as well. He once confessed to Kerouac, “there is something there that wants to come out; something of my own that must be said. Yet, perhaps, words are not the way for me.” (Staton, 2012)
Cassady was born on February 8, 1926 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The infamous muse grew up in Denver on skid row; his mother died when he was a kid and his father was an alcoholic. He attended Denver East High School, but didn’t graduate or spend much time there–his spent most of it stealing cars and charming strangers. After he died in 1968, though, he did receive an honorary diploma.Through the writing of his fellow Beat Gens, Cassady became known as a crazy, charismatic womanizer who belonged on the road. However, in recent years, his seond wife Carolyn Cassady has debunked a few of these myths, stating that Neal was in fact a family man who found joy in ordinary life as well as the adventures the Beat Generation offered him.
Written by Jonina Diele and Christian Powell
Neal Cassady, left, pictured with Jack Kerouac in San Francisco, inspired a character in On the Road.
Image Source (Top): - Rocky Mountain News via Denver Public Library -