William S. Burroughs
The man who launched a thousand aspiring artists, writers, musicians and drug addicts, all of whom were drawn to his attractive-like-a-car-crash experimental prose. Burroughs may have been a beat, but he was pure Punk rock, living the life of a down-and-out criminal and low-life at a time when such behavior was hardly chic. As the world's original junkie punk, he collaborated with everyone from Kurt Cobain to Industrial provocateur Genesis P. Orridge; from the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy to expert arranger and producer Hal Willner. His albums can be as unsettling and powerful as his books, including the eclectic and brilliant Dead City Radio (1990) and the more straightforward readings found on Call Me Burroughs (1995). His influence can be felt myriad places -- when one listens to Lou Reed's dark, image-laden lyrics in the song "Heroin," or to Al Jorgensen's nihilistic vitriol on The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste. Performance artist Laurie Anderson often references his writings, and Gus Van Zant's casting choice of Burroughs as Tom the priest in Drugstore Cowboy was nothing short of inspired. Always restless in his creativity, Burroughs also dove into the world of modern art, proving himself to be quite handy with a shotgun and paint pellets. He died in 1997, miraculously making it to the ripe old age of eighty-three.