- Category : Writer
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Sphinx 1
William Seward Burroughs II (February 5, 1914(1914-02-05) - August 2, 1997), more commonly known as William S. Burroughs (pronounced ), was an American novelist, essayist, social critic, painter and spoken word performer.
Much of Burroughs' work is semi-autobiographical, drawn from his experiences as an opiate addict, a condition that marked the last fifty years of his life. A primary member of the Beat Generation, he was an avant-garde author who affected popular culture as well as literature. In 1984, he was elected to the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Appearances in media
Burroughs participated on numerous album releases by Giorno Poetry Systems, including The Nova Convention (also featuring Frank Zappa, John Cage and Philip Glass) and You're the Guy I Want to Share My Money With (with John Giorno and Laurie Anderson). He featured doing a spoken word piece entitled "Sharkey's Night," on the Laurie Anderson album Mister Heartbreak. In addition, Burroughs provided vocal samples for the soundtrack of Anderson's 1986 concert film, Home of the Brave and cameoed in it. Furthermore, in 1992 he recorded "Quick Fix" with the band Ministry, which appeared on their single for "Just One Fix." The single featured cover art by Burroughs and a remix of the song dubbed the "W.S.B. mix." Burroughs also made an appearance in the video for "Just One Fix."
In 1968, an abbreviated version of the film Häxan (77 minutes as opposed to the original's 104 minutes) was released subtitled Witchcraft Through The Ages. This version featured an eclectic jazz score by Jean-Luc Ponty and dramatic narration by William S. Burroughs, produced by Anthony Balch.
Burroughs appeared in a number of cameos in films and videos, such as David Blair's Wax: or the Discovery of Television among the Bees, 1991,in which he plays a beekeeper, in an elliptic story about the first Gulf War, and Decoder (1984) by Klaus Maeck. Rundown at Internet Movie Database. He played an aging junkie priest in Drugstore Cowboy by Gus Van Sant. He appears briefly at the beginning of "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" (1993- based on the Tom Robbins novel, directed by Gus Van Sant) crossing the street; as the noise of the city rises around him he pauses in the middle of the intersection and speaks the single word "harmonious." He also made a number of short films in the 1960s based upon his works, directed by Antony Balch. Near the end of his life, recordings of Burroughs reading his short stories "A Junky's Christmas" and "Ah Pook is Here" were used to great effect on the soundtracks of two highly acclaimed animated film adaptations of the pieces. He also gave a reading on Saturday Night Live on 7 November 1981 (host: Lauren Hutton; musical guest: Rick James). The reading received mixed responses.
A documentary titled "Burroughs", directed by Howard Brookner, was released in 1984. It included footage of Burroughs and many of his friends and colleagues.
Burroughs and Kurt Cobain collaborated on a track called "The Priest They Called Him," in which Burroughs performs a spoken word of a short story and Cobain creates layers of guitar feedback and distortions. Nirvana bassist Krist Novaselic is featured on the cover as "the Priest."
Burroughs also featured in the 1997 music video Last Night on Earth by U2. He appears at the end of the video pushing a shopping cart with a large spotlight positioned inside it. The video ends with a close up of Burroughs's eyes. His scenes were filmed only a few weeks before his death.
The short film "Thanksgiving prayer" by Gus Van Sant is a reading of the poem "Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986" from Tornado Alley. It features a collage of black and white patriotic images intercut with Burroughs reading of the poem to great effect. The video was played on MTV europe, mostly during the nighttime.
In March 2006 the title track from the Material album Seven Souls, which features Burroughs, was played during the opening montage of the first episode of the sixth season of The Sopranos.
Burroughs narrated part of the 1980 documentary Shamans of the Blind Country by anthropologist and filmmaker Michael Oppitz. http://www.musethno.unizh.ch/de/publikationen/michael_oppitz.html
The song Atlantis to Interzone (2006) by London band Klaxons is named after Atlantis, the mythical lost city, and Burrough's concept of 'Interzone' - the idea of a non-space.
Burroughs appears in the first part of The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson (initially during a student riot), and is described as a person devoid of anger, passion, indignation or hope or any other humanly recognizable emotion. He is presented as a polar opposite of Allen Ginsberg, as Ginsberg believed in everything and Burroughs believed in nothing.
Burroughs' works have inspired the naming of several musical groups over the years. The most notable of these was Steely Dan, named after a dildo in Naked Lunch, also from the novel Naked Lunch came the band name The Mugwumps. The band Soft Machine took its name from Burroughs' novel of the same name, while the alt-country group Clem Snide takes its name from a recurring character in Burroughs' works. The band Soft Boys took its name from two of Burroughs' novels Soft Machine and Wild Boys.