Childhood & Early Life
He was born as Neal Leon Cassady on February 8, 1926 in Salt Lake City, Utah. His early life had a tragic beginning as he lost his mother Maude Jean at the tender age of ten. After the death of his mother, he was left under the care of his alcoholic father, Neal Marshall Cassady.
For most of his growing years, he lived on the streets of Skid row, a shabby neighbourhood in Denver, Colorado. These years were troubled and he became involved in a lot of petty crimes.
At the age of fourteen, he was arrested for stealing a car. He was later caught for shoplifting, fencing and other petty crimes.
Around 1941, when he was 15, he came to the notice of a teacher named Justin W. Brierly. Brierly soon became his mentor and got him admitted into the East High School.
In spite of being mentored by Justin W. Brierly, he continued his notorious lifestyle and was arrested. In 1944, he was imprisoned for a period of eleven months. During this period he wrote letters to Brierly.
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In 1947, he relocated to New York City along with his wife, LuAnne Henderson. Here he met writers, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg at Columbia University through his mentor and friend, Hal Chase.
In 1940s, along with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, he co-authored the poem, 'Pull My Daisy'. This was also made into a short film of the same name, inspired by an incident in his life.
He formed a close friendship with writers, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg and socialised with their friends. Soon, he became a member of the ‘Beat Generation', a community of writers who came to eminence in the 1950s, post the World War II.
Personal Life & Legacy
In October 1945, he marred, LuAnne Henderson, a fifteen year old. Their marriage was annulled in 1948.
In 1948, he married Carolyn Cassady, with whom he fathered three children. They settled down in Monte Sereno, California.
In 1950, he wed Diane Hansen in what would become a bigamous marriage. They had a son named, Curtis.
He shared a sexual relationship with his friend, writer Allen Ginsberg. This relationship went on for twenty years.
In 1958, he was arrested after being caught using marijuana at a San Francisco nightclub. He was sentenced for two years at San Quentin State Prison. After he came out from prison he found it difficult to take care of his family.
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In 1963, after his parole expired, his wife Carolyn Cassady divorced him. Following this, he moved into an apartment with Allen Ginsberg and Charles Plymell.
In 1964, he became a part of the group named, ‘Merry Pranksters', which was quite outspoken about use of psychedelic drugs.
In 1964, he was also one of the drivers of the legendary bus, ‘Furthur’, which had facilities like stove, fridge and beds inside. The bus was driven across America.
From 1967, he travelled to Mexico. The next year, he travelled to various cities in America, including San Francisco, New York, Denver, Colorado and came back to Mexico.
On February 3, 1968, after a wedding party in Guanajuato, Mexico, he went for a walk beside a railroad track but passed out due to the extreme weather conditions. The next morning, he was found in a state of coma and died a few hours later.
A short story written by Ken Kesey titled, 'The Day After Superman Died', provided a fictional account of his death.
In 1971, his autobiographical novel, ‘The First Third' was posthumously published.
Author Jack Kerouac's novel, 'On the Road' is inspired by his travels and a character in the novel is loosely based on him.
He has been referenced in many works of music. Some of the songs based on him include, ‘That's It For The Other One' by The Grateful Dead, 'The Persecution & Restoration of Dean Moriarty (On The Road)' by Aztec Two Step and 'Neal Cassady' by the Washington Squares.
He has been referenced in the films like 'Heart Beat', 'Who'll Stop The Rain', 'The Last Time I Committed Suicide', 'Luz Del Mundo’, 'Neal Cassady', 'Howl', 'Across the Universe' and 'Love Always, Carolyn - A film about Kerouac, Cassady and Me'.