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Listening to On the Road

Soundtrack for upcoming film adaptation of Kerouac classic is heavy on jazz

Slim Gaillard
Slim Gaillard

2012 was a big year for old Jack Kerouac, the bebop poet whose prose rode the crest of the postmodernist wave all the way back to the shores of pre-Vietnam America. First, Da Capo published The Sea Is My Brother. Written in 1943, this novel would have been the Beat bard’s debut, being completed just before The Town and the City (Harcourt Brace, 1950). The new film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation bible On the Road, directed by Walter Salles, hits theaters in the U.S. in December. One perfectly smart question is: How does one go about soundtracking such a film in which jazz culture and music are as pivotal to the story’s mood and plot as the writing itself?

Featuring cameos by and mentions of some of jazz’s great legends of the day, the prose in the manuscript is obsessed with the music, evoking the rhythm and spontaneity of jazz and showing Kerouac’s fascination and envy of African-American culture. Among other examples is protagonist Sal Paradise’s love for listening to the classic bebop radio disc jockey, Symphony Sid.

Lynn Fainchtein, who served on the film as music supervisor, describes her role as working with the film’s director, “choosing the songs and selecting the songs in the script.” She also handled much of the business, “making the clears among publishers and labels.”

The scoring for the film was done by Gustavo Santaolalla, who scored The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) and Brokeback Mountain (2005), and has worked with Fainchtein many other times, especially on Latin American productions. “I have been directly working with him for many years. He is a dear friend,” she says. “We only had eight to 10 songs [on the soundtrack CD],” however, she continues, “We have 34 in the film [itself], plus Gustavo.”

Slim Gaillard, the mysterious guitar player, has a pivotal cameo in the book. There is a scene in the book when Slim is spotted by the protagonist and the narrator, Dean and Saul, in a San Francisco nightclub and he is banging on bongos with divine intensity, occasionally removing his shirt and hollering. In conversation, the musician finishes his words with the suffix “orooni.”


Fainchtein says, “Slim is maybe the most important musician in the whole story. Once you treated the music in the book itself, then there is this character. There is the humor among friends. Which were the artists most important to the book? Slim Gaillard!”

Fainchtein continues to say that she was thrilled to select tracks by Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Parker, Lester Young and Billie Holiday, among others. However, not all of these songs will be on the CD.

“It is difficult to speak without seeing the film,” says Fainchtein. “When you read the book it was a trip between the music and the writing, but also you experience so many emotions of the age, and I think the film is true to the book.”

The actual film soundtrack is as follows:


“Don’t Explain”
Performed by: Billie Holiday
Written by: Billie Holiday and Arthur Herzog Jr.

“Yep Roc Heresi”
Performed by: Coati Mundi
Written by: Slim Gaillard and Paul Mills
Arranged by: Brad Dechter

“Disorder at the Border”
Performed by: Coleman Hawkins & His Orchestra
Written by: Coleman Randolph Hawkins

“Rocky Mountain Blues”
Performed by: Johnny Taylor & His Mellow 5
Written by: Dootsie Williams and Prince Stansel

“The One Before This”
Performed by: Gene Ammons & Sonny Stitt
Written by: Gene Ammons


“Scrapple from the Apple”
Performed by: Charlie Parker
Written by: Charlie Parker

“You Goofed”
Performed by: Slim Gaillard
Written by: Bulee “Slim” Gaillard

“Anticipation Blues”
Performed by: Tennessee Ernie Ford
Written by: Cliffie Stone and Ernest J. Ford

“I’ve Got the World on a String”
Performed by: Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones & His Orchestra
Written by: Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler

“Lop Pow”
Performed by: Babs Gonzales
Written by: Lee Babs Brown


“Beale Street Blues”
Performed by: Jack Teagarden
Written by: W.C. Handy

“I Used to Love You (But It’s All Over Now)”
Performed by: Bing Crosby
Written by: Lew Brown, Sonny Curtis, Albert Von Tilzer

“Ya Ha Ha”
Performed by: Slim Gaillard
Written by: Slim Gaillard

Performed by: Slim Gaillard
Written by: Bulee “Slim” Gaillard

“Salt Peanuts”
Performed by: Charlie Parker
Written by: John Gillespie and Kenny Clarke


“Tiger Rag”
Performed by: Charlie Parker
Written by: Eddie Edwards, Henry W. Ragas, James LaRocca, Larry Shields, Tony Sbarbaro

“A Sailboat in the Moonlight”
Performed by: Billie Holiday
Written by: John Jacob Loeb And Carmen Lombardo

“Aberdeen Mississippi Blues”
Performed by: Bukka White
Written by: Booker T. White PKA Bukka White

“Death Letter Blues”
Performed by: Son House
Written by: Son House AKA Eddie House Jr.

“Violin Concerto in A Minor BWV 1041-2 Andante”
Performed by: Capella Istropolitana Featuring Takako Nishizaki
Written by: Johann Sebastian Bach


“Hard to Love What You Kill”
Performed by: Jake La Botz
Written by: Jake La Botz

“The Delta Blues”
Performed by: Son House
Written by: Son House AKA Eddie House Jr.

“Wayne County Ramblin’ Blues”
Performed by: John Lee Hooker
Written By: Elmer Barbee / Morris R Kaplan

“Hit That Jive Jack” from “Opera In Vout (Groove Juice Symphony)”
Performed by: Slim Gaillard
Written by: Bulee “Slim” Gaillard

“Mean and Evil Blues”
Performed by: Dinah Washington
Written by: Claude De Metrius and Irene Higginbotham


“Buttons and Bows”
Performed by: The Dinning Sisters
Written by: Jay Livingston and Raymond B. Evans

“Dos Gardenias”
Performed by: Daniel Santos
Written by: Isolina Carrillo

“Concierto Para Bongo”
Performed by: The Mambo All Stars Orchestra Featuring Candido Camero, on congas and the Latin Jazz USA Mambo Orchestra, directed by German Pifferer
Written by: Dámaso Pérez Prado

“Norma la de Guadalajara”
Performed by: Pérez Prado
Written by: Dámaso Pérez Prado

Performed by: Charlie Parker
Written by: Charles Christopher Parker


“Jack Kerouac Reads On the Road
Performed By: Jack Kerouac
Written By: Jack Kerouac

Originally Published