From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Jack Kerouac (March 12 1922 – October 21 1969) was an American novelist, writer, poet, and artist. He is the best known of a group of writers and friends who came to be known as the Beat Generation. His best known work is On the Road.
Kerouac enjoyed some degree of popular appeal but little critical acclaim during his lifetime. He is now, however, considered to be one of America's most important and influential authors. His spontaneous, confessional prose style has inspired numerous other writers and musicians, including Tom Robbins, Lester Bangs, Richard Brautigan, Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, Tom Waits and Bob Dylan.
Kerouac divided most of his young adult life between roaming the vast American landscape and life at home with his mother. Faced with a changing post-war America, he sought to find his place, but came to eventually reject the values and social norms of the Fifties. His writing often reflects a desire to break free from society's structures and to find higher meaning.
This search led Kerouac to experiment with drugs and to embark on trips around the world. His writings are often credited as a catalyst for the 1960s counterculture. Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, Florida, at the age of forty-seven from an internal hemorrhage, the result of chronic alcoholism.
Jack Kerouac on "the underground"
Jack Kerouac (In Esquire magazine in 1958)  said: "The same thing was almost going on in the postwar France of Sartre and Genet and what's more we knew about it--But as to the actual existence of a Beat Generation, chances are it was really just an idea in our minds--We'd stay up 24 hours drinking cup after cup of black coffee, playing record after record of Wardell Gray, Lester Young, Dexter Gordon, Willie Jackson, Lennie Tristano and all the rest, talking madly about that holy new feeling out there in the streets- -We'd write stories about some strange beatific Negro hepcat saint with goatee hitchhiking across Iowa with taped up horn bringing the secret message of blowing to other coasts, other cities, like a veritable Walter the Penniless leading an invisible First Crusade- -We had our mystic heroes and wrote, nay sung novels about them, erected long poems celebrating the new 'angels' of the American underground--In actuality there was only a handful of real hip swinging cats and what there was vanished mightily swiftly during the Korean War when (and after) a sinister new kind of efficiency appeared in America, maybe it was the result of the universalization of Television and nothing else (the Polite Total Police Control of Dragnet's 'peace' officers) but the beat characters after 1950 vanished into jails and madhouses, or were shamed into silent conformity, the generation itself was shortlived and small in number."