In 1999, I twice found myself writing about The Basketball Diaries, a Leonardo DiCaprio vehicle best known for a scene in which the hero fantasizes about shooting his classmates. The movie popped up in one of the articles because it had been blamed in a lawsuit for inspiring the murder of three girls in Kentucky, in the other because it had been blamed in the media for inspiring the Columbine massacre. It hadn't been a particularly popular picture, and it may have earned more attention as a scapegoat than it did as a film.
I had trouble thinking of it as a movie too, but for a different reason. Before it was a motion picture, The Basketball Diaries was a gritty memoir; and that's how I had first encountered the story in my teens. The author of that book—the punk-rock musician and neo-beatnik writer Jim Carroll—has just passed away at age 60. His most famous song is called "People Who Died," and I'm going to bow to the inevitable and mark his death by playing it: