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The Jim Carroll Website Home > Background > Friends and Influences > J. O'Barr's The Crow

J. O'Barr's The Crow:

"Borrowings" from Catholic Boy
Updated 25 August 2009


J. O'Barr's 1981 graphic novel, The Crow, which was made into a film starring Brandon Lee, alludes to (or "plagiarizes," depending upon your point of view) several lines from songs on The Jim Carroll Band's 1980 album Catholic Boy -- without acknowledging their source. The Carroll lines are unique in The Crow in that other "borrowed" materials are credited. For example, O'Barr quotes poems by Arthur Rimbaud, Lois Weakley McKay, and Rose Fyleman; lyrics by Robert Smith (The Cure), Joy Division, and Robyn Hitchcock; and a few lines from Voltaire. All of these artists are credited. Jim Carroll and Emily Dickinson aren't!

Carroll says he's a little flattered, and at most he would like a credit in the book.

For Comparison

Cover photo of Carroll from 1978 edition of The Basketball Diaries (left) and J. O'Barr's character "Fun Boy" from The Crow (right)

Photo of Jim Carroll >

Carroll remarked that, even though Fun Boy is a murderer and a rapist, at least he is a fairly sympathetic character whose death is relatively nonviolent and painless . . .


The "Borrowed" Lines from Catholic Boy

 
Keep in mind three things. First, note that O'Barr's drawing of "Fun Boy," above, was drawn using Carroll's portrait as a model. I don't think anyone can dispute this. Second, the lyrics to the songs on Carroll's album Catholic Boy were not printed on the sleeve, and Carroll's enunciation of the lyrics (given his unique, Inwood NYC accent) leaves some room for translation. Third, although some of the "borrowed" lines may seem to be generic, note how much stuff O'Barr gets from Carroll. Although a line by O'Barr such as, "Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane," may seem commonplace, please note that O'Barr obviously was looking at Carroll's work while writing The Crow. Page numbers for The Crow are "guestimated" because the book's pages are not numbered.

From City Drops Into the Night:

O'Barr writes: "when the city drops into the night, things so very wrong seem oh so right" (26).

Carroll writes:
Because when the city drops into the night
Before the darkness there's one moment of light
When everything seems clear
And the other side it seems so near
What seemed wrong . . . ?
I think it's gonna be just about right

O'Barr writes: "Go from this place, Sandy, before he sucks all the light from your eyes" (95).

Carroll writes:
They wait in shadows and steal the light from your eyes
To them, vision's just a costly infection


From Catholic Boy:

O'Barr writes: "I've allies in heaven, Jack, I've comrades in hell . . ." (42).

Carroll writes:
I made allies in heaven
I made comrades in Hell

O'Barr writes: "Like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane" (49).

Carroll writes:
I understand the fate of all my enemies
Just like Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane


From I Want the Angel:

O'Barr writes: "Are the bones of your sins sharp enough to cut through your own excuses?" (94).

Carroll writes:
I want the angel
Whose bones are so sharp
They can break through their old excuses

   

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