Had he lived, the original angsty hero, James Dean, would have been 80 years old today. Dean died in a violent September 1955 car crash, ending his film career after only three major roles. It only took three movies for the young man to become a brooding, enigmatic legend.
Dean died just as rock and roll was forming into the beast that would swallow up the world whole by the '60s. His look - the leather jacket, the jeans, the white T-shirt - is shorthand for Old Hollywood cool. His sneer and deep-seated turmoil helped light the fire of countless songs and icons of rock.
We never got to find out what the future held for Dean, dying so young. No doubt the reportedly bisexual actor would have taken to the next decade with a full vigor. We would have seen drug busts, countless Oscars, motorcycles, Studio 54, Jack Nicholson buddy pictures, lifetime achievement awards, and maybe even a gawdawful sitcom or two.
Here's to Jimmy, one of the founders of the rock and roll, devil-may-care attitude...
The Eagles, "James Dean"
You were the lowdown rebel if there ever was
Even if you had no cause
James Dean, you said it all so clean
And I know my life would look all right
If I could see it on the silver screen
The Statler Brothers, "Do You Remember These?"
"James Dean, he was keen, Sunday movies were taboo..."
Lou Reed, "Walk On the Wild Side"
Jackie is just speeding away
Thought she was James Dean for a day
Then I guess she had to crash
Don McClean, "American Pie"
When the jester sang for the king and queen
In a coat he borrowed from James Dean...
John Mellencamp, "Jack and Diane"
Jackie sits back reflects his thoughts for a moment
Scratches his head and does his best James Dean...
Chris Isaak, "American Boy"
I'm no James Dean baby,
But you know I care
If you ever need me, I'll be there, always there.
Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, "Riding With James Dean"
Tell me how you feel
Tell me what you see
Ridin' with James Dean
David Essex, "Rock On"
Still looking for that blue jean, baby queen
Prettiest girl I ever seen
See her shake on the movie screen, Jimmy Dean