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Saturday, July 16, 2011

For the 60th Anniversary of The Catcher in the Rye: Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?/Green Day, and more

In honor of the 60th anniversary today of the publication of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, we're reposting our original list of songs inspired by the novel, supplemented with other Salinger-related songs suggested by our readers.

Green Day's Who Wrote Holden Caulfield? from their 1992 album Kerplunk, is named for the novel's protagonist. Apparently the book is a favorite of the band's lead singer, Billie Joe Armstrong.

In answer to Green Day's query, Screeching Weasel released I Wrote Holden Caulfield on their 1994 album How to Make Enemies and Irritate People. Note to the Salinger estate: The song includes the suit-provoking lines: I wonder if you'll ever come to realize what I always knew/I wrote Holden Caulfield and so did you.

The definitive statement on the question of authorship comes from the Shy Guys 2006 album Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, with their song J.D. Salinger Wrote Holden Caulfield.

The Guns 'N' Roses song The Catcher In The Rye appears on their Chinese Democracy album from 2008. It seems to have as much to do with John Lennon's murder as with Salinger's novel--Lennon's killer, Mark David Chapman, had a copy of The Catcher in the Rye in his possession when he was apprehended.

William Holden Caulfield, from Too Much Joy's 2005 album From All of Us to Both of You, includes the lyrics: I'm afraid of people who like Catcher in the Rye/Yeah I like it too but someone tell me why/People he'd despise say I feel like that guy.

Bodi Bill expresses a sentiment we can all get behind in their song I Like Holden Caulfield.

The title of the Old 97's song Rollerskate Skinny, from the 2001 album Satellite Rides, comes from Holden Caulfield's description of his sister, Phoebe, in The Catcher in the Rye: "She's quite skinny, like me, but nice skinny. Roller-skate skinny. I watched her once from the window when she was crossing over Fifth Avenue to go to the park, and that's what she is, roller-skate skinny."

A band called Pencey Prep offers a double-barreled reference to Salinger's novel.  The name of the band derives from the fictional school from which Holden Caulfield is expelled. In addition, the title of their song The Secret Goldfish, from their 2001 album Heartbreak in Stereo, comes from the title of a short story referred to in the novel, written by Holden's brother D.B.

There are also songs called Holden Caulfield from a variety of artists, including Tom Freund, Stefan Couture and the Campfire Orchestra, Harris Eisenstadt, Paul Kotheimer, and the Green Pajamas.

Songs with the title Catcher in the Rye have been recorded by a number of artists as well, and there is a band called Catchers in the Rye.

There are also many musical references to other works by Salinger or to the author himself:

A song called Polar Bear, from Ride's 1990 album Nowhere, mentions Salinger's Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters. The same novella lent its name to a Chicago-based band.

The Cure's 1984 album The Top features a song called Bananafishbones. Robert Smith, the band's primary songwriter, confirmed the song's connection to Salinger's story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," from his collection Nine Stories, in an issue of the fanzine Cure News: "the title, for some no-reason, from 'a perfect day for bananafish' - a short story by j d salinger .. again me hating myself..." [Capitalization, syntax and punctuation courtesy of Mr. Smith and Cure News].

The title of the 2005 debut album from We Are Scientists, With Love and Squalor, refers to Salinger's story "For Esmé with Love and Squalor," available in the Nine Stories collection.

For a time in the 1990s, Lisa Loeb's band was called Nine Stories, after Salinger's collection.

The Winona Ryders released a 1995 album called J.D. Salinger.

Finally, a song called "My Foolish Heart" was written for the 1949 film of the same name--the only film to date to be based on Salinger's writing (it was adapted from his story "Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut," another selection from Nine Stories).  The song was nominated for an Academy Award and has been recorded by a number of artists. [Technically, featuring this song violates our Ground Rules, but it's fun anyway.]


  1. there was a band in england in the early 90's called Rollerskate Skinny...

  2. I am thankful that Catcher in the Rye was required reading in high school. Salinger doesn't play around with too much vocabulary or symbolism. Catcher in the Rye is one of the first novels that peaked my interest in books and stimulated my critical thinking patterns.

  3. This is Salinger's best in my opinion. I say that because it holds up to multiple re-readings, and any book that can offer new insights under such scrutiny MUST be doing something right...

  4. Salinger's cynical tour de force "Catcher in the Rye" is a bitter pill to swallow, but it's definitely worth it. Disaffected, yearning and wry, this is a modern classic. And deserves to be, as well.

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