Credit: Shutterstock/Jack Kerouac

I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion

Writer Jean-Louis Kerouac changed his name to Jack and never looked back. His life On the Road made him a leading voice of the 1950s Beat Generation.

Born in Massachusetts in 1926 from French-Canadian stock, he was a college dropout who hung around with his new friends in New York City. Those friends included Allen Ginsberg, Neal Cassady, and William S. Burroughs.

A fictional tale based on his real life, he wrote On the Road on a single scroll of paper, 120 feet long, in just 20 days. It recalled his journeys across America and captured the spirit of the Beatniks.

"... live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry," he was to write in his novel Desolation Angels.

A libertine who experimented with Buddhism and LSD, Jack Kerouac was both loved and hated by the literary establishment. His style was inspired by the freedom of the road, the looseness of jazz, and the drive to find out the meaning of life. This risky and ambitious style meant he is now regarded as a great American novelist.

Aged just 47 years when he died, he left behind a legacy that inspired many musicians, writers, and artists. He remains a counterculture icon and a huge influence on pop culture to this day.