William S. Burroughs
Although William S. Burroughs's main contribution to the arts is as a writer, his experimental approach to literature and his general outlaw lifestyle have proven a huge influence on generations of musicians in various genres. A product of the Beat Generation, Burroughs was a writer who bucked convention in favor of a surrealistic cut-&-paste approach, a concept adopted by many experimental and electronic musicians. Burroughs was also an unabashed drug user and all-around loose cannon, making him a punk icon and inspiration to the likes of Patti Smith, Lou Reed, and Richard Hell. In his later years, he collaborated on spoken-word projects with Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Tom Waits, among others. Burroughs died in 1997 at the age of 83, but remains one of America's most heralded countercultural figures.