Jack Kerouac was the major writer of the "Beat" movement in the '50s. His major work was On the Road (1957), an autobiographical novel describing his travels in the company of a unique character named Dean Moriarty (in real life, Neal Cassady).
In later novels, Kerouac told other tales of life on the road and also wrote of his childhood and upbringing in Lowell, MA. Although he was a profound influence on the youth of the '60s (and although Cassady, in contrast, enthusiastically joined in on the hippie movement as part of the Merry Pranksters and as a mentor to the Grateful Dead), Kerouac largely disavowed the hedonism and drug use of the '60s counterculture. His poetry and novels continue to influence young people decades after his death. ~ William Ruhlmann, Rovi