Wednesday, March 16, 2011


So there's this book, PIMP, written by Iceberg Slim, also known as Robert Beck, also known as Robert Lee Maupin. First published in 1969, PIMP has sold over 2 million copies over the years, and it hasn't been out of print ever since. Equal parts autobiography, confessional, manifesto and training manual, PIMP provides the reader with a 3D, Technicolor expose of a much-maligned profession to which many have aspired, but few have had the brains and ruthless chill to pull off.

Iceberg spent over 20 years pimping hard on some of the fastest tracks in the nation, eventually giving up the game after his last prison stint. He seems to have turned to writing almost out of desperation, and it's a good thing he did. If he'd focused his ample talents on a different pursuit - say real estate or some other such straight con - the world would have been denied one of the most gripping, entertaining and - yes - important voices of the Black Experience in 20th Century America.

Let me be clear about this - PIMP is one hell of a book. I recommend it to any and all admirers of good writing. Iceberg's prose is sharp and clean. He is equally adept at philosophical rumination as he is at good, old fashioned story telling. His viscerally drawn, slang-drenched evocation of a bygone era when the pimp bestrode the ghetto like an ebony colossus left me laughing, cringing in horror, and shaking my head in disbelief. Occasionally, I was even deeply moved. His set pieces pick you up and sweep you away. You can't help but keep turning pages. You don't want to know what comes next, you need to know. What a voice. What a talent. What a book.

One of the most original aspects of Iceberg's style is the way he made use of music throughout PIMP to help set the tone. In this respect, it may very well be the first novel ever written to have it's own built-in soundtrack. As a fan of jazz - and now, also, as a fan of this book - yer old pal Jerky decided to go through PIMP with a fine-tooth comb and isolate all the sections that prominently feature music. So here, without further ado, in chronological order and complete with accurate pagination, is a list of every instance of musical reference in Iceberg Slim's urban masterpiece, PIMP.


  • On page 22, a young Iceberg hums, then whistles, Springtime in the Rockies, his favorite tune, while shining shoes.
  • On page 71, Iceberg and a friend have two "high yellow bitches" on their laps while watching the Nat King Cole Trio perform at a two-buck dance night at Liberty Hall. 
  • On page 80, Ella Fitzgerald "was crying about her little yellow basket."
  • On page 83, Ellington rippled out "Mood Indigo."
  • On page 85, Lady Day was singing a sad lament. "My man don't love me. Treats me awful mean. He's the meanest man that I ever seen."
  • On page 93, The Bird, Eckstine and Sarah sent a crazy medly of soul sounds from Creole Fat's Rib Heaven's loudspeakers.
  • On page 95, some skinny joker with scald burns on his face was fronting a combo. He tried to ape the Bird's phrasing and tone. Mixed couples danced to "Stomping at the Savoy" on a carpet sized dance floor in the rear.
  • On page 105, the combo was speed-riffing "Tea for Two". 
  • On page 107, the joint got back on jump time. The combo started to riff "Mood Indigo."
  • On page 108, the elevator operator for the Blue Haven Hotel is whistling "When the Saints Go Marching In."
  • On page 119, in The Devil's Roost, the juke box was grinding out "Pennies from Heaven."
  • On page 120, the juke box was sobbing Lady Day's beef about her mean but sweet man.
  • On page 127, the juke box was moaning gut-bucket blues. Some joker was singing "going down slow; Don't send no doctor; Doctor sure can't do no good. Please write my mother; Tell her the shape I'm in; I'm going down slow." It had been Iceberg's father's favorite record. 
  • On page 128, Eckstine's syruppy "Cottage for Sale" oozed from the Hog's radio.
  • On page 129, Iceberg could hear the deep-throated boom of a console phonograph. The Ink Spots' lead tenor was parfaiting "Whispering Grass."
  • On page 129 again, the big white phonograph in the corner was booming out a novelty tune. "When your pipes get dry then you know you're high. Everything is dandy. You truck on down to the candy store, but you don't get no peppermint candy. Then you know your body's sent. You don't care if you don't pay rent. Light a tea and let it be if you're a viper."
  • On page 136, Iceberg comes home to find that his bitch has been listening to Lady Day's lament on the turntable again, wasting time. The table was warm from the playing.
  • On page 140, Silas the elevator man is still whistling "When the Saints Go Marching In."
  • On page 147, Melody switches on a radio and Debussy's "Claire de Lune" sweet-noted gently through the room.
  • On page 165, Iceberg hears "Tuxedo Junction" pulsing behind him, in Sweet's opulant 15th floor penthouse pad.
  • On page 166, a high-assed yellow broad flicked life back into the phonograph. "Gloomy Sunday", the suicide's favorite, dirged through the room.
  • On page 199, Iceberg comes home to find his fake-sick whore listening to Lady Day whining about her mean man again. He breaks the record in two.
  • On page 204, Iceberg listens to "Mood Indigo" once again while thinking.


Pretty nifty, no? But I figure reading it is one thing, while hearing is believing. So, after completing this task, I started up a YOUTUBE account for the Daily Dirt Diaspora, found the best and most relevant examples of all the music listed above, and put together a virtual chronological literary soundtrack by creating a special PIMP TRACKLIST. I even whipped together some full-color CD cover art for y'all, just in case any of you wants to download all these songs and put together your own PIMP SOUNDTRACK CD.

The artists and the music featured in this project are all absolutely top notch, and I urge you to take a moment to pop on your headphones, sit back, relax and just wallow in some of the finest, most vital popular music that the 20th century has to offer.

Thank you for your time and attention;
Yer old pal Jerky


  1. I love this collection they are all greats.

  2. Glad you liked it! Hey, can I ask a favor of you guys? If you're going to leave an anonymous post (which I totally don't mind you doing), could you maybe SIGN it, even with just a nickname, so the rest of us can build up a cumulative mental image of you? It's easy, just type your name out at the end, there! Like this:

    yer old pal Jerky

  3. Does this soundtrack come with every book or do you have to purchase the soundtrack separately?

  4. The soundtrack doesn't exist. I just went through the book and took out all the music references and listed them.

  5. i just spent days compiling a soundtrack for the Pimp! Searching for creole fat's rib heaven, I found your post. AHHHHH!
    I was crushed. hahaha

    So far you missed one.

  6. Anonymous! Please tell me which piece of music it is that I missed and, if possible, the page number for it and where I can find said piece of music online! I really appreciate that you took the time to let me know about this. Your efforts towards helping me complete this project will be recognized via an added editorial note in the main body of this blog post!

    Thanks again for helping out!

    Yer old pal Jerky