Happy birthday Hunter S Thompson, the man who managed the unthinkable - making journalism seem like rock and roll.

Even before you were immortalized in celluloid by your friend Johnny Depp (whom you used to challenge to absinthe drinking competitions - how we'd love to have sat in on those), you were an icon to young journalists who wanted it all: to tell other people's stories and be notorious in their own right.

You pioneered so-called gonzo journalism, breaking with the sacred principle that told journalists never to put themselves at the centre of their story. First you infiltrated the notorious sub-culture of the Hell's Angels in 1966, a gang of motorcycle rebels you represented fairly while the rest of the press were falling over each other to demonize them as villans.

hunter s thompson


Then, in 1971, you produced your opus - an account of your drug-fuelled rampage through Las Vegas, ostensibly to cover a motorcycle race, that became a glorious subversion of the grand narrative of the American Dream. Not since Kerouac had an American novelist produced a version of the road trip that so stirred the loins of aspirant adventurers and hedonists around the world.

A year later you took on Nixon, and showed that mainstream national politics was a topic you could square up to with as much ease and verve as the counter culture you'd come to epitomise. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72 would stand as a testimony to the fact that it's possible to cover the game of politics without playing it yourself.

In the years that followed your legacy would be debated, derided and dismissed, but you'd continue to speak to generations of emerging writers at the sweet spot when their fearlessness and their ambition remained their biggest driving force.

Years later, in 2005, you'd die as you'd lived - without compromise. You took your own life with a shotgun aged 67, before the illnesses that had begun to afflict you consumed your life.

As per your wishes, your earthly remains were blasted into the sky from a canon placed on top of the 47m tower shaped like a fist, as the defiant jangle of Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man rang out through the Colorado air.

You soared high into the air then floated down over us, invisible but present, your legacy secured long ago.

Today would have been your 75th birthday party.

And here are just 22 of brilliant, bizarre thoughts you left behind.

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  • "I had come to regard him as a loner with no real past and a future so vague there was no sense talking about it." <em>The Rum Diary</em> (1998)

  • "I like this place" he said with a grin "I like to sit up here and look down at the beach and think of all the good things I could do with a Luger." <em>The Rum Diary</em> (1998)

  • "You'd be surprised at the things people will do in order to get their names or pictures in the paper." Letter to Judy Stellings (18 November 1956), p. 30 <em>The Proud Highway: The Fear and Loathing Letters Volume I</em> (1997)

  • "There are times, however, and this is one of them, when even being right feels wrong. What do you say, for instance, about a generation that has been taught that rain is poison and sex is death?" <em>Gonzo Papers, Vol. 2: Generation of Swine: Tales of Shame and Degradation in the '80s</em> (1988)

  • "The massive, frustrated energies of a mainly young, disillusioned electorate that has long since abandoned the idea that we all have a duty to vote. This is like being told you have a duty to buy a new car, but you have to choose immediately between a Ford and a Chevy." <em>Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72</em> (1973)

  • "Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective Journalism -- which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place." <em>Better than Sex</em> (22 August 1994)

  • "How many times had he stood calmly back there on the duckboards and listened to respectable-looking people talk about raping the hotel penguins?" <em>The Curse of Lono</em> (1983)

  • "Weird heroes and mould-breaking champions exist as living proof to those who need it that the tyranny of 'the rat race' is not yet final." <em>Gonzo Papers, Vol. 1: The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time</em> (1979)

  • "The only other important thing to be said about Fear & Loathing at this time is that it was fun to write, and that's rare -- for me, at least, because I've always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it's a bit like fucking -- which is fun only for amateurs." Comments on <em>Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas</em> in<em> The Great Shark Hunt: Strange Tales from a Strange Time (1979)</em>, p. 109

  • "We are turning into a nation of whimpering slaves to Fear" 'Extreme Behavior in Aspen' (3 February 2003)

  • "There was no time for scholarly details, and, besides, I have always believed that a man can fairly be judged by the standards and taste of his choices in matters of high-level plagiarism." "Prisoner of Denver", in <em>Vanity Fair</em> (June 2004) IMAGE: AP/AP/Press Association Images

  • "If we get chased out of Iraq with our tail between our legs, that will be the fifth consecutive Third-world country with no hint of a Navy or an Air Force to have whipped us in the past 40 years." "Am I Turning Into a Pervert?" (18 November 2003) IMAGE: Ray Fairall/AP/Press Association Images

  • "Jesus man! You don't look for acid! Acid finds you when *it* thinks you're ready." <em>Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72</em> (1973)

  • "The kids are turned off from politics, they say. Most of 'em don't even want to hear about it. All they want to do these days is lie around on waterbeds and smoke that goddamn marrywanna... yeah, and just between you and me Fred that's probably all for the best." <em>Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72</em> (1973)

  • "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." IMAGE: Hunter S. Thompson (1937 - 2005) American gonzo journalist and author, 14th April 1996. (Photo by Neale Haynes/Getty Images)

  • "Sacrificing good men to journalism is like sending William Faulkner to work for <em>Time</em> magazine." Letter to Jerome H. Walker (7 December 1958), p. 142 IMAGE: REX

  • "I have never felt comfortable around people who talk about their feelings for Jesus, or any other deity for that matter, because they are usually none too bright..." <em> Rolling Stone</em> (1976) IMAGE: REX

  • "There is at this moment a beetle the size of god's ass on the table about six inches from the t-writer. It is worse than anything Kafka ever dreamed, so big I can see its eyes and the hair on its legs -- jesus, suddenly it leaped off and now circles me with a menacing whir." Letter to Paul Semonin (26 May 1962), p. 337 IMAGE: REX

  • "A man has to BE something; he has to matter." Letter to Hume Logan (22 April 1958), p. 118 IMAGE: REX

  • "If you're going to be crazy, you have to get paid for it or else you're going to be locked up." BankRate.com Interview (1 November 2004) IMAGE: Universal Jonny Depp, as Thompson in the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

  • "I went to the Democratic Convention as a journalist, and returned a cold-blooded revolutionary." As quoted in the editors note by Douglas Brinkley, in <em>Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist</em> (2000)

  • "We disagree so violently on almost everything that it's a real pleasure to drink with him. If nothing else, he's absolutely honest in his lunacy -- and I've found, during my admittedly limited experience in political reporting, that power & honesty very rarely coincide." Comments on Pat Buchanan in a letter to Garry Wills (17 October 1973); published in <em>Fear and Loathing in America</em> (2000)

Additional reporting by Alice E. Vincent