Literary Mixtape: Randle McMurphy from ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’


If you’ve ever wondered what your favorite literary characters might be listening to while they save the world/contemplate existence/get into trouble, or hallucinated a soundtrack to go along with your favorite novels, well, us too. But wonder no more! Here, we sneak a look at the hypothetical iPods of some of literature’s most interesting characters. What would be on the personal playlists of Holden Caulfield or Elizabeth Bennett, Huck Finn or Harry Potter, Tintin or Humbert Humbert? Something revealing, we bet. Or at least something danceable. Read on for a cozy reading soundtrack, character study, or yet another way to emulate your favorite literary hero. This week: the lovable rabble-rouser of Ken Kesey’s masterpiece, Randle McMurphy.

In Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Randle Patrick McMurphy is an Irish-American pugilist with a soft spot for his fellow man. Sentenced to jail for battery and gambling, he decides he’d rather serve out his time in a mental institution, and fakes insanity to get himself transferred there. Unfortunately for him, that ward is run by the terrible and tyrannical Nurse Ratched, who takes an immediate dislike to McMurphy, and the war begins. He challenges Nurse Ratched at every opportunity, eventually winning the support of the other men on the ward, inspiring them to live life as best they can. He even sneaks girls onto the ward for a party right under the Nurse’s nose — but such actions never go unpunished. No indie rock for Randle McMurphy — he’s a man’s man, a rough-and-tumble kind of guy, and his iPod would be filled accordingly. Here’s what we think he would harass Nurse Ratched, lead fishing trips, and school everyone at cards to.

Stream the mixtape here.

“Fight for Your Right” — The Beastie Boys

If there’s a more appropriate song for McMurphy to blast when he leads the gang in their raucous party (drugs! drinking! prostitutes!) on the ward, we’d like to hear what it is.

“Runaway” — Kanye West

For the man who knows he’s no good (but still sort of thinks that he is). Let’s have a toast for the scumbags!

“Acute Schizophrenia Paranoia Blues” — The Kinks

Since McMurphy is only playing at insanity (we think), he’d probably want to play it up. That said, we think he might secretly find some points of recognition with this track.

“Run This Town” — Jay-Z and Rihanna

For the swaggering, posturing, big-man-on-campus side of McMurphy. For a while there, he really does run that town.

“What I Got” — Sublime

We think McMurphy would be a big Sublime fan, and this song would probably be his favorite. We can just see him strolling around, cigarette in mouth, singing along with this perfect combination of devil-may-care and self-aggrandizing, and enjoying that sweet slide on the guitar.

“Lithium” — Nirvana

For the nights when he’s striving and sweating and suffering and yes, maybe a little crazy, but doesn’t want to let anyone know.

“Fight the Power” — Public Enemy

The obvious message of this song aside, Rosie Perez is pretty much McMurphy’s dream girl.

“A Good Idea at the Time” — OK Go

We think this song would appeal to McMurphy’s joking, shrugging-it-off side. After all, we can think of at least one major move that probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and turned out to be not so good for the time. But good old McMurphy, he’d probably just flash us a big smile and try to make a bet on it.

“I Wanna Be Sedated” — The Ramones

While we can’t imagine McMurphy ever wanting to be sedated, we can imagine him rocking out to this spastic classic, making such a scene that he eventually had to be, um, sedated.

“No Rain” — Blind Melon

A little post-lobotomy music to calm the soul.