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A Thought for Today

Inattention to ideals is dangerous.


It's been another looong wait for feedback to come through from Aurora so let's get right to it.

First report in was from Jack Goodwin.

Dear Ken,

Rod was in great voice tonight in Aurora as fans came from all over the world to see him. 

He sang songs from throughout his career and introduced several new ones. He recited Sloopy and The Art of Catching Trains and read poetry from his new book. He did the complete Madam Butterfly and showed a great sense of humor and a lot of class even under pressure. He forgot words to three songs and didn't even finish Amsterdam, but handled it so graciously it was like it was part of the show. He even brought a laptop out on stage to look up songs, because he couldn't read his own scribbled cheat sheets.

He made a new fan of my wife. She was impressed with how comfortable and funny he was. She liked his words and his intimacy. She laughed many times. SHE told ME to buy the new book-CD set when it becomes available.

We met friends from England, Holland, Canada, Mississippi, Boston, San Diego, and Wyoming. Many we knew from three or four years on the McKuen message boards, so it was a strange kind of cyber reunion.

Listen to the Warm: he's back.

Jack Goodwin

Jack, sounds as though you had a real reunion going there! Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

JaniceK was next up.

Dear Ken,

My husband, my daughter and I just got home from Rod's concert. It was an incredible evening. 

Seeing Rod perform was a gift to all of us there. Yes, he forgot the words to a couple of songs ... but we wouldn't have wanted it any other way. It put a more personal touch on the concert and made you feel like giving him a big hug. The atmosphere was warm and relaxed and Rod made you feel that each word was spoken just to you. 

After the show I'm sure he would have liked to have taken a deep breath, kick off his sneakers and have a martini. Instead he headed for the lobby, signed books and took pictures. All of us who were at the concert will have memories that will last a lifetime. 

Thank you Rod for coming back into our lives! 


Janice, trust me, Rod DID have a martini after the show. Maybe even two! Thanks for writing.

Beth Anne brought a tear to my eye with this account of her first ever McKuen concert.

I have been a McKuen fan for 25 years, but until tonight I had no frame of reference for his concerts.

I've read all the memories shared here and on the message boards, and wondered what it would have been like--but, like many other things I thought I'd been born too late to experience what would have meant so much to me. Seeing Rod McKuen in concert was, I believed, just the first item on the list of things I would never be able to do/achieve/experience.

Ohhhhhhhhh...but here I am, shoes kicked off and a diet Pepsi next to me, heart still pounding and nerves still jangling from the most magical night of my life. The palms of my hands are still tingling from applause, something that has happened to me only once before in 20 years of concert-going. Weeks of planning, hours of traveling, time spent dressing and making up and a wonderful dinner scarcely touched...and I look at my reflection in the mirror and tell myself over and over "you're going to see McKuen in concert TONIGHT." Let me take you with me.....

The Paramount Theatre is big and lush and plush in the way old buildings are, that lovely patina of time and history creating more atmosphere than any modern new building can hope for. We circled around each other in the lobby, looking for faces we knew, admiring each other in our finery....connecting faces with the names we've known for so long. What fun that was, to hug someone we have previously only (((huggged))) before, and how we enjoyed learning more about one another, meeting 2 lovely couples from England...making new friends and deepening existing relationships.

Rod is backed by a quartet of musicians that are incredible. These 4 men play the kind of music (piano, guitar, bass and drums) that I would have paid to hear all by themselves...the music reminded me of the kind you used to hear in the small smokey clubs along the side streets...I felt I should have been sitting at a small round table with a candle flickering in the middle of it, talking with my friends.

And then...there he was. THERE HE WAS...three simple words that I can't give enough power to. I can't think of anything else I waited 25 years for that wouldn't have been a letdown after so much anticipation. Seeing Rod like this, just a few feet away, gave me such a visceral reaction that my hand flew to my throat, where my pulse pounded so hard I thought my heart must be jumping out of my skin (and, btw, it hasn't slowed down yet.....) This quiet, shy man has the most powerful stage presence I have ever seen; I have been to many concerts, but have never experienced one where the audience was so quiet. And so that small smokey club feeling I wrote of earlier intensified...never would I have believed a crowd of 600 people could feel so small and so intimate. There were moments when I literally felt he held my hand and whispered the poems old and new to me alone..a feeling I'm sure many others experienced as well. He made me feel that we were not a bunch of people who had paid money to see him, but rather that we were all friends in a marvelous party...and he just happened to be the one who was "on". What a gift that is, especially after so many years away from the concert circuit.

He sang old favorites, the ones we all know and love..you know, where the opening notes begin and you hear yourself and all those around you catch their breath in delight..."oh, yes, I hoped he'd sing that one..." as he goes into "Jean"...or "A Boy Named Charlie Brown"....or.....oh....melting me with "Love's Been Good to Me." He read poems....his voice sounding exactly as I heard it in my mind, in my heart, every time I read those poems myself. And again, this concert was unique...at others I've attended, you would hear the audience sing along or recite in unison the beloved words they carry in their hearts...but not tonight. McKuen's voice was the only one we wanted to hear; whispery and hushed at times, strong in the singing...wicked in the humor and jokes. He sang the music of other songwriters as well ... beautifully, reverently, wanting us to love that writer's work as he did. (and yes, Rod, I did.....)

Best of all, for all of us who knew we couldn't take pictures and woudn't be meeting him after the show.....when the show was over and all of us milling about in the lobby again...not wanting this night to end, and knowing that we would break the spell if we left...came the announcement that "Mr. McKuen will be out in approximately 15 minutes and he will autograph for you..please form a line if you are interested......" IF WE WERE INTERESTED????? You never saw so many people line up so quickly.

We stood patiently in line...Jay Hagan up a flight of stairs taunting us that "you people are never gonna get to see him..." and me yelling back "OH YES WE WILL....we don't care how long it takes". And we discussed what we would say when we stood before him...I thought of Ann Berzinsky's classic line but I knew I couldn't do it justice....then it occurred to me..the very first words I ever posted on the original board tara started so long ago. When it was my turn at last I gave him the t-shirt (I got the very last one) and the CD I had purchased before the show, which he graciously signed as Jay was telling me "Beth Anne, go around the table for a picture with him!!" (which, of course, I would never have thought to do...uh-huh, right...) So I told him I had something original to tell him...that I was his 27th birthday present. He looked at me with his wonderful smile and said "Are you kidding? You're not kidding?" and I told him it was true, I'd been born on his 27th birthday...and he hugged me hard as cameras flashed all around and I just thought....this is the most magical, wonderful night of my life....which he promptly made even better by recognizing my name.

It was also very special to watch him greet my friends, Jay and Melinda and tara....this experience is far sweeter to me for sharing it with them. We have shared many joys and even sorrows through the years, but nothing will ever compare to this night.

I will never be the same. There is nothing like a dream coming true that you never, ever expected. And it's better still when the reality far outshines the dream.

Beth Anne

Eric burned the early morning oil to get this report through to us.

This just in....Rod McKuen's Alive and Well in Naperville, Illinois

Well, the concert was a blast (sorry Ken). But let's rewind that a little.

To cut corners, those of you wishing to get a sense of the Art Center, go to http://www.paramountartscenter.com/history.html. It'll lay it out for you in much more description that I can give you (or that Ken will want to give up to the web page). From the layout and restoration of the place, you felt like you were walking into some Bogart movie set. I finally got to meet up with a bunch of the web crew (Jay, Melinda, tara, etc.) in the lobby area. Those guys are a fun group. Jay was like a kid in a candy store. I think that most of the time we reported back to each other where the last place was we saw Jay. Around 7:30ish, they opened up the doors and we all took our seats and waited for the show to begin.

A little on my background shows that I've never seen Rod McKuen in anything. I've only known about him for around 8 years or so (yipes! forgive me). So, I never grew up seeing or hearing him...and I was stoked for this event for a long time. Depending on your crowd, the set could've been called Rod McKuen Unplugged (MTV generation) or it could've been described as a Jazz Set. We're talking one piano, one guitar (acoustic), a trap set and an upright bass. If you have heard his "It Had To Be You" sessions or his "After Midnight" sessions (sans the sax), you can get a feeling for the sound this setup was going to produce.

He came out onto the stage with the opening number "If I Could Fly", and he took off from his safe place to land and into our world in person. At first I would have to say he seemed nervous, but 20/20 hindsight says that he was also gauging the audience. He asked us "Where were you?" to which the audience replied "Where were YOU?" ;-)

He then continued to do more songs. I became so absorbed that I lost track of time. The comfort zone for both audience and performer became relaxed. I think that is when someone yelled something ending with the word "sweet-cheeks"...I'm not really sure...it all happened so fast (okay, I was mesmerized). It almost felt like you went over to your friends house and was sitting in their living room while they were in the shower singing .....well, you get the idea....it flowed very naturally.

Some of the words got lost, some might have changed. But with umpteen million lines of poetry and music--some of them had to have gotten lost somewhere. But he was very relaxed about it all.

The band was tight. They flowed through every song. They had a Vince Guaraldi feel. He even sang one that they (he and the band) had toyed with probably once, but you would've never known it if he hadn't have told you.

He alternated from singing to sitting down and reading his poetry (both old and new).

Every song you have ever wanted to hear was sung tonight (including Madame Butterfly). He covered all the different genres that made him what he is today....a singer, songwriter and poet (okay, and cat companion).

Afterwards, he sat in the lobby and signed anything anyone put in front of him (except for those imported bootleg recordings --- and we can all understand why). He posed for photographs with people--which is good because I needed proof where I'd been at until 3a.m. ;-)

It was already midnight---but wait, that's 9pm in California time. Last I heard, Jay was saying something about a blonde (alcohol, that is), bitters and a martini glass. 

Something tells me that the night isn't over...


OK, if Jay and Eric survive the blonde I'm sure we'll hear more from them tomorrow.

Finally Sister Mark writes with a request. Now that the Aurora show is over, I'm only too happy to oblige.

Dear Ken,

Thanks so much for passing along the responses to Rod's Thousand Oaks concert. For those of us - you and me! - who could not go - it's great to hear how appreciated he still is. 

Maybe after tonight's show you could print the rest of Wes' comments about the Thousand Oaks program? 

Thanks again. 

Sister Mark

Here's the balance of The Wes Report.

He opened with "If I Could Fly" followed immediately by "The World I Used to Know" and "Rock Gently". By the end of the third song he has relaxed and comments to us all "where have you been? Oh, that's right, it was me who disappeared." 

The remainder of the first half of the show includes; "Everyone's Rich But Us", "Jean", "A Man Alone", a new song called "Blame It on July", "Solitude's My Home", "If You Go Away", and "The Port of Amsterdam". These are interspersed with two readings from the new book, "I Always Knew", and "Meditations on October", followed by a reading of "The Art of Catching Trains" from Lonesome Cities. He borrowed a book from a young man in the audience for this, after telling us he had forgotten to bring the book from home. Afterwards, he inscribed the book. 

The second half of the show he came out with black and white sneakers and a pale blue sweatshirt. He started off with "Loving Dance", followed by "I'll Catch the Sun", "I Think of You", "The Charlie Brown Song", "I Sleep Softly", "Summer's Long", a truncated "Soldiers Who Want to Be Heroes" (said he could not hit the notes properly), "In the Time It Takes to Know You", "A Single Man", "Time's Gone By", "The Ivy Clings to the Wall", and ended with "Seasons in the Sun". Interspersed were more readings; "Where Will I Rediscover You", "Sloopy", and "Age Is Better". He also did a very short comedic version of "Madam Butterfly". 

Many of the songs were greeted with applause as he began and the near full house was enthralled from the start. At the end, there was a curtain call where Rod favored us with some early pieces he did with the big bands. These were "Don't Get Around Much Anymore", "When the World Was Young", and "From May to December". He then closed with his favorite quote; "It doesn't matter who you love, or how you love, only that you love".


I'll be back tomorrow with a final wrap on the Thousand Oaks and Aurora concerts. Please join me then.

                                      - Ken, Johannesburg, March 11

Details of Rod's upcoming concerts and appearances can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Ralph Abernathy o Douglas Adams o John Barrowman o Peter Berg o Thora Birch o Bessie Lorraine Boles o Vinnette Carroll o Sam Donaldson o Charles L. Eastlake Jr. o D. J. Enright o Madame d'Epinary o Dorothy Gish o Anissa Jones o Alex Kingston o Lisa Loeb o Jessie Matthews o Bobby McFerrin o Xavier Montsalvatge o Rupert Murdoch o Dominque Sanda o Charles W. Swan o Torquato Tasso o John Weinzweig o Lawrence Welk o Harold Wilson
Rod's random thoughts Everything is not permissible. Get that out of your head in a hurry.

I feel happiness and know you've come into the room.

Don't hurry love. The end comes soon enough.


The front-yard squirrel
is stealing oranges.
He crabs and chitchats
                      to himself,
then threading through and
into leaves and branches
he spies an orange
three times his head size.
Arching like an acrobat
and tumbling like a tumbler,
his back toes wound around a limb,
he swings out toward
his would-be catch
as graceful as a gymnast in a tournament.

Aha! He grasps his heavy beachball
and steadies in a perfect arch.

Hanging for a moment
with his underside exposed
                      to street and sky,
then with a quick decisive snap
he twists the sphere from off the branch.
Dangling like deadfall
with his early morning catch,
he bends back up
with strain but no uncertainty
till finally he's walking on two legs
back through the green to safer limbs.

Thud. His morning feast
                            has fallen
and splashed upon the driveway,
it rocks a moment
then lies still.

Such a chattering
pervades the morning air--
a friend begins to chatter back.
The front-yard squirrel
does not engage in conversation.
Back to work.
He settles on a golden globe
             much higher up
and with a new determination
begins his high-wire act again.
An orange for breakfast
before the noon sun signals luncheon.

                                - from "The Sound of Solitude," 1983

1983, 1986, 2001 by Stanyan Music Group & Rod McKuen. All Rights Reserved
Birthday research by Wade Alexander o Poetry from the collection of Jay Hagan o Coordinated by Melinda Smith
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