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Rod in action at The Riverton Rendezvous, July 2001. 
Photograph courtesy Jay Hagan.

A Thought for Today

If a cat isnít proof of God, what is?

 

The devastation in New York City today, which continues as I write, will impact on many lives for years to come.

Our thoughts and prayers are with all our American friends.

-Ken, Johannesburg, September 11

Iím back in the studio again all day today, still mastering and on deadline for the new albums. I got home only once over the weekend, just in time for an earthquake centered about a mile from the house. Iíve been through dozens of quakes and aftershocks over the past thirty years and itís hard to believe this one only registered a 4.2.

With less than a dozen days left till the Autumn Equinox summer will soon be a memory. I hope your season in the sun is winding down well, mine has indeed been memorable and busy and if I can ever get out of the studio for longer than a couple of hours I hope to share some of it with you. As usual Iím trying to hang on to these last warm hours as long as possible. This is the time of year I start to envy my friends in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other spots the Southern Sun falls on because they are just heading into spring with months of summer days ahead.

Todayís letters and the poetry and prose Iíve chosen deal with what else but . . .

SEASONS IN THE SUN

Dear Rod, I remember first hearing Terry Jacks version of this song when I was 8 years old. It had a profound effect on me and is still my favourite song of all time. I guess that's how I got into your poetry so it is a song I cherish very much.

My question is this: There have been many versions of this song, (and, without sitting in judgment- your words not mine!), do you have a particular favourite? Kindest Regards, Andy Bridgnorth, England.


Dear Andy, at the risk of sounding a trifle immodest Iíd have to say that my favorite version of ďSeasons in the SunĒ is usually the one I did at my last concert. If that sounds a bit strange itís just that of all my songs this is indeed one of the most personal and I feel the author tells the story best. For that reason I believe the best version on disc is the original French Language recording by its author Jacques Brel.

Iíve recorded it several times and am less than satisfied with most of my own versions and I donít enjoy listening to them as much as I do actually performing ĎSeasons.í Thanks for asking Andy, Warmly, Rod

WHY DID YOU WRITE SEASONS IN THE SUN?

Why did you write seasons in the sun? Please answer this question, thank you. Clare Monks

Dear Clare, Your letter and the end of summer gives me a good reason to reprint my Ďauthorís noteí from the book ďSeasons in the Sun,Ē I think it can answer your question best. Sincerely, Rod

STRETCHING THE SUMMER

Every year Iíve tried to make the summer stretch a little longer. I come to Mexico in January and February to write - always assured Iíll find the sun. My concerts in the fall are planned in countries like Australia to catch the places and people as their summer begins. At home in California, Iím at the beach or stretched out in the backyard the first day of March and the last sunshiny hour of October.

The sections in this book stretch over an eight-month period. Eight or nine months of summer is the very least I promise myself a year. I like to work in the sun, play in the sun, make love in it and waste time in the sun. Though I am aware by doing so I miss the subtleties of the seasons, the colors of Vermont Septembers, the surprises of Nebraska Springs, all my life Iíve chased the sun.

Seasons in the Sun began as a short story. My first. Unpublished, it concerns a man who is dying and recounts his life figuratively and actually as one where all the highlights took place within some sunshiny time.

More than a dozen years ago, I brought home from France an album containing Jacques Brelís Le Moribond (the dying man). Although the song had nothing to do with the sun, per se, it seemed to me that Jacquesí lyric - though in another language - talked about the man in my story, so I began to fuse his lyric with my short story and what emerged was an Anglo-American song entitled Seasons in the Sun. The title now seems like a good one for a collection of sun poems.

I have talked lengthily about my collaborations with Brel elsewhere, and will do so at greater length if I ever get around to writing an autobiography. Each of us has in common a sense of being loners though we have both taken the sea and the sun as mistresses, if not wives.

This collection of poems has many sources - a dozen books, stanzas from nineteen songs, new poetry, and always the sun, threading itís way through the individual works. Both the poems and the songs were written over a twenty-year span, beginning with And Autumn Came, published in 1954, and including a selection from Moment to Moment to be published in September of 1974, plus the aforementioned new material and poems written through the years that have remained unpublished till now.

When someone asks me how long it took to write a particular poem I ask what year it was published, and even if I used up only twenty minutes to commit the words to paper I add the life Iíve lived to the point of publication, and give that as my answer.

My poems of ten years ago are different from the ones I write today. The work I do tomorrow will be miles apart from that done yesterday. My seasons in the sun ahead are not as many as they could be. Nonetheless, they will be lived out fully - as full as I know how to make them.

Tres Vidas, Mexico, February, 1974

Before I forget it I want to recommend HBOís new series ďBand of Brothers.Ē I caught the early feed of the first two hours of it yesterday afternoon and itís a beautifully mounted, well acted and deeply moving saga that unless you have been trapped in a well somewhere youíve already heard about.

ďBand of BrothersĒ lives up to all the advance hype and glowing reviews it has received. Iím looking forward to watching the next eight episodes and in case you missed yesterdayís premier HBO has scheduled repeats Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday of this week. Even if you arenít a World War II buff this is a very human drama worth watching about one of the most important events of the past century

Fittingly, Iím off to the studio again where Iíll be working on two more ďSongs That Won the WarĒ albums. ďBand of BrothersĒ certainly adds to the inspiration for doing so.

Sleep warm.

RM 9/10/2001

Details of Rod's next appearance can be obtained by following the link below.

"Tap Your Troubles Away" - the music of Jerry Herman

notable birthdays Reubin Askew o Alan Bergman o Butch Bouchard o Bear Bryant o Harry Connick Jr. o Cathryn Damon o Kathryn Denny o Brian DePalma o Betsy Drake o Tom Dreesen o Lola Falana o Brad Fischetti o Irene Greenslade o O. Henry o Earl Holliman o Hedy Lamarr o D. H. Lawrence o Kristy McNichol o Amy Madigan o Jessica Mitford o Joey Olivera o Avro Part o Ariana Richards o Aura Ripley o Anne Seymour o Alice Tully
Rod's random thoughts Need can drive you down the darkest alley and leave you beached and bloody, waiting for the new encounter.

The sea eats up the men who love her most, the way the killer queen must finally one day reject the troops who fought for her on battlefields and rolled with her in bedrooms. I am not afraid.

To hit the target aim above it.

MID-DAY

I watch the drudging ant
hike half across the yard
with some new-found stone
to help him and the others
finish off their pyramid.
And now another.
       And now another.
Crawling in a straight line
then zig-zag; jerking,
shaking like Chihuahuas.

Ants are not
       my favorite animals.
Or even on the list
of insects I like best.
And yet their industry,
not just a marvel,
is unbelievable
       compared to mine.

What have I done
        this season ?
There is a book started
one long poem
not yet done
that I could count off
easier by the inch
than by the metered line.
A song I started
( death and dying
        once again )
not to be sung
even by its author.

At the seasonís end
a colony of ants
will have redesigned
finished and moved in
a brand new pyramid.

Iíll have read
a few new books
some well loved old ones
               over
and lost or never finished
what I set out to find.
Just now I canít remember
what that was.

Iím in the shade.
In the shade Iíll stay,
       in the hammock
               swinging,
watching several lines
of worker ants,
haul and build and plaster
place each stone in place.

A sidewalk superintendent
sleepy eyed and slow
making sure that all goes well
beneath my still, unswinging
              hammock.

-from ďSeasons in the Sun,Ē 1974

 
© 1960, 1974, 1988, 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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