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Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001
A Thought for Today
A healthy dose of wonder keeps the mind
This is the first chance I’ve
had to answer any mail since I came home from the 50th Anniversary party
of my Oakland Technical High School reunion. I hope to give a report on
that ‘event’ once some of the promised pictures arrive.
FROM A MARINE AND A COACH
sent you a Birthday greeting on the 25th of April, since I noticed that
you had problems with receiving e-mail I just wanted to send my thoughts
again. I had the pleasure to see you perform twice while I was stationed
with the Marines in Hawaii in the mid-70's. As with many of your friends
that write of your power to touch and uplift, I join them.
I thought for many years during the mid 80's and 90's, that you had lost
the battle with time. My journeys to bookstores found no new work. Finally
I found your web site and glad not only for myself, but the others that
share the desire to hear your work, that you have not succumbed to
eternity quite yet. You are a part of my daily routine now. Thank you Ken,
so many flight plans to read for the first time, but hopefully never for
APRIL 29, 2001
Does not fall with the weights of Grandfather clocks,
Wound and rewound weekly,
Does not reflect back in full length mirrors,
Hairlines and bellies,
Is in the love that you spread with your words,
Rod: I trust that your brother and yourself had a great celebration of
each renewing day and celebration of years passing. In my original message
I wished you " Sleep warm, a few crumbs of birthday cake in bed sweeten
the awakening day." Take something sweet to bed every night. Coach Stephen
B. Thomas, Greenville, North Carolina
Dear Stephen, First of all thanks for the kind birthday greeting and the
thoughtful words. I appreciate the second letter since the first one was
obviously lost. There’s been a lot of mail lately that seems to have gone
astray, but I think things are finally OK.
Edward and I had a quiet birthday, just the way we both like it.
I can’t understand how he never seems to grow any older while on some days
I can reach out and touch every year that’s stacked high and growing
higher. Most of the time, though, I feel half my age and have the cuts and
bruises to prove I even act that way. You know, fights with furniture,
stepladders, gutters on the roof, hammering nails and screwing screws and
all the other chores I still do to stay young. Not only have I not lost
the battle with the ages, but when the time comes I intend to go out
kicking and screaming.
I loved the concerts in Hawaii, particularly those outside under the
shell. I’m pleased that you stop by every day because it’s people like you
who make me want to write something new every day in this space. I can’t
always fulfill that promise I made to myself to have something fresh each
morning because once in a while life gets in the way of writing.
Thanks again, Richard, for the kind birthday words. I’ll watch those
crumbs whenever I’m lucky enough to go to bed with something or someone
sweet at night. Warmly, Rod
STAY WITH ME
Rod: Why wasn't the Early Harvest version of *Stay With Me* selected to be
on your new ASPTL CD's? Don't you think it should have? It would have
blended beautifully I believe. And for your concerts, it might make for an
excellent choice. Just my thoughts, but it would be nice to hear why it
wasn't chosen. Thanks! With Love, Sharon
Dear Sharon, I wrote all the words and music for the ASPTL book/CD set.
“Stay With Me” was written by Carolyn Leigh to Jerome Moross’ theme from
the film “The Cardinal,” so as much as I like the song I didn’t feel it
belonged in the new work.
The vocals of all the songs on the CD’s (with the exception of “Spring on
the River” which was done in 1955 and never released) are all brand new,
they were recorded in February especially for the set. So that’s another
reason why “Stay With Me” didn’t qualify.
I do love singing the song in concert. The last time I did so was in 1978
at Lincoln Center. That concert was recorded and the live track of “Stay
With Me” from that performance will be included in an upcoming anthology.
I have no second thoughts on the poems and songs I selected to put in the
set, but thanks for the suggestion. Cheers, Rod
JET MY LOVE
Sebastian Strings ever do a version of the song, "JET or "Jet My Love?" If
so what album does it appear on? Thank You, David Weisman
Dear David, Nope. Sincerely, Rod
BEYOND THE SEA
Rod, I was searching the internet for the lyrics and guitar tabs of La
Mer. I came across this song by listening to a Bobby Darin CD, but I heard
the orginal was sung in French. So I was hoping you could send me the
lyrics and possibly the guitar tabs. Thanks-you for your time. Chris Weir
Dear Chris, You’ve got the San Sebastian Strings “La Mer”, the French
version of “The Sea”, mixed up with the wonderful Charles Trenet song “La
Mer” for which Jack Lawrence added the English lyric and called “Beyond
the Sea.” The original has been a hit all over the world & Benny Goodman
made the first recording in English in 1948.
In 1960 Bobby Darin’s version of it (done ala his hit “Mack the Knife”)
cracked the top 10. Trenet, one of France’s great all time
singer/songwriters, died after a long and illustrious career last year.
You should be able to get the sheet music to Beyond the Sea (La Mer) at
any major music store. It is published by France Music, ASCAP. Hope this
helps. All the best, Rod
ROD & THE KINGSTON TRIO
Rod, I just wanted to drop you a short note and tell you how much your
music has meant to me over the years. I was a young kid when I first heard
you sing with the Kingston Trio and I have been listening to your music
now for about 40 years. Again, I just wanted to say thank you for all the
nice music you have given me to enjoy! Sincerely, Jerry Cooley
Dear Jerry, The Kingston Trio made a big difference in my early career as
a songwriter. Like Jimmie Rodgers and Glenn Yarbrough they recorded many
of my early ‘folk-like’ songs.
That’s me whistling on their hit record of “Ally, Ally Oxen Free” and they
recorded “Seasons in the Sun” long before Terry Jacks.
Thanks for the nice letter and staying with me these past forty years.
Your support is appreciated more than you know. Luv, Rod
McKuen, I am trying to find your poem, Valentine, to honor a group of
elderly women who reside in an assisted living where I am the director.
Valentine is one of my very favorite writings of all time. I believe your
heartfelt words fit many occasions. I very much want each of the ladies to
know, really know, within themselves, that each is quite special.
I had a copy of this poem for a long time, and now cannot find it. Our
celebration is Thursday, May 24. Please help. Thank you! Trish Caron
Executive Director Williamsburg Villas Knoxville TN
Dear Trish, "Valentine" was published earlier this month on Thursday, May
10 along with a new poem "Summertree II" as a tribute to a friend. You can
read it and print it out by going to the Archives button at the bottom of
this page and punching in the date. If I get anywhere in the Knoxville
area in concert I’d love to stop by and see the seniors at the
Williamsburg Villas. Warmest Regards, Rod
A FRENCH POSTCARD
Rod, My name is Wesley Marr. You wrote back to me in 1997 from France, I
wanted to say thank you very much, and that it is now the most cherished
possession that I own. And to let you know that I am in touch with my dad
and his family. I found out where he was and saw him in February of 98.
He now lives in Nebraska and we call each other to say hi now and then. I
am also an uncle once again. That’s it and again thank you for the
postcard. Wesley Marr
Dear Wesley, Sometimes when I head off on a trip somewhere I take a stack
of unanswered mail with me and answer it on the road.
I often wondered if you found your natural father so I’m pleased to know
everything turned out so well. With the resources of The Net it’s a lot
easier to track down biological parents these days than it was back in the
70’s when I had to use a private detective to find mine.
People who have no doubts about where they came from still find it hard to
understand why folks like you and me have the desire to know about our
roots. Congratulations on the successful conclusion of your search. Hope
to hear from you again, warmly Rod
SAN FRANCISCO COFFEE HOUSES
really blown away to find you again. I was in Tustin having a great
relationship in 1973, and your poems really hit home. Stanyan Street and
some other of your sorrows, of course, and "The Sea" is still great (of
course now it's just a memory). then I sort of lost track and today I
found you on the Internet. Again, I'm blown away. My thanks.
I was wondering what the early coffeehouses were like in San Francisco. I
was able to experience a few in Dallas in 1964, but really think you were
all very lucky to have lived in the early 50's and had each other to
kibitz and support and experiment with. what a gas.
I've had a similar relationship with my brother (Don) where we could get
really out there in our imaginations and laugh that really deep can't
control yourself laugh that you get in church sometime. Our dad was named
Uncontrollable laughter. Experimental poetry theater. Ways to
involve the audience. How about a comic style where you really are only
funny with friends, so you hang out with the audience for a couple of
months before you do your act.
Let me know anything you can about the early days. I try to visit often.
It’s cool when you realize that imagination is enough.
Thanks again. Michael.
Dear Michael, The San Francisco Coffee houses were great but by the time
they became ‘in vogue’ I was already working with musicians in Bay Area
clubs doing poetry with jazz. Most were paying gigs, even if it was just a
case of the hat being passed around for contributions.
Lots of poets and singers did get their start in coffeehouses though. That
was a great period. There were places a performer could go and fail, much
like the comedy clubs of today. These days there is no place to go and
practice your art, which is why so many of today’s pop singers sound like
‘Star Search’ clones. I have trouble telling who’s who with some of the
female singers in particular.
During the 1950’s and 60’s Doris Day, Jo Stafford, Jeri Southern, Rosemary
Clooney, Joni James, Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald all had separate and
The same thing is true with the Opera divas. There was no mistaking Maria
Callas for Renata Tabaldi or Joan Sutherland.
Marilyn Horne doesn’t sound remotely like Beverly Sills. She sounds like
When there isn’t a place to hone your craft, even the A&R people at record
companies say, “Get me another Brittany Spears.” So we have carbon copy
singers with even their exposed midriffs alike. Lately the same thing is
happening with the country guys under the cowboy hats.
Thanks for writing Michael and don’t get so blown away that you can’t find
your way back here. Sincerely, Rod
WILL WE EVER FIND OUR FATHERS
I'm getting ready to send you some old bootleg tapes I found. On them
there is a song with the lyrics:
"Everybody's looking for a hero
Heroes just don't seem to come around
Cause the ones we looked up to when we were small
Promised to catch us, and let us fall
Will we ever find our fathers?
Will we know them or will they pass us by?..."
Or words to that effect.
I've been all over your site and can't find it! Can it be that you have
never published this one? Please post the lyrics on your site. I always
thought it was so beautiful. Cindy Brown Humboldt Bank – MBC
Dear Cindy, the song you’re referring to is “Will We Ever Find Our
Fathers.” It was written for me by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager.
Peter sent it to me during my very public search to find out who my
natural father was. I introduced it in concerts and recorded it as a
single and on the LP “More Rod 77.” I once mentioned to Peter that he
himself had never recorded it. He replied, “Rod, it’s your song.” I can’t
imagine a nicer compliment from a writer/performer I admired so much.
“Will We Ever Find Our Fathers” still touches me and even sustains me at
times. I’ll try to get permission from the publishers to reproduce the
lyric in a future Flight Plan. Thanks for remembering it. Peter and Carole
wrote some excellent songs together and with a number of different
songwriting partners. Affectionately, Rod
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