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Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

A healthy dose of wonder keeps the mind in motion.

 

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

Rod, I 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 the last.

APRIL 29, 2001
Times' measure,
Does not fall with the weights of Grandfather clocks,
Wound and rewound weekly,
Tick-tock.
Times' measure,
Does not reflect back in full length mirrors,
Hairlines and bellies,
Recede-drop.
Times' measure,
Is in the love that you spread with your words,
Timeless-eternity,
Never stop.

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

Dear 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

Did San 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

Dear 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

Dear 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

VALENTINES

Dear Mr. 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

Dear 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

I was 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 Ed.

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 individual voices.

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 Marilyn Horne.

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

Well, 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

Sleep warm.

5/21/2001 Previously unpublished

Booking for "An Evening with Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for more details:

Riverton Concert Details

notable birthdays

VICTORIA DAY (CANADA)

Fairuza Balk o Raymond Burr o Peggy Cass o Dennis Day o Albrecht Durer o Al Franken o David Groh o Richard Hatch o Peter Hurkos o Rick Jason o Key Kendall o Lola Lane o Robert Montgomery o Notorious B.I.G. o Alexander Pope o Judge Reinhold o Harold Robbins o Georgine Roos o Leo Sayer o Mr. T o Fats Waller

Rod's random thoughts Never be afraid to say, What is it?

We should accept each day of solitude as a special gift.

We don’t begin to grow until we take full responsibility for our lives.

ANDY • for Andrew Orke

I saw him in the cowshed
milking metaphors until
no cream came up to settle
at the top.
The morning chores behind him,
he took ease
halfway up a haystack.
There no needle found him,
and no farmer’s wife with open apron
came to seek out just the right man
for odd jobs round the house.

It’s tough on poets when the muse
decides to take an ocean cruise.
Hard when old analogies are all there is.
A sentence is a sentence then,
not commuted but not carried out.

Halfway up or halfway down a haystack
the poet’s dream is empty.
Now cows trail home with bulging udders
expecting new relief.

-from “Valentines, “ 1986

 
© 1971, 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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