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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001
Stanyan Entertainment Group
A Thought for Today
Brotherhood is as plain as your
reflection coming back from someone else’s eyes.
Hate damages the heart; it
poisons the mind, weakens the spirit and darkens the soul. It doesn’t just
touch the perpetrators and recipients it diminishes all of our lives and
lessens our ability to love. It chips away at our self esteem and blunts
the knowledge and understanding we can only arrive at by coming together
with people unlike ourselves.
How do we learn about life and ourselves, we do so by sharing experiences.
We wouldn’t know how to laugh if we hadn’t heard laughter from others. We
learn to weep because the people we’ve come to know and care about and
trust die, leave or abandon us.
We are a nation and a world of diverse people. They come in all sizes
colors, attitudes and with varying degrees of opinions and knowledge. Most
arrive with experiences and ideas they are willing to share with us if we
willing to let them get close enough to do so.
Blacks we imported from Africa gave us our only truly native music. Jews
from Russia, Poland and Germany wrote American popular song. No Jews, no
Broadway. No Blacks, no Jazz. The wandering Jew because he had no country
of his own carried history in his head and became the American inventor,
mathematician and one of its principal story tellers.
Because they’ve always been made to feel different Gays create their own
fashion, a kind of signal. They dress to meet each other, fifteen minutes
later what they’ve been wearing becomes the uniform of the so called
straight street. Let’s not kid ourselves, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfigger
and Calvin Kline didn’t do any pioneering work in fashion. They picked up
all their latest styles by summering at Fire Island. Gentlemen, don’t look
in your closets too closely, you might discover that row of shirts and
suits look suspiciously like the garb on that ‘faggot’ you thought you saw
yesterday on the street.
Women work as hard as men and are probably more honest in the bargain
since they have traditionally been left at home to raise the children and
they want to bring them up right. Do they thrive on the same pay scale as
men who do the same jobs — or in some cases the jobs they do that are
supposedly done by the men who pay their salaries? Not yet they don’t.
People with eyes slanted “differently” than ours broke their backs
building our railroads and roads. We employ Latin labor to pick our
vegetables and clean our houses and lots of other tasks we’d rather not do
But listen, as grateful as we all are or should be for the talents
described above, without loosing tradition, isn’t it time we stopped
thinking of Blacks as musicians, Jews as bankers. Gays different and not
quite as good as “us.” Women at their best behind the stove or pregnant.
Mexicans as them. Orientals as those?
People are people. You’re going to like some of them and learn to avoid
those you don’t. Actually, that’s a pretty sensible plan. But how can you
ever come to like or dislike anybody unless you’re open enough to get to
I’M INVITING ALL OF YOU TO A PARTY
It’s my privilege to welcome
those of you who can make it to the 2001 Celebration of Life and Diversity
Event on July 1st in Redding California. Admission is free and it’s being
held at Caldwell Park from 6-9 PM. Many of us will be coming early to have
a picnic. I’ll be reading some poetry and talking about diversity and who
knows, if somebody’s got a guitar and knows a few chords to a song or two
of mine I might even do some singing.
Marghe Covino from Lambda will also be speaking and there will be other
entertainment and even music for dancing. Hey, what good is a party
All of you know how I feel about Human Rights and this important event is
being held to commemorate the lives of two civic leaders Gary Matson and
Winfield Mowder. Because they also happened to be openly Gay, Gary Matson,
50, and his life partner, Winfield Mowder, 40, were found brutally
murdered in their Happy Valley home July 1, 1999. Each victim had been
shot repeatedly. It was a hate crime that galvanized the community and has
caused the coming together of all kinds of people to celebrate – not
denigrate – diversity.
The two brothers who confessed to the crime (the older one even boasting
to reporters and authorities about his hatred of Jews and Gays) have yet
to come to trial. As if this act wasn’t senseless and evil enough the FBI
has accused both brothers of torching three Synagogues and a building that
housed an abortion clinic in the nearby Sacramento area. One of the
accused men told a Sacramento television reporter that he mixed the
''Jewish cocktails'' used to torch the synagogues and personally helped
set at least one of the fires.
Despite the gravity of these acts of hate, don’t look for this to be a
somber evening it really is a celebration of two people who passed through
their community all to briefly and made a difference. They did so by
sharing their concern and talent with their neighbors and the city they
had grown to love.
According to Scott Mobley writing in the Redding Record Searchlight,
“Matson helped found Redding's certified farmer's market. His work on the
Redding Arboretum generated jobs when the area's unemployment rate soared
to 14 percent. Matson and Mowder's cooperative planting program taught
others to love native plants, leaving a legacy that will help improve
Redding for decades to come.” That so many unalike people will join in a
party to commemorate the all too brief lives of’ Winfield Mowder and his
friend Gary Matson means they will go on making a difference.
Because I think of all of you as friends and family I hope you’ll join me
at the party.
How did I get involved in this
celebration? Anita Kornfield, a member of the Matson-Mowder Pride Alliance
who is co-sponsoring the event is the daughter of an old school chum of
mine. She sent a note with her father Richard, who like me was attending
our 50th High School Reunion, asking if I’d join the program as a speaker.
The rights of all my brothers and sisters on this planet are of paramount
importance to me regardless of their age, race, political party or who
they choose to sleep with and conduct productive lives with. As I’ve said
many times before “We’re all we’ve got and we all should be nicer to each
The crime that robbed Redding of Gary Matson and Winfield Mowder is no
different or more abhorrent to me than the murder of James Byrd JR a
47-year-old black man who was tied to a truck by three white men and
dragged to his death. Or the torture and crucifixion of young Matthew
Shepherd on a barbed wire fence. It did happen a little closer to home, in
the heart of my home state California, but hate crimes have no favorite
habitat, they happen everywhere every day of every year.
You and I can work to stop hate and prejudice in its tracks. It sounds so
complicated, but it isn’t. It is really simple and very easy. Get to know
somebody before you decide whether you approve of him or her or not. Don’t
dislike groups of people because you’ve been told they are different or
undesirable. And anyway, despite color or ethnicity there are no groups of
people. Each human being is different. If you’re going to judge them do so
individually and by your own standards.
You’re different too and so am I. I don’t know about you but I glory in
being different than everybody else. Aren’t we smart enough to make up our
own minds about the people we encounter – that they either enrich our
lives or have the power to potentially drag us down?
Prejudice is easy, tolerance a little harder. But ask yourself this, which
is more rewarding and makes you feel better about yourself?
Concerning Matson and Mowder Anita Kornfield put it this way. “They
touched our lives and our children's lives in school, Their loss was a
huge loss both personally and philanthropically. We want their memory to
be a seed for something greater.”
Years ago John Donne spoke eloquently of brotherhood, “Send not to ask for
whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee. I am involved with all mankind and
any mans death diminishes me.”
So come to the party and celebrate. You know what I always say at the end
of my concerts, “if you came with somebody be nice to them, if you didn’t.
look around. There are some awfully nice and pretty people here. You might
And now to the mail.
I hope you find this next set
of letters interesting. I certainly did as you might gather from my
Just wanted to say thank you for being a massive influence on me
creatively. You, Allen Ginsberg and Bukowski really changed the way I
looked at not just poetry, but writing in general. My question is, Kurt
Cobain was quoted as being a major fan of yours. Did you know he was and
what did you think of his work with Nirvana? Thanks. Peace out. John C.
Dear John, I was pleased that Kurt liked my work and the feeling was
certainly mutual. He had a way of finding the unusual in every day things
and writing about them in a very unique way. We had even kicked around the
idea of writing something together. I had spoken with him on the telephone
not long before his death so I was really stunned at the news. What a
loss. To my way of thinking he was just beginning to find his legs as a
I believe Nirvana was a solid band and the members rallied around Kurt and
took inspiration from him in the same way The Doors were an extension of
Jim Morrison. Kurt’s fans were loyal and growing but I don’t think the
music business (and alas today more than ever it is a business)
appreciated and helped cultivate his talent to the degree they should
have. He was impatient for the kind of universal acceptance he was sure to
have had by now, but with his talent he had every right to be impatient.
Thanks for mentioning me in the same sentence as Bukowski and Ginsberg.
I’ve always considered them fraternity brothers and that was true of Kurt
too. I miss him and I feel all of us have been robbed of his talent. All
the best, Rod
I wanted to pass on my fathers new web address.
I hope you enjoy it as it is in its early stages. Have a wonderful day and
I hope to hear from you soon. Michael Rodgers
Dear Michael, it’s about time Jimmie had a site of his own. I really
enjoyed it and know my readers will too. Your dad, like Glenn Yarbrough,
was there at the start of my songwriting career. He was the first singer
to record “The World I Used to Know,” "Someplace Green” “Another Country”
and “Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name.” I don’t think Jimmie ever made a bad
His version of “Bon Soir Mademoiselle” is my favorite and what he did with
“The Lovers” was very beautiful. I remember spending many happy hours with
Jimmie and your mother Colleen when they first came to Hollywood. In fact
I recall when she was carrying you. Once I get back from my overly busy
July we’ll get together for sure. Warmly, Rod.
(Proving the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, Michael Rodgers, like
his dad, is a songwriter and singer. He’s currently working with Al
Click here: The Jimmie Rodgers Show - Branson, Missouri
me Barry McGuire alive and well in Clovis, California.
Rod, over the years I've thought about you countless times. Today I
thought I would try to find you on my Internet connection. So, I clicked
into ask Jeeves and here you are. Call me or E-mail me, I would love to
talk to you, better yet I would love to see you. Barry
Dear Barry, isn’t The Net something! The idea of being able to touch base
with old friends by clicking a mouse is really a trip.
What a great surprise hearing from you again. How many years, decades,
lifetimes has it been? Isn’t it time we wrote some more songs together and
what about some duets? Come sailing through the sky with me at Riverton!
By the time you read this I will have spoken with you. Luv, Rod
there, I asked you about this a few weeks ago, but you were having mail
problems. You wrote me back but didn't mention the original purpose for
the mail. So I decided to ask again.
I recently visited a Mickey Newbury Message Board and heard from several
people there that you and Mickey are "mutual admirers". I've been a fan of
Newbury for 26 years, and it wouldn't surprise me if you've been one even
Any Newbury stories? Or perhaps just a word to your fans about one of the
most perfect voices ever heard (and that on top of his songwriting
Your new poem, To One Absent, is a reminder of why I was drawn to your
writing in the beginning. To say so simply, and yet with such depth, the
feeling of being away from a love you've finally found...that ache, and
yet the knowledge that it's "all ok". You did it again bud. It reminds me
so much of how it was for Bill and I before I moved to Canada. I can't
imagine ever being away from him again for more than a few days.. and yet
if it happened, I know it would be ok. Because he's "here" now, inside me.
Thanks for sharing your life and feelings with us yet again. Love from,
Dear tara, I'm definitely a fan. Can you send me a link to his site? luv,
Rod, Mickey Newbury reminds me a lot of you. He used
to put out 2-4 albums a year, and then only released 4 in 8 or 10 years
and stopped touring and recording. He wanted to spend time with his family
in Eugene, OR where he still lives. He has a very active Message
Board/Chat...in fact it's more like chat and extremely hard to keep up
It's not a great server ... really slow, so you have to be patient. I
found that on several pages if I let it try to load for a while and then
clicked STOP it would actually load. Love, tara
Dear tara, Mickey’s voice always reminded me of those lonesome whistles I
used to hear as freight trains climbed the hill where I lived and worked
as a ranch hand one summer. A long melodic sigh as the machine came up the
mountain. He has one of the best sets of pipes of any male vocalist I’ve
ever heard, his voice can give a low almost inaudible purr one moment and
in the next soar as if he was aiming for the back row of a football
I think it would be hard for anyone familiar with both our styles not to
see that we have, knowingly or not, influenced each other in our approach
to a song. I’m sure, because he doesn’t just choose to sing his own
beautifully crafted songs but tackles other material too that he gets the
same questions I do. Why do you sing other people’s songs? Why not just
concentrate on your own? Because they are there, that’s why.
Oddly over the course of his recording career he and I have chosen some of
the same third party songs to sing: “Danny Boy,” “ Shenandoah” “In The
Pines” & “That Lucky Old Sun” to name four that are on one of my favorite
Newbury albums, “Rusty Tracks.” His own “Makes Me Wonder If I Ever Said
Goodbye” and “Leavin’ Kentucky” are real heart stoppers on the dame disc.
I’ve been a Newbury fan since Dolly Parton and Bobby Bare introduced me to
his music ages ago. As ever, Rod
MORE ON MICKEY
On the same day tara’s
response came in I received the following E-mail.
Hi Rod, About a year ago I wrote you regarding
Mickey. You responded that you were not only familiar with his music, but
a fan. When I talked to him at that time, he indicated he'd also been a
longtime fan of you & your music. I'd love to see you two make contact.
Mice’s health continues to worsen. A couple of months ago he was in
intensive care and should have died. When able, he is still writing and
very productive. I'm sure he would love to hear from you. I’ve enclosed
his E-mail address & his telephone number.
If you wish to talk to me about this for any reason, I’m also enclosing my
mobile and home numbers. Thank you, Dave Franklin.
Dear Dave, I’m leaving for New Jersey over the weekend and trying to get
my head above water before I do so, but I’ll definitely be in touch with
you and with Mickey during the time I’m in Atlantic City. The e-mails from
Michael, Barry and now you about Mickey make me aware of time passing so
One of my as yet unfulfilled dreams is to make some recordings with
friends I’ve worked with and with some of my musical heroes. Mickey
certainly falls into that category. You’ll hear from me soon. Warmly, Rod
FRANK SINATRA JR.
also planning on traveling down to Atlantic City to see Frank jr. Can't
wait to hear him sing your song. Fondly, John
Dear John, I’ve known Frank Jr. for quite a while now but have become much
closer to him since the death of his dad. His singing voice has always
been so close to that of Frank Sr.’s that it has worked against his own
career. He’s back on the road again and in a big way, after closing in
Atlantic City he’ll spend the summer touring Great Britain.
If you think he sounded like his dad before, wait till you hear him now.
The resemblance is uncanny. You won’t believe it. Before his father’s
passing he made an unusual album entitled “Frank Sinatra: As I Remember
Him.” Out of that concept has come a very musical and interesting act.
He’s given in to what has to be his destiny and is finally performing his
father’s classics, using a full orchestra and the classic May, Riddle,
Costa and Jenkins arrangements that were done for his father’s
appearances, singles and concept albums.
There is so much material to draw from that no two shows are alike and
Frank Jr. strings the Sinatra standards he chooses together brilliantly
and effortlessly with a biographic narrative that is unique and
A couple of weeks ago he had Edward and I up to his house and we listened
to a recording of one of his recent concerts. It was one of the most
memorable evenings in my life and ranks right up there with some of the
musical evenings I kicked back with his dad and listened to everything
from Sinatra to Debussy.
He saved the best for last though and to my great surprise and delight
played his version of “I’m Not Afraid.” Both Edward and I sat there in
silence almost unable to comprehend what we were hearing. Edward actually
wept. Young Frank’s rendition is magnificent and I knew at that moment
that I had to drop everything else I had planned and attend the Atlantic
City shows. I’m excited just thinking about them.
Frank Sinatra Jr. opens next Tuesday night the 26th of June at the
Atlantic City Hilton and I’ll be in the audience for five of his six
shows. I’d be very surprised if the concerts aren’t sold out, but if you
live in the tri-state area, give it a try. This is a gutsy, unusual and
potentially risky move on the part of the singer of the century’s son and
boy, does he bring it off. If you’re a Frank Sinatra fan (and who isn’t)
the man is back in one of the most musical and enjoyable evening’s you’re
ever likely to encounter. He’s even got Bill Miller playing the piano for
“One For My Baby.”
I guess you might get the feeling I’m more than a little thrilled about
this event, John. As ever, Rod
there. Do you remember me? I was at the Los Angeles Petula Clark
convention and we spoke for quite a time about Miss Clark and her talent.
I gave you a CD, which you wanted me to sign, as I wrote the notes! I also
sent you Volume 2 later on, did you get it?
What did you think of the selections on both CD's as a representation of
her career in those times? They have both sold well I hope that you are
well Congratulations on the recent success all over again of SEASONS IN
THE SUN in the UK
Saw PC in Norfolk Virginia last week she was stupendous.
Regards Richard Harries
Dear Richard, Great to hear from you again. I really enjoyed meeting you
at The Petula Clark Fan Club reception. Only last week Jim Pierson and I
were discussing how much we enjoyed your in depth writing in the booklets
that accompany the various PC collections.
I love your programming of both Vol.’s 1 & 2 and I apologize for not
writing before now to thank you for the second set.
As you know the concert you saw in Norfolk was taped by PBS for a future
TV special. Jim is the producer of the PBS special and he arrives back
from New York tomorrow. I’ll be doing a taped interview with him as part
of the ‘Pet Program’ and will say hello.
As you know, nobody, but nobody takes back seat to me as a lover of
Petula's voice and most particularly her songwriting. The only thing
better than both is the lady herself. Petula Clark has one of the biggest
hearts and warmest souls of anyone I know. Our friendship, though we’ve
been apart for long stretches, has lasted for decades and will endure, God
willing, for many more. Sometime before the year is out we’ll get together
to finish our album project.
All the best to you Richard and I hope we meet up again soon. Please write
again and fill me in on what you’re up to these days. With you all things
are possible. With admiration, Rod
TERRY JACKS: THERE HE GOES AGAIN
This morning I came across Terry Jacks on VH-1's show, "Where Are They
Now?” He spoke of "his" song, "Seasons In The Sun". He even went so far as
to talk about why he wrote the song and who he wrote it for. It really
bothered me to hear him talking about "his" song, without ever crediting
you or Jacques Brel. Does he think that we don't know the truth? Stacey
Dear Stacy, Despite repeated calls to VH1 they continue to show that
interview with Terry where he takes credit for writing “Seasons in the
Sun.” It’s kind of funny when you think about it, because during one of
his ‘voice over's’ where he claims authorship, they show the disc and you
can clearly read (Jacques Brel-Rod McKuen) on the label.
I’m not sure what Terry’s mind-set is in claiming to be the
writer/composer of a song that was written before he attained puberty. You
would think it would be enough that he made so much money from his
recording of “Seasons” that he was able to retire off the royalties. Worse
is VH1 continuing to perpetuate the myth. Wouldn’t you think they’d like
to have some credibility as far as their network is concerned? For the
record Terry Jacks total contribution to writing his version of the song
was changing the wife Francoise to “Michel, my little one” and some
doggerel about "you helped me find the sun and every time when I was down,
you would always come around get my feet back on the ground”
My original adaptation from Jacques lyric is:
“Goodbye Francoise, my trusted
Without you I’d have had a lonely life
You cheated lots of times but then
I forgave you in the end
Though your lover was my friend”
Maybe “Michelle” who didn’t cheat on her husband with the dying man’s best
friend made more sense with the bubble gum set, otherwise I have no idea
why he changed the lyric. He did not get my permission to do so, nor that
of the publisher. When the record came out I was in Mexico for a month
working on the first version of my book “Moment to Moment.” By the time I
returned home Terry’s recording was number one all over the world. Try to
stop a hit record in its tracks, it’s impossible.
At first both Jacques and I were grateful that another one of our songs
had attained popularity. It put a new roof on my house and helped Jacques
(who by then had been diagnosed with terminal cancer) retire to the South
Pacific and start a new, if all too brief, life. Both of us grew to
dislike the Jacks recording because it was covered by over a hundred
artists with the altered lyric. Among those who didn’t go back to our
original were Andy Williams, Mitch Ryder, Pearls Before Swine and The Ray
Conniff Singers. Still the original was good enough for The Kingston Trio.
Still, I’ve had worse cases of plagiarism. Another Canadian singer, Andy
Kim, took a song of mine “Rock Gently” and only added one word to it
calling it “Rock Me Gently.” He recorded it, put his name on it and it
became a smash as “Rock Me Gently.” He even won a Juno Award (the
equivalent to our Grammy) for best “Original” song.
Wade Alexander, who is a bird dog on the subject of my songs & knows them
backwards, found a Reggae singer who took the melody of “Seasons,” wrote
new lyrics to it and called it “Twice My Age.” Jacques & I are now
co-authors of “Twice My Age” & receive our share of royalties.
Then of course we have Janet Jackson’s “Doesn’t Really Matter.” It’s been
on two number one albums, the soundtrack of “Nutty Professor, II” and her
current chart collection. Of course it does really matter because the song
contains 24 bars of the verse to “Soldiers Who Want to be Heroes” in it.
Miss Jackson takes credit as co-author with a producer who makes a habit
of using two names in order to collect two thirds of the royalties and has
been involved in several plagiarism lawsuits. Well, both of them are about
to be involved in yet another one if we don’t reach an out of court
It didn’t all start with Terry, but for the life of me I can’t glean why
anyone would want to put their names on something they didn’t write. By
the way, have you read my new book “Leaves of Grass” or heard my latest
composition “Night & Day?” Cheers, Rod
PS: Read on for “the proper way to do it.”
THE PROPER WAY TO DO IT
Kind of an odd story. I saw you on a program called Our World back in
1987, when I was nine years old. They were recounting the spring of 1968
everything from Peggy Flaming to Peter Max to George Westmoreland – and
you read part of a poem from Listen to the Warm, which I didn't really get
at the time because I was too young. I understand it better now.
When I saw it a few years ago, I bought the book, and have read it a few
times, and I like it a lot. When those of us who weren't around for the
late sixties think of that time, we think of it as being almost like a
storm, like the end to the Beatles song, "A Day in the Life." Your writing
-- quiet and peaceful -- is an interesting counter point.
I'm in a young, very quiet rock band. I wrote a simple song several days
ago that uses some of the words to "Four." I suspect it won't come to
anything -- we're pretty far outside the mainstream, and I don't know if
the guys in the band will even like it -- but I wanted to check with you
first to see if it was okay. I'd go out of my way to make sure people knew
they were your words and not mine if it passed muster. I just think
they're really good. Anyway, either way, thanks, Steve May, Staff Writer,
TEQ/Mfg. Magazines, Pittsburgh.
Dear Steve, I’d love to hear what you’ve done with “Four,” maybe you could
make me a cassette or better still burn me a CD of it so I can check it
out. If I like it you’ll become co-writer of that version of the song and
we’ll split the royalties earned from whoever records it. If I don’t like
it, no harm done.
I’ve made this kind of arrangement with several writers and it seems to
work out well. You can send your adaptation to me c/o Stanyan, Box 2783,
Hollywood CA. 90210.
Hope to hear from you soon, Steve and good luck with your band. With best
THE FIRST DAY OF SUMMER
This looks like the start of a
very busy summer for me. This weekend I’m in Atlantic City for Frank
Sinatra JR’s engagement at the Hilton, then home for one night in my own
bed. On July 1st, as I mentioned above I’ll be in Redlands California at
the Celebration of Life & Diversity. If you attend the party, don’t forget
to come back afterward and say hello. We’re even working on setting up a
book signing for First Editions of “A Safe Place to Land" at Barnes &
Noble in Redlands. I hope to see many of you at both events.
In early July I’ll be recording then back on tour to Wyoming on the 20,
21, 22 of July in Riverton Wyoming, the 28th in Santa Fe New Mexico. Sleep
appearance dates just announced!
Booking for "An Evening with
Rod McKuen" at the Riverton Rendezvous is open! Click below for
Concert & Appearance Details