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Tuesday, 4 May, 1999

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Photo by Dan Chapman ©2001 Stanyan Entertainment Group

A Thought for Today

Never be afraid to be alone, because you never are.

 

A BOOK FOR A FRIEND

You can imagine how excited I was when Frank Sinatra asked me to write an original album for him. What could possibly be nicer, more flattering and challenging than being commissioned by the worlds most inventive and popular singer to write and compose something, let alone a whole album, for HIM. It was like winning the Nobel and The Lottery on the same afternoon. Scintillating and scary.

A Man Alone was meant to be a highly personal work and at Frank’s suggestion I spent a lot of time with him, over the next year. Quiet, quality time that I’ll never forget. We talked about everything and I mean everything. I had spent my lifetime up until then getting to know the performer, I was familiar with everything he’d recorded and had hunted up and owned all of his 78’s, before the invention of LP’s. I don’t think I ever missed an Old Gold Show or any of his Your Hit Parade series on radio during the war years. Now I was being given an extraordinary chance to get to know the man as opposed to the performer.

I think the result of our collaboration speaks and sings for itself. Both of us were very satisfied with the album and the making of it created a bond that even his death a year ago couldn’t break.

When the album was finished and before it’s release, I wanted to give Frank something special. But what. What could anyone possibly give Frank Sinatra? I finally settled on writing an appreciation of the man and publishing it and all the lyrics to the songs in a Limited Edition of 500 little orange (his favorite color) books. I numbered and signed 400 copies, which I gave to Frank to do with as he wished. I kept 100 copies, many of which were signed and numbered from 400 on and marked "AP" for artists proof.

Frank gave his to friends and special fans, I know this because I’ve run into many of them over the years. I gave some of mine away and kept a few. A few, very few, contain both of our signatures and over the years have been auctioned for charity. I had no idea that the book would take on its own life and that thirty years later it would become one of my most collectable works. It is, after all, only forty pages long. It can’t be measured of course in the terms of the love that went into it.

Here’s some recent mail concerning the book and the album.

A MAN ALONE

Dear Rod, I've always been a huge fan and I love that you now have a web site. I know you wrote a book for Frank Sinatra, A MAN ALONE. Do you know if any of those books can be found? I would absolutely love to have one. You and Frank are my all time favorites! Thanks a Lot! Naomi

Dear Rod, Just a bit curious. Was just on eBay where a Sinatra/A Man Alone limited edition is being bid on. It is up to over $150. My question is; I have one that looks identical, except mine has a white jacket with an orange title on the front and a black and white picture on the back. But mine also has no number or signature on the page where it should be. There is just a line. So is mine more unusual, or less? Don't want to get rid of it obviously, just a bit confused. Thanks, Wes

Good Morning Rod, Just thought you might like to know that a copy of A Man Alone is now going for $152 on eBay. Quite a price for one of your books. Waterfalls back at you, Jay Hagan

Dear Rod, Have you seen this? I copied it from Barnes & Noble. "Frank Sinatra a Man Alone McKuen, Rod. Condition: 1st ed., F, no jacket as issued; 1/500 copies SIGNED by McKuen. From the author's note: "This book is not for sale. It is limited to an edition of 500 copies signed and numbered by the author of which 400 copies have been presented to Mr. Sinatra. The remaining 100 copies have been retained by the author." Unique Sinatra item. Format: First Edition / Signed. Craig Hokenson Bookseller Dallas, TX Our Price: $513.50." And from the same listing is the album you did with Frank Sinatra A Man Alone. "Condition: very good near fine record, still has plastic over jacket, has been played. Wonder Book and Video Frederick, MD Our Price: $37.50"

My question is this. I know Stanyan By Mail is the only place where I can order the Frank Sinatra LP of A Man Alone, now that the CD is no longer available, but will you ever make the book "Frank Sinatra: A Man Alone available? Charles Terman


Dear Naomi, Wes, Jay & Charles. About half the edition has plain orange covers with a sheet of clear plastic as a dust cover. The other half has a white dust jacket with the words "Frank Sinatra, a man alone, Rod McKuen" on the cover. On the back is the famous shot of Frank, at the first session, dressed in a T. Shirt & love beads (thinking I’d probably turn up that way) while I’m in a sport coat and tie hoping to please him. Both versions are bound in orange boards with the title stamped in gold. The Library of Congress card catalog number on both versions is 70-104171. What makes yours a bit unusual, Wes, is that it is unsigned & unnumbered. We’ll have to take care of that.

Yes, Jay, that is quite a price and so is the one Charles quoted. Whew. Finally, Naomi and Charles, Dwight does have a few copies of the original edition at Stanyan By Mail. Rod

AND, A WOMAN ALONE

Great finding your (beautifully designed) site. Your work was very much part of my coming of age during the glorious 70s, and I was always gratified to hear artists include your songs in later recordings. But none surprised me more than Nina Simone when she included 3 of them in the exquisite A Woman Alone. I would be very interested in hearing any recollections that you'd care to share about the experience, whether you met or conferred with her by phone, and, in general, what your reaction was to the finished work. I found this site through the Songbirds list, a wonderful group of fiercely dedicated and knowledgeable fans of female singers who honored (and new ones who still honor) the Great American Songbook. I think you would find this very interesting email to add a sparkle to your mailbox, so this is also an invitation for you to join. Best regards, Alfred Zelcer

Dear Alfred, I’ve been a Nina Simone fan for as long as I can remember. In fact we both played some of the same clubs during the 50’s & 60’s; alas not together. I felt privileged to know her early on and watch her career develop. The first I heard about her recording my songs was when producer Michael Alago called and told me she had selected three and was going to call her album "A Woman Alone."

I thought that was a wonderful tribute to me and to Frank. I never attended any of the sessions but was thrilled and delighted with the results. Nina is a truly unique singer and she brought something totally different to the songs than anyone else has.

Since its release a couple of years ago, Nina has publicly declared "A Woman Alone" her ‘favorite’ of the many albums she’s recorded. Songbirds does sound interesting. Send me some information on the web site (if there is one) or the E-mail address and I’ll pass it along. Thanks, Alfred. Rod

GLENN YARBROUGH

So glad to have found you! Now, the gluttonous one for quality works, I'd like to find Glenn Yarbrough also. Last I heard, he was going to sail around the world. That was around the 1970's? Sure miss your collaborations. Thank you for YOU. You've added a lot to my 54years. Roni Bell, Denver

Dear Roni, Not only is Glenn around and about, but he has several CD’s out (including a couple of our collaborations) and is still performing. He has a web site you’ll like too. Regards, Rod

A FRIEND FROM VIETNAM

In 1968 I was a young soldier in Vietnam and The Sea helped me make it through some bad times. In 1969 I was sent to Germany and discovered the Rod McKuen fan club so I sent in my application and joined. I bought all the books and albums as they came out. Then one day I got a letter from you, Rod, along with some Not-For-Sale records. I was tickled. My greatest regret was that I played them
over and over until they became so scratched only I could hear the music...others simply heard scratchy noises. Later I got a full sized LP in a plain white cover and, written in red ink, was a notation from you that said, "Ernie, in (date) a new movie is being released called The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. This is the soundtrack from that movie. I hope you enjoy it (signed Rod McKuen)." It became and remains one of my most treasured possessions.

Through the years I bought the books, words, music, and albums by Rod McKuen. I delighted finding your works being performed by so many people. I can still hear Jimmie Rodgers' version of The Lovers by just thinking about it. Alas, that album (Child of Clay), too, became scratched beyond salvation. I listened to everyone who was someone perform your works; from Glenn Yarbrough to the Smothers Brothers to Sinatra but none conveyed the depth of feeling that you did.

For helping me through some incredibly tough times, for introducing me to some great poetry, and for sharing Anita Kerr (and the San Sebastian Strings) with the world, I thank you. Ernie Martinez, Danbury, CT

Dear Ernie, Welcome aboard. Sometimes I find it hard to believe any of us survived the Vietnam era, those of you who went away to serve and those of us who stayed at home and watched the body count on TV. Of course, many didn’t survive or came back as mentally damaged men who barely knew boyhood before they left.

Some of the letters I’ve gotten over the years from Viet vets. have been so personal as to be heartbreaking. You and I really go back a long time, Ernie, to know you made it back safely means a lot to me, This www thing has never been more important and meaningful to me than right this minute. Love, Rod.

40 MINUTES

It takes me 40 minutes to drive to work each day. That is long enough for me to sing along with about half of my favorite songs of yours. On the way home I do the same with the other half. It's great! Thanks. By the way, did you ever really watch 77 Sunset Strip? Regards. -Christopher Lech

Dear Christopher, Watch it? I once did a guest shot on it. Rod

CAUGHT IN THE QUIET

Hi Rod, Saw Jays mail about the price of your books on ebay. How about a copy of Caught in the Quiet on Alibris for $480? Check it out for yourself. Blue Skies, Ken.

Dear Ken, I’m in the wrong business. Instead of being a writer I should be a used bookseller. An interesting price considering "Caught in the Quiet" can be downloaded from here for free or bought new for $12.95 from Stanyan by Mail. Rod PS: Say nothing to Dwight or he’ll raise the price.

WHO HAS TOUCHED THE SKY

Hello. My name is Dennis McNulty; I live in Sioux Falls,SD. Years ago I owned an album by Mr. McKuen and The Anita Kerr singers. One of the songs on that album had lyrics "Who has touched the sky, who has seen the sun as it went running by, etc. I loved that song, and have without luck searched for it on CD. I am wheelchair bound with MS, so if you could help me locate a copy of this wonderful album I would be forever grateful. I do remember that the original album cover was a bright yellow. Thank you very much for your assistance in this matter. Yours truly Dennis J. McNulty

Dear Dennis, The album was called "Bouquet" and was A San Sebastion Strings "Greatest Hits" collection. "Who Has Touched The Sky," is from the LP "The Sky." This is one of Anita’s most evocative themes and her score for "The Sky" is built around it. No CD’s have been issued, but both LP’s are available by mail order. Cheers, Rod

A BOOK OF DAYS

Hi Rod, You have ALWAYS been my favorite contemporary poet and songwriter. I was thrilled back in November of 1984 when I was able to meet you at a book signing at Diamond's (department store) in at a mall in Phoenix. "Rod McKuen's Book of Days....and a month of Sundays" was the book, and you kindly wrote in two places for me, making it all seem very personal, and me very special. I was unhappily married at the time, and I thought I would wait until I was able to (emotionally) get a divorce to write in my very special book, though I read it over and over again. I figured I wanted to have good things to say, and in the place I was then, nothing good would come out. Well, that was 15 years ago, and the pages are still bare. But I did get a divorce two years ago. And your book is still very special to me, as you are. For many years after that book signing, I would get a Christmas card from you, and it reaffirmed what a caring and genuine person you are.

On the front page of my book, you wrote: "Dear Linda- See you in CALIFORNIA!" and drew a big palm tree. I actually am in California now, but unfortunately I've yet to run into you! Anyhow, I just wanted to say "thank you" for all the wonderful thoughts, insights, feelings, and memories you have created for me. I hope you are well and happy. I also want to tell you that your book of days has always been an inspiration to me, so much so that I am going to do a web page devoted to all those special moments that create one's own personal "Book of Days", where hopefully people can contribute how they have learned and grown in the moments of each day. Much love to you, Rod, Linda


Dear Linda, Thanks for a thoughtful letter that brought back a favorite book tour. Glad your life is going well now. You sound enthusiastic and at peace. Good luck with your web page, it sounds like a great idea. All the best, Rod

AND AUTUMN CAME

Hi, Happy birthday Rod early! Thought you might see this before all the hundreds of e-mail you get every day on your "ask Rod". Do you think you will ever reprint your first book "and autumn came"? If not how about a download or some of the poems for your birthday on Flight Plan for April 29th! Love everything you do and Happy Happy Birthday! Melissa Berridge

Dear Melissa, Dwight Michaels, who runs Stanyan By Mail has found copies of ". . . and autumn came" in a warehouse in Eagle Rock and they are now for sale. Thanks for the interest, Rod

RM First published 5/4/1999 

Itís odd re-reading the start of this Flight Plan while getting ready to leave on the red eye for JFK and then driving to Atlantic City for Frank Sinatra JR's opening. Young Frank is the obvious keeper of the Sinatra flame and I believe as the years go on it will become more and more apparent that he has all the goods to do so. Sleep warm.

RM 6/23/2001

Two new appearance dates just announced!

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

Concert & Appearance Details

notable birthdays Rita Bartlow o Jeff Beck o Henry Ward Beecher o Ambrose Bierce o George Stanford Brown o Jack Carter o Billy Casper o John Ciardi o Norman Cousins o Jack Dempsey o Mick Fleetwood o Chief Dan George o Jack Goodwin o Pete Hamill o Phil Harris o Michele Lee o Jim Paulson o Joe Penny o Terry Riley o David Rose o Sherry Stringfield o Peter Weller
Rod's random thoughts Love wears the rainbow on its cheek as sure as any high sky does.

Properly trained, passion is an excellent servant.

Peace is powerful but love is mighty.

POSTCARD HOME

Stop me I say to me;
stay my hand
should it be steady
        in its new resolve.
And yet I do believe
that like the tide
my life has come
              and gone
in circle after circle.

I've been dead
and resurrected
       many times.
Who's to say
it cannot happen yet again ?

They childrenís noisy shrieks
are gone but stay here still
mixed with a wind just coming up
and set the sand to skipping rope
                       and dancing.

Tell those at home hello
and that Iím coming back
even if itís just to stop awhile
before I go away again.

It's raining
on the airport road
so I'll not start today,
            perhaps tomorrow,
but I'll be coming back
           before the week is out.

-from ďThe Sea Around Me,Ē 1977

© 1965, 1977, 1989, 1999, 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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