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A Thought for Today

No peace is ever perfect, and no war is ever won.

 

Still a little hard getting back up to speed and the stack of mail isn’t getting lower either.

THE BLACK EAGLE & A MONASTERY

Rod, Perhaps you recall, but probably not. Some 20 years or more ago I called a radio station you were being interviewed on in Columbus Ohio to ask you about "The Black Eagle." You were generous enough to call back -- we met at Ohio State, had coffee, talked, and you asked for directions to the airport.

You gave me an address to write to, and I never did. I have
regretted that. At any rate, I found your site, and wanted to write a quick email to say that it is wonderful that you are still writing such beautiful words. I realize you do not answer emails, but wanted to say that it is good to know that you are still writing, and loving, and being loved.

I am at a monastery for the summer trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life -- as if we can ever decide that. I have written quite a bit, never had the courage to publish, and have some things dedicated to you. Perhaps, should you ever begin to answer emails, you can tell me. With every best wish, Love,
Jessie Hite


Dear Jessie, It’s always a surprise and pleasure to hear from people I’ve met in the past and haven’t kept in touch with over the years. I too am at best an unreliable correspondent. The net has helped me reunite with friends, acquaintances and fans from all periods of my life.

I remember our conversation back in the early eighties in some detail. Even then you were undecided as to what you wanted to do as far as work was concerned. I remember advising you that every artist needs at least one other profession before he totally commits himself to his art. In simple terms it’s called ‘paying the rent’ but it also allows you to add to the total experiences we all need to draw from as inspiration.

Walt Whitman was, in addition to being the liberator of American poetry, a nurse and newspaper publisher. William Carlos William continued being a country doctor even as his fame as a poet spread. One of our great and still most neglected composers, Roy Harris, sold insurance while he stole time to write symphonies. T.S. Elliott was a successful publisher and editor long before his own poetry made him one of the greats in literature. The list goes on.

Over the years I’ve made several retreats to monasteries in order to get my head together. For those who’ve never tried it I’m sure after your experience this summer you would join me in recommending a stay at just such a place for the peace of mind, contemplation and the sense of being closer to the earth and elements that being in the company of men who devote their time to the prayer, work and discipline the monastic life provides. I have always come away from those retreats with renewed life and a sense of purpose.

I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to do with your life nor am I a good enough critic to tell you whether or not you should devote the rest of it to writing. You know the answer better than anyone. Earlier tonight I had dinner with friends and the conversation turned to work. I told Michael, a successful actor recently transplanted from New York and having to go through the audition process all over again for West Coast casting directors, that it was my belief that you could be anything you want to be in life. It involves only one condition, you have to be willing to commit. If you want to be a writer you have to desire it more than anything else in the world.

Courage? You bet it takes courage because you will always receive more rejection than acceptance. That goes for all of the arts; acting, dance, music, writing, performing – whatever. To be successful you have to want to do something so badly that it gets in the way of life itself.

To help pay my rent (OK to pay for the upkeep of this old house and buy even more CD’s) I sometimes do voice-overs. I’ve told this story here before but even I find it amazing; every once in a when I get a call to go on an audition where they want a “Rod McKuen sound alike.” I’ve never once gotten one of those jobs, meaning I obviously have no idea what in the hell the casting director thinks Rod McKuen sounds like. Now, THAT’s rejection!

In short Jesse, if you really want to be published you will be.
Don’t ask me how or if. Just get on with doing it. Love and good luck, Rod

IN THE YEAR OF OUR LORD I973

Don't know if you remember the young man and woman who left in the middle of your show. You made some comment. I turned around and pointed to my very pregnant belly, to let you know that's why we were leaving, and then you understood. Well I think I remember you saying let you know what it was...it was a boy, a very big boy. He is 28 now.

My husband and I often think about you, you gave us much
reading pleasure and not to forget your beautiful music.YOU ARE A GENIUS! Thank you! Janine Heifetz


Dear Janine, No, You are the genius. I’ve never given birth to a bouncing baby boy. Belated congratulations and I’m glad you made it out of the hall and to the hospital on time.

So far there have been no births during my concerts, nor has anyone in the front row dropped dead. That did happen in front of a comedian friend of mine while he was on stage. Obviously the act was all downhill from that point. Affectionately, Rod

KELLY IN MANHATTAN KANSAS

Dear Rod, Just a note to say hello. In 1972, I saw you perform live in Manhattan, Kansas two nights in a row and came backstage to thank you for your poetry. It was a difficult time in my life and your writings were such a great companion for me. You inspired me to take to writing. On your 1973 calendar, you have a poem dedicated to Kelly in Manhattan, Kansas and I think I might be him.

Regardless, thank you for sharing your soul with me through your writings, it has always meant a great deal to me, but did not know how to let you know. I am currently living in Lawrence, Kansas with a lovely wife of 18 years and three wonderful young children, 11, 8, and 2. If you ever come through the area, please stop and say hello. Friendships are never forgotten no matter how much time has elapsed. Always, Kelly Kriegh


Dear Kelly, Great hearing from you after all this time. Yep, that poem was for you. I always wonder whether or not people are aware of things I dedicate to them.

Sounds like you’re in the middle of a pretty good life. All my best to you and your family and how about a picture of the whole gang? Fondly, Rod

IN SEARCH OF EROS

All right Rod here is the deal. I have searched the whole world wide web for you cassette of In Search of Eros. I have also looked in every music store new and used and I still cannot find it. I would buy it for my friend on LP but she doesn't have a record player. Well let me know if you come up with any ideas. Thanks Katie Orum

Dear Katie, Here’s an idea; you can order a cassette of “In Search of Eros” from Stanyan By Mail. Try the link on the Home Page of this site. All the best, Rod

PETULA & ROD ON VIDEO

You mentioned that you were "cleaning-up" the video for eventual release. Is this project still in the works? I would enjoy seeing you and Petula again. Would really bring back some good memories. Thanks. Tim Hively

Dear Tim, The video with Petula is still very much in the works and so is a totally separate CD we’ve been working on for many moons. The CD is all original material and the video is taken from my 1970’s BBC Television series.

You can catch a preview of it on Petula’s PBS TV special this fall called “This is My Song,” a concert and terrific retrospective of Petula Clark’s entire career. Considering the extraordinary leading men she’s had on stage, television, the movies and record I’ll be lucky if I get a couple of minutes to talk about her but it might be an interesting teaser for our coming joint ventures. The executive producer for both “This is My Song” & “Rod and Petula" is Jim Pierson.

Rumor has it that this winter or next spring I’ll be playing London’s Albert Hall and that that project will also be filmed for television. And who do you suppose heads my list as a featured guest artist?

I’m not supposed to talk about things before they happen and anyway it’s considered bad luck. So be it. You can bug Jerry Lonn for more (if any) details. Thanks for asking Tim, Cheers, Rod

ROSE

Rod, Years ago (1968) at a little coffee house in Tulsa I heard some one sing a song that I have just learned that you wrote. I don't know the title but the "That's okay, Rose would say" part is how I found your site.

Are the lyrics, or a recording of it available? This song is on a list of lyrics I have been looking for years. I would greatly appreciate any help you could give.

Thanks for all the wonderful wordsmithing, Jack Hoop, Santa Rosa CA.


Dear Jack, The song is entitled “Rose” and it’s available from Stanyan By Mail on the CD “Early Harvest,” (12 445) It’s a compilation of early & late Rod that I especially like and it was released in 1994. The other songs on the disc are; Advice to Folk Singers, Colorado Trail, Happy is a Boy Named Me, The World I Used to Know, The Intellectual Rag, Roller Coaster Blues, Sin, Way Faren’ Stranger, Shady Grove, Times A-Getting’ Hard, Doesn’t Anybody Know My Name, It Was A Very Good Year (with Barry McGuire), The Summer’s Long, Many Summer’s Ago, April People, An Isle in the Water, The Beautiful Strangers, I Never Go There Anymore, The Lovers, Baby It’s Cold Outside (with Petula Clark), Ballad of the Sad Young Men, Love Let Me Not Hunger and a song I’m never without these days Stay with Me.

I wrote “Rose in 1962 and first recorded it for commercial release two years later. Here, thanks to the Jay Hagan McKuen Files, are the lyrics:

Rose

I married Rose in Twenty-One
we got a little farm
the first year out
the barn burned down
I broke my good right arm.

From then on in things got bad
I guess they could have been worse
but seeing Rose in rags all day
made me wanna curse.

That’s okay Rose‘d say
don’t you worry none
we’ll have good times by and by
next fall when the works all done.

I watched her hands grow rough and red
from pickin' in the fields
putting up in Mason Jars
what little crops they’d yield.

I’d find what jobs there were in town
most times there were none
but Rose‘d still have supper a waitin'
at night when the day was done.

That’s okay Rose‘d say
don’t you worry none
we’ll have good times by and by
next fall when the works all done.

Our first-born had a face like Rose
and I guess a temper like mine
she’d sleep all day and cry all night
but she grew up and married fine.

Our only son went off to fight
in Nineteen Forty and Four
a year went by and a telegram said
he ain’t comin' home no more.

One winter night in Fifty Nine
Rose took a terrible chill
she went to sleep and she didn’t wake up
I guess she’s sleeping still.

But sometimes when the wind is singing
high up in the Chinaberry tree
it seems it not the wind at all
but Rose singing to me.

That’s okay Rose‘d say
don’t you worry none
we’ll have good times by and by
next fall when the works all done.

That’s okay Rose‘d say
don’t you worry none
we’ll have good times by and by
next fall when the works all done.

Words & music by Rod McKuen © copyright 1962, 1965 by Stanyan Music

Thanks for asking, Tim. Warmly, Rod.

MUSIC FOR THE LONELY THINGS

Rod: As an avid fan of both you and Glenn Yarbrough for many years, I have recently taken to playing piano accompaniment to many of his songs. One song in particular, though, that I am having trouble finding in piano sheet music form is "The Lonely Things". I would be delighted to learn from you how I might obtain this, or where I might find it. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks so much, Tom Pavlina

Dear Tom, The music to “The Lonely Things" hasn’t been available since the songbook “23 Rod McKuen Songs” went out of print some years ago. A good bet might be to log on to the McKuen Message Center or The Stanyan Message Board and request that one of the readers there make you a photocopy or scan the music for you. Click the Site Map button on The Home Page for an easy passage to either message board.

My original recording of it will be out next year in the boxed set “Rod McKuen: The RCA Years.” Glenn’s version has been re-released on the album I wrote for him of the same name. (The Lonely Things FolkEra 2182). Hope this helps. All the best, Rod

A TEACHER IN YELLOWSTONE

Hello Rod, The Internet is a wonderful thing. I live in Wyoming now but grew up, so to speak, listening to your work. I was recently heading to a class in Yellowstone, I teach, and saw an ad for your latest performance in Riverton, Wy. I couldn't believe it.

Here you were, still alive and kicking, in Wyoming and I couldn't go see you! I hope you're back this way again soon and that I'll have an opportunity to see you. I have to confess that I thought you had passed away. I know that is morbid, but... I'll have
to check out your latest work. Take care and keep writing, Ron Miles (A man alone, not lonely...)


Dear Ron, Sorry you missed the concert in Riverton, I think it was the best all around performance I’ve done so far this year. My whole weekend in the town was a ball. The Hot Air Balloon ascents, The Vintage Car Parade and just meeting and getting to know some of the folks in that corner or rural America was an experience that will stay with me always.

Yep, I’m still here and I hope the next time I get around your way you’ll have a chance to stop and say hello. Meanwhile don’t be a stranger to this site. Affectionately, Rod

THE FINAL WORD

Today it belongs to Ellen.

THE TRUTH IN JUST 13 WORDS........

Inside every older person is a younger person....... wondering
what the hell happened!


I’ll be back tomorrow. Till then sleep warm.

-RM 9/23/01 Previously unpublished

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 Pedro Almondovar o Konstantin Chernenko o F. Scott Fitzgerald o “Mean” Joe Green o Phil Hartman o Jim Henson o A. P. Herbert o Herb Jefferies o Francis Scott Key o Sheila MacRae o Gerry Marsden (Gerry & The Pacemakers) o Justice John Marshall o Linda McCartney o Jim McKay o Terry Metcalf o Anthony Newley o Andrzej Panufnik o Chen Sam o Kevin Sorbo o Fisher Tull o Horace Walpole o John Young
Rod's random thoughts Love is an attitude, and one from which we should stray far in our actions toward ourselves and others.

Strides are made by differences, not sameness.

The supply of love will never exceed the demand, but it should.

THREE POEMS from
“TOO MANY MIDNIGHTS”

Autumn

Moths fill up the morning
and spiders slide down shafts
               of sunlight.

It is the autumn of the year.
The wind now makes a long,
                      slow moan.
Tired of all the old Octobers
the moan is more a sigh.
Resigned and lonely like those of us
              who face the wind
the wind itself on seeing autumn
                       runs to hide.

Who Kills the Dream?

Who kills the dream
and drives it into waking?
Not the owl who calls to fellow owl
predictably at one o’clock.
Not oversleep that drives me
wide awake and wall-eyed
through the center
of a drowsy,
        dreamless
not altogether hopeless night.

Not the chosen memory
forgotten in convenience
or pushed aside by now.
Not tomorrow
       nor this present day
that works so hard
it earns its own
tomorrow and today.

And you are not to blame.
The you I know or will know.
The you I knew
        and don’t remember.
Who then and why?
The question on the bed at borning
                     and at death.
Who kills the dream and why?

October

The crushing fear we seldom speak of
                      is no less real
because it’s only thought about.

It is the sorrow given credence
when we see the child
held up to ridicule and then abuse.

Adults that act not like adults,
or even children in their games,
but those parading down the street
or in the L and box-shaped room
in the guise of all the monsters
and the demons in our younger years
we thought we’d finally exorcized.

The fear we seldom speak about
is the loss of gentleness
that traps us when we least expect it
or let our guard down even for a minute.

So in the night and through the day
our eyes must only stay half-closed,
lest gentleness be carried off
by monsters far too evil to have names.

-from “Too Many Midnights,” 1981

 
© 1962, 1965,1981, 1988, 1994, 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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