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Photo by Bob Gentry 2001 Stanyan Entertainment

A Thought for Today

Row with the current not the times.



On Monday I'll give you the complete details on a three night All Star benefit I'll be part of to celebrate the music of the great Jerome Kern. Those of you who attended the Centenary Salute to Kurt Weil last November will have some idea of what to expect. 

I've been anxiously awaiting this 17th Annual S.T.A.G.E. Benefit from the moment I was asked to be part of it. This is the longest running AIDS benefit and since 1984 it has raised millions to combat the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS.

Past shows have included performances by Lucie Arnaz, Betty Buckley, Shaun Cassidy, Carole Cooke, Tyne Daly, Joely Fisher, Davis Gaines, Betty Garrett, Sharen Gless, Gregory Harrison, Mariette Hartley, Glynnis Johns, Shirley Jones, Michelle Lee, Hal Linden, Holly Near, Michelle Nicastro, David Hyde Pierce, Charlotte Rae, Bruce Vilanch and dozens of other talented artists.

This year's performances take place at The Luckman Theatre March 2, 3 & 4 and ticket information is available by calling (213) 656-9069. Again, I'll have more information on the event next week. If the rehearsals I've attended so far are any indication of what's to come, this promises to be the show to crown them all. This will be the third time I've been directed by David Galligan who pulls the best performances out of me of any director I've ever worked with.


And now the last visit to the E-mail bag this week.


Rod, over the many flight plans I have read, you have mentioned that you have archive songs (and incomplete songs) that have never been released, but you have not really mentioned any new songs that you have written.

Do you still write new songs and can you talk about them? I appreciate of course that with all of your projects ( and Internet work) that your time is spread very thinly! How much importance do you give to the writing of new songs?

I am a great fan of many singer/songwriter/performers, and of the great Broadway lyricists, but above them all you are my absolute favourite; your melodies and words are so beautiful, and consistently so.

Of course all your fans would love you to release all your works on CD (aren't we greedy! Ha!Ha!) but I would dearly love you to release new songs that you may have written over the past decade or so. Is this a likely project? Perhaps when you get your band together for your March concerts, you can gather them into a recording studio and produce an album(s) of new material. Just a thought! All the best for the New Year Rod. Alex Butler

Dear Alex, I write all the time, both poetry and songs. At the moment I'm finishing the score and songs for a recording of "A Safe Place to Land" and writing new material for the March concerts.

I don't usually like to talk about individual songs until they have been recorded and released. In that respect I'm no different than most writers and recording artists.

The next few CD's will contain what I hope is a healthy mix of previously unreleased material and brand new songs. I consider a day when I haven't written something as wasted, no matter what else I accomplish. Thanks for asking, Alex. Sincerely, Rod 


Hi Rod, First, let me just say that I am very new to your poetry and music. I have been a huge Petula Clark fan for years and came across the "Baby It's Cold Outside" duet you did with her on one of your albums. 

Much to my surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed the other songs on the album (Early Harvest). I have since purchased some of your LP's and feel deeply touched by many of your poetic songs.

I had read on some album notes on one of Petula's CD's that she did an entire duet album with you that has not been released. If this is true, do you know of any plans to release this album? Also, are there any other Rod/Petula duets that have been released.

In case your interested, I am a 29 year old man and I live in Prescott Arizona. My music tastes vary from Loretta Lynn to many of today's "Hard Rock" and Pop rock artists. I have truly found that diversity is the spice to life and look forward to many quiet times listening and reflecting on your poetry. Sincerely,
Toby Smith

PS Your website is great. I have enjoyed browsing through it.

Dear Toby, What a pleasure to hear from someone in your age group who has such an eclectic taste for music. I have always believed that boundaries are meaningless where music is concerned because there are only two kinds of music, good and bad.

My admiration for Petula and our friendship goes back many years. We have recorded a lot of material together and much of it remains unreleased. We're still writing songs together and making plans for future recordings so that when the album is completed it will be what both of us consider 'something special'. Petula is every bit as busy as I am with various projects, so getting together is often difficult.

"The Pet/Rod Project" (arbitrary title) is high on both of our lists so it will be completed. I'm as big a fan of Petula Clark's writing as I am her singing. I don't know if you've heard it yet, but Jim Pierson has compiled a marvelous retrospective of Petula singing her own songs for a new CD. It's called "Beautiful Sounds: The Petula Clark Songbook" and each track is better than the last.

Thanks for the thoughtful note, Toby. Sincerely, Rod


Hi, I have always loved your poetry, and I just found "I always knew," which is perfect at this time in my late-blooming life. However, I was remembering my first experience with your verses in eighth grade, when my English teacher (I'm one, now!) asked me to read "Sugar House(?)" She said she thought of me, since I was such a blatant romantic.

I haven't found it yet! Where can I find the text? Thanks for all your wonderful thoughts. Debbie Marshall

Dear Debbie, I have to say that your question stumps me. I've never written a poem entitled "Sugar House" or used the phrase within something else I've composed or written.

When I have a question such as yours that I can't answer I usually turn to Jay Hagan's compendium of everything I've written and if I still have no clue, I ask Jay himself. He seems to think you might be referring to either "Stanyan Street" or "Kearny Street." You can find the text to either poem by typing in the title in the search engine at the bottom of this page. I hope this helps. With affection, Rod


Speaking of Jay, we often have a good laugh over letters I get that may or may not be real. We refer to them affectionately as "The Duh Letters." Some ask for information on a particular work with clues so vague that they might apply to anything by anybody, others are just weird. We mean no disrespect to the writers, but here are a couple of recent examples.


I'm looking for a poem called Love or something with love in the title that you wrote, can you help me out? Craig Wright.

Dear Craig, try typing 'love' into the search engine I'm sure you'll find a FEW references. Sincerely, Rod


Dear Rod- My favorite album is Frank Sinatra's "Watertown." A 'concept' album of an everyman's life. My question is, have you ever done an album like this, and if so which one and if not how come? Thanks for all the words, they form dreams, memories and thoughts very well. Sincerely, Rob Ziegler

Dear Rob, Let me put it this way, as one of the father's of concept albums (I've written and recorded over a hundred), it would be easier to name my 'non-concept' recordings than those with a beginning, middle and end. Jay points to the Sinatra album that preceded "Watertown," it's called "A Man Alone." He also suggested that in the future I might team up with a female composer and turn out a series of 'concept discs' that would have 'the elements' as a theme. He figured we could even add some nature sounds from say the sea, trains, thunder, etc. to make them more atmospheric. Way to go Jay, wish I'd thought of that. Cheers, Rod

Rod, Are you the cowboy movie star who used to appear with Gaby Hayes in those shoot 'em ups? Laurel

Howdy Laurel, I did once star in a western flick but by no stretch of the imagination could I be considered a "movie star." OK, I confess, I am Gaby Hayes. Haven't you seen my recent photographs? Happy trails, Rod

Dear Mr. McKuen, because my pet Canary sings along with your recordings I have named him Rod. Are there any particular CD's you've made that you could recommend as sing-a-long albums for my bird? Dixie White

Dear Dixie, I'll try to come up with a list and I'm not just whistling, Dixie. 


Dear Mr McKuen: You (I'm sure) aren't the man who will read this, but I will write all the same.

I am a young woman, who found you long after you seemed to disappear. My father came across Listen to the Warm under the seat of his work truck and he brought it home to me. I was just testing the waters of writing myself. Then came you and I found it was ok if my Ramblings (as I've come to call my volumes) only mean something to me and can take only me back to a specific moment in time. 

When I go back and read I can taste the air, smell breath, feel the sun in only a matter of words. That is a gift within itself, and I am glad to have found it. I have collected more of your books over the years and even came across a signed one in Boston ( a treasure to oneself). I guess this is just one more fan letter to add to your collection. All the same, I love to write, I love to read, and finding you at that time has made all the difference to me.

I'm sure you are quite busy, but I have always been curious of what I write. I like it, that is satisfaction in itself. The question is...will anyone else? If it is YOU and there is time....please reply. Thank you for your time. I am glad to have found you again. Kendra Shade Hoyt 

Dear Kendra, Don't start off with such a skeptical and negative attitude. Of course I read and answer my own mail.

If you'd like someone else's opinion of your writing, try joining a writer's club or class. You'll get plenty of feedback from other writers just as eager as you are for opinions and directions on how to find your own voice.

Finding a club is pretty easy, try the Net or buy one of the writer's magazines at your corner newsstand. They usually contain a number of advertisements and listings with information on writing groups and societies. For something a little closer to home, call your local library, church or social group. If you want to write you will, amateurs become professionals by learning and practicing their craft.

I never look at unpublished manuscripts because there are so many submitted to me it would take away precious time from my own writing. Besides, where would I stop? To read a few and not all of them wouldn't be fair.

Keep writing Kendra, but only if it gives you genuine pleasure.
Warmly, Rod


First I must admit what a lovely, nostalgic delight to discover this website. Congratulations on this effort. It is a most soothing place to browse........and allows us to linger on those precious memories of the 60's and 70's.

I have learned you have an interest in barns....I am a Californian who has fantasized for years about restoring and living in such a space and have finally committed to making it happen. I am traveling to the east coast to meet with some old pros at this type of work with the intention of purchasing a couple of dismantled and restored frames, transporting them here to California, planning for a barn raising and turning them, very carefully, back into wonderfully rich and warm spaces.

I have done much research, gathered many photos, talked to many people but, most importantly, dreamed long enough. I refer you to a book called "Barn" by Endersby and Greenwood, owners of the New Jersey Barn Company. They are the masters of barn restoration and I am scheduled to meet with them in their Princeton office the first week in Februray.

May I keep you posted of developments, or can I forward to you any information you might want to further your dream? In silence and peaceful warmth, Barbara Johnsen

Dear Barbara, What a great idea. I love barns and have always wanted one to house my record and book collection and to have as a private space. Alas, this may be one of those dreams I waited too long to dwell on enough to make happen. Still, it doesn't seem to go away.

I'll try to pick up a copy of "The Barn" for more inspiration.

Good luck on your meeting with the folks at the New Jersey Barn Company and by all means keep me posted on your progress. All the best and thanks for sharing your dream, Rod


Hi Rod - Just 2 weeks ago I pulled old pictures from a box that I took of you when you were pushing a book at Strawbridges in Springfield, PA. Wearing your Muck About Jacket. I had one too. My idol. So glad to have found your website. Glad your back. Justthats 2

Dear Mr. McKuen, Thank you for so many peaceful evenings so many years ago. The lights would be off and me and my girl would listen to your words and float in our love for each other. How simple it all seemed then...Thank you David Sharp.

Dear Rod: Thanks. Simply and sincerely: thanks. I recently unpacked 60 cases of books I'd had in storage for over 2 years. My cherished Rod McKuen books were in the "poetry books" box. I just sat there on the floor and read for hours. Thanks. Simply and sincerely: thanks. Diane

Dear Justthats2, David, and Diane, Welcome to A Safe Place to Land, I'm glad we got together again. I hope you'll consider this site as just what the title implies and stop by now and again for a rest and a look around. Since you first wrote me Webmaster Ken Blackie has added a Site Map and it makes navigating the hills and gullies of this behemoth a lot easier and faster.

Thanks again to all three of you for writing and expressing your thoughts. Luv, Rod


In our 'Truth is Stranger Than Fiction' department we offer this from Tuesday's Washington Post.


By Lloyd Grove, Washington Post Staff Writer
Dateline: Tuesday, January 23, 2001 ; Page C01

Incoming staffers of the Bush White House are apparently victims of a practical joke perpetrated by their predecessors. Bush aides settling into the Old Executive Office Building have discovered that many computer keyboards in their work spaces are missing the W key -- as in President Bush's middle initial.

"There are dozens, if not hundreds, of keyboards with these missing keys," a White House aide told us yesterday, speaking on condition of anonymity to confirm reports from two Republican sources. "In some cases the W is marked out, but the most prevalent example is the key being removed. 

In some cases the W keys have been taped on top of the doorways, which are 12 feet tall. In other cases the key is just
damaged, with the spring broken or removed."

The Bush aide added that the damaged keyboards are being found "in any number of different offices and divisions at the Old EOB. It has the technical and computer support people very busy. They already have quite a lot to do. I don't believe they expected to be coping with this as well. I think they're working to repair or replace the equipment, whatever they can do."

Our efforts to reach former staffers of Al Gore and Bill Clinton were mostly unsuccessful yesterday, but Gore campaign press secretary Chris Lehane, tongue in cheek, fielded our request for an explanation: "My guess is that the White House did not have many reasons to use the letter W over the last couple of years. It's possible they just fell off because of sheer atrophy." 

Lehane added: "I think the missing W's can be explained by the vast left-wing conspiracy now at work."

(submitted by Eric Yeager)

Come to think of it, unless Waldo runs for something we won't have much use for the Letter W around here for the next four years either.

On Sunday and again on Monday I'll be part of E Channel's "True Story of Phyllis Diller." I hope you'll tune in while I share my memories of the nicest and certainly one of the most talented women in or out of Show Business. Check your local TV listings for the time in your area. And, I'll see you tomorrow with our weekly Pass it Along feature. Sleep warm.

                        RM 1/21/2001 Previously unpublished.

Details of Rod's upcoming concerts and appearances can be obtained via the link below:

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Corazon Aquino o Robert Burns o Mildred Dunnock o Wilhelm Furtwangler o Ernie Harwell o Terrance Hill o Diana Hyland o Etta James o Dean Jones o Harold Lloyd, Jr. o China Kantner o W. Somerset Maughm o Don Maynard o Edwin Newman o Leigh Taylor-Young o Virginia Woolf
Rod's random thoughts Love is an act of giving; giving is an act of love.

Eyes that look on love are easily the windows of the world.

No wonder moonlight can't be trusted, it flatters everybody.


Often in winter
that feared but unseen hand
old banker priests can still depend on
to help them heard their flocks
up the steps of stained-glass banks,
returns dependably
to work me over too.

Christ knows my span of concentration
and the time to teach me lessons
is the time when I'm boxed in by grey.
For when the sun shines
what man fears God
or his one begotten Son.

Loving is the new salvation,
with Gideon the king providing bibles
for each final prayer and evensong.
And bedroom soldiers
on ten million battlefields
fighting nightly sword to sword
would not dispute their uncrowned king.

I presume
that International Harvester
can take its proper credit
for bales of straw and wheat.

But man must not forget
who fostered love
          and fed it.

Whatever moral tract
          or bulging bible
gave him rules and regulations
man aspired to love
and learned its practice well.

Just as man is good
at finding further rainbows
when the near ones fade.

What litany you use
I leave to you,
but let it be the testament of touch
                  however tentative.
A Mass to keep the cold out.
At the breakfast table
          or your dresser altar.
Let us now proclaim
the new religion real
after far too many trial runs.

                    - from "Fields of Wonder", 1971
1971, 1979, 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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