Photo by Bob Gentry ©2001
A Thought for Today
We are only what wish ourselves to be. Nothing more.
Some of the letters I'm answering today have been hanging around for a while and some are new. As we sail toward the end of the week and the month I'm still playing catch up.
CAUTION: DRIVING AFTER A McCONCERT MAY BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH
Dearest Rod, Many, many congratulations on your opening concerts. I was regrettably, unable to attend - wild horses (and other unforgivable things) kept me away! I am devastated not to have made it but as long as you keep working I know I will be there soon.
When will you know if you can "roll out a complete concert tour"? To relieve the pain of missing your shows I put on the old Amsterdam Concert album - I have it on Stanyan on vinyl! All those beautiful clicks! Like the dust carries with it the chatter of the ghosts from the past. It was, of course, a wonderful concert.
Do you remember the liner notes - wow those stats! Even though the days of SRO globally are hard to reclaim,
although I'm sure you will get 'em all back soon, to be able to just communicate to even a few thousand people with such deep empathy and natural love is a God given thing - keep playing those shows Rod - one day if God is kind I will be there again as I was for so many of your shows in the 70s - my favourite being when I took my Dad on my 17th birthday to the London Palladium.
The show was magical, but not quite as magical as my driving! I had just passed my driving test and this was my first treat for Dad for him to be driven by his son to see you - he was excited about both, but more terrified about my
unleashing to the highways. He had good grounds! As we left the great London theatre I crashed the car!
Thankfully neither one of us was hurt, my Dad smiled ruefully and we drove home with me embarrassed and both of us too full of warmth from your show to worry about the wreck repairs!
Rock gently my friend - for many years to come - and hey! What about the Palladium again!? A great entertainer deserves a great stage! Love, Steve
Dear Steve, Whew! I'm glad you and your dad survived the drive back from Royal Albert Hall. I loved your story. As everybody who visits this space on a regular basis knows I love
vinyl. The best thing about CD's is their easy storage, but the sound from
vinyl (particularly for long stretches) is much easier on the ears.
The last time Bert Van Breda from BR Records in Holland was in town we discussed the release of a set of digitally remastered concerts from around the world. Each would be a two CD set and contain tracks that because of time restraints didn't make the original vinyl albums. The sets would include "Sold Out at Carnegie Hall," "Live in London," "The Amsterdam Concert," "McKuen in Moscow" (previously unreleased), "The South African Concert" and possibly unreleased material from "Santa Monica Civic Auditorium."
Each set would have elaborate packaging (including reproductions of original programs), reviews & especially commissioned notes. Like many artists in the classical field I enjoy listening to and making recordings during live
performances. I'd love to see this project go forward and would like to hear some feedback on it. Luv & thanks, Steve. Rod
FROM MY "ART-DISCO" PERIOD
Rod, Just to let you know that I just obtained a copy of the LP "On The Move With Slide" from a record store in Germany. This is the only LP I know of that contains "Train Medley" and "Woza Friday".
Just curious, was the "Train Medley" track going to be on the un-issued "Train" LP (Stanyan 5105)? What is the history behind "Woza Friday", sung in Zulu? Take Care, Leland
Dear Leland, That is a rare find. As you probably know "On the Move" is a sequel to the infamous "Crisco Disco" album and was never released in the USA.
The "Train Medley" was done especially for "On The Move" and not meant for the nearly completed "A Man & His Trains" album. Dave Marks who headed the South African branch of Stanyan Records sent me the Zulu song "Woza Friday" and I decided to learn it and sing it in it's original Zulu.
Thanks for the questions, Leland. Cheers, Rod
THE SUMMER OF FORTY-SEVEN
Hi Rod, It's great that the Internet provides the opportunity to find old friends. Do you remember me from Sequoia in the summer of 1947? I was interested to discover your fascination with trains because at present I'm on the rails every week. Hope to hear from you soon. MM Leissner
Dear Monty, I do indeed remember. I was fourteen at the time and anxious to grow older. What are you up to that keeps you on the rails every week? Write me. Rod
Hi Rod, I grew up 30 miles from Green Bay during the glory years of Vince Lombardi and Bart Starr and Jerry Kramer. I've always wondered how a poet from the hills of Beverly came to know one of our beloved "Pack". (my family thought my obsession with your words was somewhat odd but
they were impressed when they found out you had written the forward to Farewell to Football.) Love, Ann
Dear Ann, Jerry and I go way back. We were introduced by a mutual friend and the two of us hit it off almost at once. What a team The Packers were in those days. I wrote the intro to Jerry's book because I was frankly glad to see him hang up his helmet.
Jerry still has more steel pins in his body, still healing bones and splinters that haven't been removed than any athlete I know of. I've always been fascinated by athletes because of what they can do by sheer will and physical strength. I have many buddies in the sports world and they seem to be attracted to my work because it's mental rather that physical.
By the way isn't it about time for Jerry's induction to the Football Hall of Fame? Luv, Rod
THE NEW BOOK
Hi Rod: Welcome home. Regarding the new book/CD. I was at the Thousand Oaks concert, signed the book for the new CD. Do I get notified by mail or e-mail that they are in and ready to ship or do I order through Stanyan and Dwight?
Also, you should save and sign the green CDs, they could
become collector's items. Anyway, really enjoyed the concert, I sent Ken a program and ticket stub for his memorabilia. I tried to stay and have you sign " The Carols of Christmas" but it was getting late and you looked tired. Maybe another time. All the best, Bob Ryan
Dear Bob, Thanks for coming to Thousand Oaks, sorry the line was a little long. Thanks for sending the program to Ken
since I didn't think to pick one up, even for my own files.
Dwight has put up an announcement on the Stanyan By Mail website regarding the ASPTL BOOK & CD set, so you'll probably get it faster by ordering through that link.
The books set sail from Pusson Harbor in Korea (again) and are due next week. I'm not sure about the little green discs (as in little green men) I think those Aliens should be turned over to Chris Carter, maybe he can make them disappear into the X Files. I don't even want to look at them again once they've been
I will entertain other suggestions, though. Maybe we can back them with felt & sell them as martini coasters. It's 5:PM here; I'll drink to that. Warmly, Rod
AUNT SNUGS WRITES
"Love is a sweet thing, caught a moment and held in a golden eye. You can borrow it, but never own it, after a while it says goodbye." Rod McKuen, from "I'll Say Goodbye."
What a meaningful message, whether it be for a lover, friend or family. Sooner or later the ones you seem to love the most, no longer exist. But your poetry seems to ease the pain and it helps me understand the beauty of just "being"'.
Dear Aunt Snugs, Funny you should write quoting "I'll say Goodbye." I'm set to master Gilbert Becaud's recording of it next week as part of a two-disc set called "Chansons." One disc will feature me singing my translations and adaptations of French songs & the other the original performers and writers such as Brel, Becaud, Ferre and a host of others doing their original versions.
It will include some really rare stuff; like a 1950's demo I did of an original song I called "Champs Eleseye" and Maya Casabianca's hit version of the French translation. Another, "Bon Soir Mademoiselle" is a song that originated with me and became more successful in Europe. So much so that many consider it a French song now.
Thanks for your kind comments on my poetry. Warmly, Rod
TEACH ME TONIGHT
Dear Rod, It's such a nice feeling to read your site every day. I have to fight for computer time, and it is usually late. I took some of your work into school, boys and mostly 11th -12th grade. We had a good time. I'm going to do it often. I can't wait to put my Rod poster up in the room. I even had them find you for me on napster.
I'm not sure how my students will like giving up some of the music they like for some time for mine. I think that it will be quality time. Thanks for all, I can't wait for the book. Nancy
Dear Nancy, Thanks for sharing me with your students. I'd love to hear their reaction to your on-going experiment.
My mail and certainly the audiences for my recent concerts seem to know no age demographic and I hope it stays that way. People like you have always helped spread the word that my work is not aimed at any particular age group. Sincerely, Rod
CONCERT "T" SHIRTS
Dear Rod, By the time I got in line for "T" Shirts in Aurora they were gone. Are they going to be available from Stanyan By Mail? Mylene Forman
Dear Mylene, Two "T"'s are available right now, the same ones from the tour. One reads "I Go To Bed with a Rod McKuen Book or a Friend Who's Read One." And the other says, "It Doesn't Matter Who You Love of How You Love, But That You Love." Both have the sketch and signature on the back. I wonder if Jerry will have "T" 's that say "I Love to Go UP with Rod' for the concert this summer at the Balloon Festival? Whoops, did I mention a possible concert this summer? Regards, Rod
Dear Rod: I heard a Sinatra song once about 20 years ago and now I wonder if I just imagined it. Everyone I have ever asked does not know what I am talking about.
It is a love song about a girl who Frank compares himself to. Some sample lines: You are champagne, I am beer you are the ballet, I am the racetrack, etc.
Does this song exist, if so, what is the name of it? This has puzzled me for the last 20 years. Any help you can give me would be most appreciated. Eric Myers
Dear Eric, A Frank Sinatra recording of the song you're referring to does exist. Alas I'm having a 'senior moment' and can't for the life of me think of the title.
So, I'm sending out an S. O. S. to Jack Goodwin, an expert on all things Sinatra. I'll be he comes through with the title and when does I'll print it here. Thanks, Rod
PART OF A LIFE
Dear Mr. McKuen, My name is Sara. This is the first and only letter I have ever written to a "celebrity". I have spent many hours through the years with your music and words and wanted you to know how much both have meant to me. If this letter is
somewhat disjointed, forgive me.
I was married and had borne two children by the time I was fourteen. The summer of 1970, I was sixteen and in an abusive marriage with the father of my children. I lost my children that summer due to this violent natured man. I did not want to continue living without my children and had come
very close to ending my life. I believed that I was the loneliest, most isolated human being in the universe. This is where you came in. I found some music that you had written with Anita Kerr. (they were 8 tracks, this should tell you how long ago we are speaking of). These albums were the Earth, Sea, Sky and the Season series.
I spent many long hours listening to these albums (mostly in the dark, funny how the darkness seems to allow the words to fill the space around you), and believed that somewhere in the world, someone else had experienced the depth of loneliness that I was going through. I was very moved and
comforted by this music and it was the one beautiful thing that I could find for a long time. Even at this point in my life, this music is one of my best memories.
I went on with my life and lived alone for many years. In my early 30's, I met and married a very good man. We have had a wonderful life and have loved each other with the same passion as the day we met. Again, this is where you come in.
This past year, my husband was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease. He has gone from a strong, vital man to a person trapped in a body that no longer will perform even the simplest functions. I have been at his bedside every moment of these many months and once again, in the dark hours, sometimes think that I am, (and will be) the loneliest human alive.
I have been thinking about your music and poems a lot these past months and believed that it was impossible to find this music again. But, thanks to the magic of the internet, perhaps there is a possibility. I hope to share these albums with my husband before he leaves me. I tried to describe them to him, but like the sea, this is very difficult to describe without actually experiencing it.
This time I know that I am strong enough to get through whatever comes with a measure of grace and dignity. Someday, perhaps, I will find love again and even if I don't, I know that the world is an adventure waiting to happen. I'll be all right this time. Incidentally, I was reunited with my children 25 years later. They are well and grew into fine adults. Sometimes, the sacrifice really is worth it.
Mr. McKuen, I do not expect to hear back from you, although that would be lovely. I just wanted you to know that I hope that your life has gone well in the intervening years. I wish for you many hours of contentment, love, and perhaps even at our age, a little adventure. Be well and thank you for
being out there. Sara Brillis
Dear Sara, You are living proof that life never gives us more than we can handle. You certainly have been through a lot, but seem better for the experiences.
Lou Gehrig's Disease is one of the most devastating ailments there is. Despite years of research and work there is no known cure or prevention for it. Your description of what your husbands body is going through is frightening but, alas, very accurate.
I wish there were something I could offer in the way of comfort, there probably isn't. But know this, I'm thinking of you and your husband and sending love and warm wishes your way. Hang in there, Rod
THE FINAL WORD
Today it belongs to Coral.
The sweet young thing was telling the Evangelist that she had been sleeping in another bedroom since she had caught her husband sleeping with the neighbor.
"It's your duty to forgive him, my child," intoned the minister
as he patted her hand. She fell into his arms gently sobbing.
"But," he added, as his grip tightened, "How'd ya like to get
even with the S.O.B. first?"
Finally, I don't want to let any more time go by without acknowledging the passing of two entertainment
John Phillips was an old friend and will be badly missed. He wrote some of the best songs of the 60's and 70's and his vocal arrangements for "The Mama's and the Papas" were inventive and copied by many a vocal group that followed.
Ann Southern was 92 when she died in Ketchum Idaho. She had been a star on Broadway, in the movies and on radio and television. Her unique singing voice and her expert comedy timing made her a favorite of millions. She last appeared on screen with Bette Davis in "The Whales of August" and was nominated for a best supporting actress award for her
Time passes and with it too much talent. Sleep warm. I'll be back tomorrow with "Pass it Along."
RM 3/28/01 Previously unpublished.
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