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A Thought for Today

Romance is a way of transcending the ordinary. It is an ethic of its own.


Today's selection is a personal one and I make no apologies for repeating it so soon after it first appeared in this column back in October of last year.

As most of you know I live in Africa. While this has it's undoubted advantages, keeping up to date with what's happening in the world of entertainment, for example, is not one of them. We seldom hear and experience events in real time and invariably catch up with the latest shows and television programs weeks, if not months, after they've aired elsewhere.

Oprah is a case in point. We're months behind the USA in this series of shows and it's for this reason that I've only recently seen her insert on Charles Schultz which was obviously aired in the USA last year.

Now, we've known all about "Peanuts" in this part of the world and have grown up enjoying the exploits of the whole gang. Charles, however, never enjoyed as high a profile as his creation so Oprah's feature on him was really introducing him to me for the first time, almost a year after his passing.

What an impact this piece of television had on me and only now can I appreciate precisely why this man occupied such a special place in Rod's heart! I went straight to my computer to read again Rod's tribute to Charles and I thought you might like to do the same:

"There was no one like him. If you were a friend you were always a friend. 

He was never too busy to take a telephone call or make one if he thought you might need cheering up. He once read a review of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" where a critic took exception to my songs calling them "too sentimental." Fearing I'd read it too, he dropped me a note to say "The important thing is, I love those songs."

Peanuts is always the first stop in my morning paper and often I'd read a strip I particularly liked and I'd let him know. In a few days the mail would arrive with the original, suitably signed. After awhile I became too embarrassed to compliment him.

When Sparky announced his retirement I wrote that I was glad for him. He hadn't been well and as much joy as his daily visits with Charlie and the gang brought him, imagining their adventures then putting them down on paper for all of us to enjoy, was hard work. "And anyway," I wrote, "thanks to the thousands of strips he'd already committed to paper we'd never be without our daily dose of "Peanuts."" And we never will".

                                  Rod McKuen, February 24, 2000

I loved Charles's genuine surprise that his little comic strip had achieved such universal popularity and I loved the manner in which his children spoke about both he and "Peanuts". I also loved his gentlemanly demeanor, this in a time when gentlemen are in all too short supply. 

When I was done watching the show I was left with an overwhelming sense of loss. Loss of a true professional and a genuinely nice man, and the loss of the opportunity of ever meeting him. We're all the poorer for his passing.

Thanks to all who've written in with their favorite McKuen poem or song and I'll be featuring them in upcoming columns. If you have something you'd like to share with us, drop me a line at ken@mckuen.com and I'll make sure it happens.

                                     - Ken, Johannesburg, January 31

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

Rod McKuen Concerts & Appearances

notable birthdays Tallulah Bankhead o Ernie Banks o Carol Channing o Phil Collins o Minnie Driver o Joanne Dru o James Franciscus o Richard Gephardt o Phillip Glass o Zane Grey o Buddy Hackett o Derek Jarman o Mario Lanza o Anthony LaPaglia o Kelly Lynch o Norman Mailer o Thomas Merton o Garry Moore o Charlie Musselwhite o John O'Hara o Suzanne Pleshette o Jackie Robinson o Nolan Ryan o Franz Schubert o Jean Simmons o Justin Timberlake o Stewart Udall o Jersey Joe Walcott o Jessica Walter
Rod's random thoughts Love finds beauty in the plainest smile.

Women young and old need freedom from men’s conceptions of them.

Seek out truth until all avenues have been exhausted.


Like the shadows of the morning
that climb up to the August afternoon
Charlie has a way of picking up the day
just by walking slowly in a room.

Maybe it's a kind of magic
only little boys can do
but seeing Charlie smile
can make you stop awhile
and get you feeling glad you're you.

He's only a boy named Charlie
a boy named Charlie Brown
he's just the kid next door
perhaps a little more
he's every kid in every town.

The world is full of lots of people
here and there and all around
but people after all
start out as being small
we're all a boy named Charlie Brown.

The world is full of lots of people
here and there and all around
but people after all
start out as being small
we're all a boy named Charlie Brown.

Additional Verse:

Now the shadows of the morning
have gone past the August afternoon
and Charlie's had his way
his very special day
his morning and his evening and his noon.

                       - from the album "Rod McKuen's Greatest Hits - 2"

1976, 1986, 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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