Saturday, January 31, 2015

Rod McKuen, RIP

NEW YORK (AP) — Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose music, verse and spoken-word recordings in the 1960s and '70s won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81.


Sentimental, earnest and unashamed, he conjured a New Age spirit world that captivated those who didn't ordinarily like "poetry" and those who craved relief from the war, assassinations and riots of the time.

"I think it's a reaction people are having against so much insanity in the world," he once said. "I mean, people are really all we've got. You know it sounds kind of corny, and I suppose it's a cliche, but it's really true; that's just the way it is."

His best known songs, some written with the Belgian composer Jacques Brel, include "Birthday Boy," ''A Man Alone," ''If You Go Away" and "Seasons In the Sun," a chart-topper in 1974 for Terry Jacks. He was nominated for an Oscar for "Jean" and for "A Boy Named Charlie Brown," the title track for the beloved Peanuts movie.
(USA Today)

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I remember Rod McKuen playing a warm, quirky version of himself on one episode of the cartoon series, The Critic ("What is a poem but a song without a tune?"), but I really loved his lyrical and vocal contribution to A Boy Named Charlie Brown.  He captured the innocence and melancholy of Charles Schultz's work.  I saw that movie as a youngster at a Saturday matinee, and I'm not ashamed to say I have the DVD and still watch it every now and then.

I never knew much about Rod McKuen, but he always struck me as a kindly grandfather who would play children's games with you without fear of being seen as silly or sappy.  I missed out on McKuen's best years, but here are a few of my musical favorites.

Title Track from A Boy Named Charlie Brown

Seasons in the Sun, by Terry Jacks

Rod McKuen playing himself in the cartoon series, The Critic

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