“It seems to me that it's every man's obligation to make what contribution he can. You live each day as best you can. That, to me, is what makes life interesting.” – Rod McKuen
Singer-songwriter, musician and poet, Rod McKuen was one of the best-selling poets in the United States during the late 1960s, and continued to produce a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. He died earlier this year just short of his 82nd birthday, which would have been yesterday.
Never taken seriously by critics or many of his fellow writers, he nonetheless wrote poems and songs about love and nature that connected with everyday people, selling over 100 million songs and 60 million books of poetry worldwide. Writing words that make such a connection is something every writer should hope for. And he did win critical acclaim for his 1968 Lonesome Cities, which won a Grammy for Best Spoken Word album.
Despite claims by many fans that “His poems speak to me,” McKuen said that never was his intent. “I tried not to put messages in my songs. My only message was man's communication with his fellow man. I just wanted to narrow the gap of strangeness and alienation.”
While one of his most popular and enduring songs was “If You Go Away,” I’ve always most liked the lilting song, “Jean,” the cover for the movie The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. And if you ever get the chance to see a clip of his performance of “What a Wonderful World,” done at age 78, you’re in for a great treat. Meanwhile, here’s “Jean.” Enjoy.
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