Prolific American Poet

                                          Master Variety Artist


Highlight in the Depression

Eleven years after Rod was brought into the struggling world in Oakland, California, he headed out on his own to try to help his single mother make ends meet. An earlier time he had got out away from California when he stayed at his grandparents' place at Alamo, Nevada, enjoying immensely the written word, as he immersed himself in it as presented in the form of his room's ubiquitous wallpaper.

He also went to Washington and Oregon, besides those other two locales, and his assortment of vocations included: rodman on a surveying team, laborer, ditch and grave digger, help in soup kitchens, lumberjack, and railroadman. And, while including stuntman, disc jockey, newspaperman on his resume, he can add that he rode the wild bucking beasts in the Rodeo.

Exit: Stage Far East

After reciting his poetry in coffee houses in the early fifties with the likes of Kerouac and Ginsberg at the Jazz Cellar in Frisco, he joined up with the War effort in Korea, writing scripts for the Army's Korean Civil Assistance Command.

No Ugly Jokes, Please

Finishing his military hitch, his mentor, Phyllis Diller helped push him along in his career leading to a debut performance at the Purple Onion in San Francisco. The scouts got him signed up at Universal Studios, and he can be seen acting in 1956's Rock, Pretty Baby where he also composed the movie's score. In 1958 he wrote the lyrics for Summer Love in which also he appeared, as well as having a part in Wild Heritage. These years he was singing with Lionel Hampton, was starting working in the studio and gigging in clubs. Somewhere around here he recorded a rare, almost unknown first album, Lonely Summer on Bond Records of California. It was followed by an almost equally hard to find second, Songs for a Lazy Afternoon.

Bite Out of the Big Apple

CBS Workshop brought him to New York City, where he cranked out the beginning proliferation with his grand and a half tunes like "Rock Gently," Love's Been Good to Me," and "The World I Used to Know." They have been sung by vocalists Glen Yarborough, the Kingston Trio, Danny Kaye, and Henry Mancini.

Know Him by the Poem

In the 1960's he concentrated on his poetry, and although he published And Autumn Came in 1954, and in 1966 his Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows hit the shelves, it wasn't until this book of poems that he had a bonanza with a bestseller. The jacket liner explains:
The words within these pages are for music. They sing of love lost and found and lost again. They are hymns to the dying, sonnets to the summer and verses of the joy of being wanted--even for a night. Love words--gentle, direct, beautifully lasting.
The first section is "Prologue: A Cat Named Snoopy" which is comrised of 36 numbered poems. One of the three other sections, "Twenty-Two Songs" include some of his early poems from 1954, exampled here:

Stanyan Street

There are golden apples to be picked
and green hills to climb
and meadows to run when you're young.

There are roaring rivers to be crossed
and bridges to build and wild oats to sow as you grow.

But later on the other side of time
the apples no longer taste sweet.
Bridges fall down. Meadows turn brown
as life falls apart
in a little room on Stanyan Street.
An article in TIME magazine in 1967 revealed that he was about to tear up these lines just below, but, with an "...what the Hey attitude" took them to that publisher, and the rest is permanently available on the internet.

A Cat Named Snoopy

Once was a time,
in New York's jungle in a tree,
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.
Looking back
perhaps she's been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.

Beauty for Old Blue Eyes

One interesting collaboration was with Frank Sinatra, among many he has done with Perry Como, Percy Faith, Andy Williams, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Mathis, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield, Al Hirt, Herb Alpert, and the list includes Madonna. The 'Chairman of the Board' contracted McKuen to write a whole long playing record full of songs for his A Man Alone, from which two hit songs emerged. Here is the title song:

A Man Alone

In me you see a man alone
Held by the habit of being on his own
A man who listens to the trembling of the trees
With sentimental's ease

In me you see a man alone
Behind the wall he's learned to call his home
A man who still goes walking in the rain
Expecting love again.

A man not lonely
Except when the dark comes on
A man learning to live with
Memories of midnights
That fell apart at dawn.
In me you see a man alone
Drinking up Sundays and spending them alone
A man who knows love is seldom what it seems
Only other people's dreams.

A man learning to live with
Memories of midnights
That fell apart at dawn.

In me you see a man alone
Drinking up Sundays and spending them alone
A man who knows love is seldom what it seems
Just other people's dreams.
After working with Jacques Brel for almost two decades, his song written for Brel by him, "If You Go Away" garnered the honor "Song of the Millennium" by the French Performing Society for that momentous event.


Moving Up Looking Down

Even though he was approaching the fame that would land him Academy Award nominations for his scores with the Maggie Smith vehicle, The Prime of Miss Brodie and the comic stip come to big screen, A Boy Named Charlie Brown, internal storms were brewing. His talents were sought and used by so many orchestras with or without him, including The City, where his narration won him a Pulitzer Prize in Music, a forerunner of which was seen with his Grammy in 1968 (beating JFK and MLK's nomination for their orations) for that year's Best Spoken Word album, Lonesome Cities, (also the title of an excellent selling book that followed Listen to the Warm). As the next decade rolled in, and he was receiving awards and he was taking on more public service work, like successfully working against separate seating during South Africa's apartheid for his audiences there, and therefore winning two medals from the Freedoms Foundation, his mental and emotional state was spiraling downward. Perhaps a hint of some of the problem can be seen in his 1977 prose book, Finding My Father
Having been born a bastard gave me an advantage over all those people who spend their entire lives becoming one. It's nice to have a head start.
Because of his book, the UK has passed laws giving adopted children access to their medical records.

Depression in the Highlight

By 1981, Rod went into reclusion. Why and what he did during this period he explains:
I never planned on retiring at least not at first. About a dozen years ago I came off the road after a particularly tough tour, too many cities in too short a time. Began to think about what I'd known for a while, I've been everywhere and seen practically nothing. Airports, motel closest to the theater I'd be performing in, junk food on the way to a sound check, concert - nearly always exhilarating because I love the one on one of performing with an audience no matter how small the theater or large the arena. Back to motel to bed most usually alone, too late for room service, not much sleep because it takes awhile coming down from the concert adrenaline rush. Up early; drive to airport, flight to next town and on and on. A while turned out longer than I planned.


I love my house, puttering about, growing my own vegetables, and doing all the cooking for my brother Edward and myself. Getting to know the animals again, playing a lifetime collection of records and discovering new old songs and familiar musical friends I'd forgotten about. Books to read. More puttering. Avoided the telephone and answering mail. Got my first Mac, but with no computer friends it became a project to teach myself how to make it work. With no new records and books, and so nothing I wanted to talk about, I stopped giving interviews. We live in a world where if you've had a fairly high profile and you're gone from TV or the papers for twenty minutes people start to forget about you. This suited me fine and since music and musical tastes were changing I doubted my own ability to draw an audience. Nobody came banging on the door pleading for me to go back on the road and what offers did come in I ignored and asked Edward not to even show me. I was happy and didn't feel I needed much attention.

His depression, now clinical, made him left in a "hell":
...feeling I wasn't proper company for anyone, especially fans and friends.

He was helped along by letters of support, and especially one from Dan Rather, who understood the signs of this melancholy as seen in his colleague, Mike Wallace.

Perhaps also some critics who called his work "saccharine" helped prompt introspection, but finally in the 90's he could face that, (and aided by Prozac) with:

If I sell 5 copies of a book they are unanimous in their praise. If I sell 10 I can expect one dissent. If the number grows to 10,000 my reviews will always be 'mixed.' At 10,000,000 I have detractors of every persuasion, most notably those reviewers who read the statistics not the books. None has a banner bright enough or unknown legions' unsheathe swords' sharp enough to silence me, I lived it or am living it. I accept no advice on how it could or should be lived.


His last project is a new book published, entitled (as is his website), A Safe Place to Land. While living in in a California 20's mansion with his always faithful brother, Edward and animals, he is working on his new material. He is getting ready for the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Fortieth Birthday Concert at Carnegie Hall, where at that location or Lincoln Center he did a decade straight such yearly birthday concerts. Online, at his profusely visited site, via some return posted responses, he will answer questions frankly, but he makes it clear that he will not accept, nor critique other's work.

I get so many manuscripts through the mail that I've had to make it a hard & fast rule not to read any of them, I've even carried that to the extremes of not reading poetry written by friends.

* Update note:

In 2004 McKuen released a book of poetry, Rusting in the Rain by Cheval Books.  

List of Works



And Autumn Came, 1954
Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows, 1966
Listen to the Warm, 1967
Lonesome Cities, 1968
And Autumn Came (Revised Edition), 1969
In Someone's Shadow, 1969
Twelve Years of Christmas, 1969
Caught in the Quiet, 1970
Fields of Wonder, 1971
And to Each Season, 1972
Moment to Moment, 1972
Come to Me in Silence, 1973
Moment to Moment (Rev. Ed.), 1974
Beyond the Boardwalk, 1975
Celebrations of the Heart, 1975
The Sea Around Me, 1975
Coming Close to the Earth, 1978
We Touch the Sky, 1979
The Power Bright and Shining, 1980
A Book of Days, 1980
The Beautiful Strangers, 1981
Book of Days and a Month of Sundays, 1981
The Sound of Solitude, 1983
Suspension Bridge, 1984
Intervals, 1986
Valentines, 1986


The Songs of Rod McKuen, 1969
With Love, 1970
New Ballads, 1970
Pastorale, 1971
The Carols of Christmas, 1971
Grand Tour, 1972


Finding My Father, 1976
An Outstretched Hand, 1980



After Midnight
Alone After Dark
Anywhere I Wander
The Beautiful Strangers
The Black Eagle, A Gothic Musical
Blessings in Shade of Green
For Friends and Lovers
Goodtime Music
Have a Nice Day
In a Lonely Place
It Had To Be You
Jerome Kern Revisited Vol. IV (with Ballard, Short, and Cook)
Lonely Summer
The Loner
The Love Movement
Love's Been Good To Me
McKuen Country
Rod McKuen Sings Rod McKuen
More Rod McKuen 77
Mr. Oliver Twist
New Ballads
New Rod McKuen Carols for Christmas
New Sounds in Folk Music
Other Kinds of Songs
Pastures Green
The Rod McKuen Folk Album
Rod McKuen Sings The McKuen - Brel Songbook
The Show
Sings His Own
Rod 77
Seasons In The Sun
Seasons In The Sun, 2
Seasons In The Sun, 1 and 2
The Single Man
Sleep Warm
Slide --Easy In
Slide --On the Move
Soldiers Who Want To Be Heroes
Someone To Watch Over Me
Songs For The Lazy
Songs Our Mummy Taught Us With {McKuen as Dor} and Bob MacFadden
Stranger In Town
There's A Hoot Tonight
Through European Windows
Two Against The Morning
With Liesbeth List
Very Warm

Oral Recitation

The Essential
In Search Of Eros
Listen to The Warm
Lonesome Cities
Pushing The Clouds Away
Time Of Desire
The Word
The Yellow Unicorn
With Tak Shindo and Julie Merredith


Rod McKuen: Symphony No. 1 in 4 Movements
Rod McKuen: Concerto For Guitar and Orchestra: 5 Orchestral Pieces
Rod McKuen: Concerto For 4 Harpsichords: 4 Orchestral Pieces
Rod McKuen: Piano Variations: 6 Piano Sonatas
Rod McKuen: Conducts McKuen
Rod McKuen: Concerto No. 3 For Piano and Orchestra
Rod McKuen: The Plains Of My Country: Seascapes for Solo Piano
Rod McKuen: Concerto For Cello and Orchestra; Music For Strings
Rod McKuen: Concerto For Balloon and Orchestra: 3 Overtures
Rod McKuen: The Ballad Of Distances: Symphonic Suite, Opus 40
Rod McKuen: Piano Quartets: Piano Trios
Rod McKuen: The City: I Hear America Singing, 2 Cantatas
Rod McKuen: Written In the Stars (The Zodiac Suite)
Rod McKuen: Something Beyond: Suite For Orchestra


The Borrowers
A Boy Named Charlie Brown and Other Rod McKuen Film songs
A Boy Named Charlie Brown
Lisa Bright and Dark
Me Natalie
With Henry Mancini
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie
The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie -- Rod McKuen Sings and Conducts His Score

Rock Pretty Baby With Henry Mancini
Scandalous John
Summer Love
With Henry Mancini
McKuen, Gueviksman, Guidravitchus: The Unknown War

Concert Performances

The Amsterdam Concert
Back To Carnegie Hall
Evening In Vienna
With Greta Keller
Grand Tour
Grand Tour, Vol. 3
Rod McKuen In Concert
Rod McKuen Live Across Australia and Around The World
Rod McKuen Live At The Sydney Opera House
Rod McKuen Live In Africa
Rod McKuen Live In London
Rod McKuen Live - Sold Out Carnegie Hall

Best of, and Compilation Albums

The Beat Generation (McKuen, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Bruce {Boyd}}
The Best Of Rod McKuen
Bits and Pieces
The Early Years -- The Best Of Rod McKuen
Greatest Australian Hits
Rod McKuen
Rod McKuen's Greatest Hits, Vol. 1
Rod McKuen's Greatest Hits, Vol. 2
Rod McKuen's Greatest Hits, Vol. 3
Rod McKuen's Greatest Hits, Vol. 4
In The Beginning
Love Songs
A Portrait Of Rod McKuen
Rod On Record
Try Rod McKuen In The Privacy Of Your Own Home
Without A Worry In The World
Seventeen New Songs By Rod McKuen
Short Cuts From Pastorale
Some Of The Best Of Rod McKuen
20 New Rod McKuen's Songs

Collaborations with Anita Kerr

(Lyrics, and Book and Musical Storyline by Rod McKuen Music Composed, Arranged abd Conducted by Anita Kerr)

(All with the San Sebastian Strings)

The Sea
The Earth
The Sky
Home To The Sea
The Soft Sea
La Mer
For Lovers
With Love
The Sea
The Earth
The Sky
The Complete Sea
The Seasons

Editors note:

Rod McKuen died of respiratory arrest, a result of pneumonia, at a hospital in Beverly Hills, California, on January 29, 2015. He was 81 years old.

Listen to the Warm Stanyon Music, Random House

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