APRIL 29, 1933 – Oakland, California.
On this day 84 years ago a beautiful little boy was born, born in a Salvation Army Hostel, he was named Rodney, the baby had no known Father, well his Mother knew who the Father was but would never tell the Child. Rod had this longing to find his Father and when his Mother died some time later he began the search to Find His Father. Rodney was to be known to those that loved him to those that knew him, to those that will never forget him as Rod – Rod McKuen was this special child’s name.
Rod McKuen to those of us who know his story was born into poverty from which he would rise, from which he alone fought to rise above. For doing so he would live with all the vilification those who did not really know him or even if they did, did not really like or love him, would throw at him not only in his lifetime but in his death.
Little Rod did not have a normal childhood, he suffered physical abuse it seemed on a regular basis he would have broken arms, broken legs, broken ribs due to the physical beatings of a drunken stepfather. Yet this young boy fought above all this, something in him must have told him he could and would do better. Rod had an inner strength that so many of us who were bullied, coward, had our inner independence taken from us as children, we could not fight, we accepted it as normal but not young Rod he knew despite all the dreadful things he went through, even running away constantly, being put into Boys homes I don’t even want to think what happened there, Rod knew he would achieve despite it all.
From job after job, on the road, simple humble hardworking jobs for a young lad he survived. He joined up served his time in the Korea War, he survived. He travelled, he was a loner, finding love where he could. Rod, the handsome young man, the handsome man, the handsome older man always searching for love, real love and loyalty the security of love. Rod who as a child, a baby I don’t care what people may say, a young child of seven years of age is a baby who should be loved and protected and have security. Instead he was left with an Aunt and Uncle. He trusted them, why should the child not.
A Child a little blond haired beautiful Innocent little boy, why should he not trust the Uncle who took him Camping. What little Rod received instead was the biggest betrayal, something that would never be forgotten. Something that scarred him deep inside for the rest of his life. All the beatings all the broken bones from the drunken stepfather those scars would heal, but this, this betrayal by his Uncle, little Rod would grow with this Scar never to be healed in his mind his body his thoughts, he would carry this scar. As the little boy, the beautiful innocent little Rod, slept in his childhood innocence, an innocence that should have been protected. His Uncle the man the little child trusted, this Uncle RAPED this little child, his Nephew little Rod as he slept.
Later it transpired that his Aunt, his Mother’s Sister, sexually interfered with little Rod, this child was damaged yet he fought above it. One thing from his Aunt he could not forget was she told young Rod he was a “Bastard” this haunted him he would ask his Mother who his Father was, he did have a right to know, but she would never tell him. It was not until his Mother’s Death did Rod begin his search to “Find His Father”. Rod McKuen later as a young Boy took to the road and from job to job he travelled, always writing, writing his thoughts perhaps, writing poems. Always in his mind looking for his Father. Searching phone directories for his Father’s name.
Those of us who have followed him through the years, however long, in my case over 50 years , others no doubt longer others may just be discovering this unique man, the man that had to tolerate so much filth written about him all based on jealousy.
As Rod said himself, when he sold a few books the critics loved him, when he sold millions and the money started pouring in, the hated him the critics vilified him and never stopped. Even all the Obituaries I have read I can honestly say it was only a British newspaper that was honest and showed no hated for Rod, the paper spoke the truth. I am not saying that because I am English, I am saying that because it was so hurtful to read such horrible, horrible jealous reviews/obituaries on Rod.
The cry was “Poets do not make money” and the critics hated Rod for not only making money but making Millions. I ask the question, “Why can’t Poets make money, who is to say that?”
Rod McKuen was badly treated, he was loved by Millions. Millions of people would flock to his Concerts, I for one did that. Millions would buy his books, his LPs. We would avidly read all his new books and reread his old ones, we would listen to his music, we still do all that.
Award after award was presented to this unique Gentle Soul, Rod McKuen. He should have been made Poet Laureate, but No he was instead ignored, the so called critics would show their jealousy, they would write the most awful things. Constantly reminding Rod he was born a Bastard, but as he said himself he was fortunate to have been born a bastard to others it would take them a lifetime to become one.
Rod McKuen was not only America’s biggest selling Poet, but the Worlds. He met everyone he knew everyone. Honours, Awards, Tributes you name them Rod McKuen received them all. Had it not been for Rod McKuen people in this Country would not have access to the names of their “real Mothers and Fathers”, under the British Adoption Laws they were denied this, Rod McKuen helped the British Government at that time change the rules. Adopted People have the right to see the names of the Real Mothers/Fathers. I understand that does not apply in the US. Is there acknowledgement of what Rod did to help in changing the Laws here on this question, No there is not.
All of this all of what Rod Mckuen achieved and yet there are no Tributes to him, no real Remembering Rod McKuen. The “Barn” the beloved “Barn” he hoped for planned for to house his world record collection of LPs and CDs, his Books, his Paintings, His Gold Records, His Honours, all he had collected, did not happen. It should have, without a doubt Rod McKuen DESERVED/DESERVES TO BE REMEMBERED.
Istead, so much of all he loved was sold off. I personally don’t like this kind of thing but I did buy an awful lot of his books, I bought Paintings, Furniture, Silver, Gold Records, his Honours and much more, and why you ask if I object to “selling off”. Simply, to buy and protect what little I could afford from ending up on Ebay. It sickened me to see many of Rod’s personal belongings sold then being resold on Ebay – thats sick! I intend to protect and later on find a caring educational home for them.
So Today April 29, 2017 we Remember, and those of us that still love Rod, remember him as the unique soul, the man that was instrumental in helping so many of us enjoy writing become writers perhaps, his gift he passed on, the gentle soul no doubt still protected by his “Mountain Lion”, the good Honest, Decent Loving Man that deserved so much better – he deserved not to be Forgotten. Rod McKuen should be remembered by his Country, the World – like him or love him or not, Rod is up there with Walt Whitman the Poet Rod admired, he too vilified in life and death, much later in his death Walt Whitman was recognised.
All of us who admired and still do Rod McKuen, will not forget.
“WITH LOVE TO ROD”
Happy Birthday Rod
where you are
way above the clouds
looking down through blue skies
over Sea that you sailed and loved
over Lands that you traveled
in Balloons that you flew
and found love
from the sky at night
and the Stars you sit amongst
with “Sloopy” and all the other
animals that you loved
closely they sit with you
gently on powder white
Goose Feather Clouds
Rod your genius
still touches all
Rod your love we still feel
Rod where you are
safe and sound
we all send our Love
we will remember
Rod McKuen you will be
Remembered and Honoured
however long it may take
My apologies if you prefer another Song by Rod, this is my favourite, so please let me indulge myself – thanks, Anna. Our Rod, “Listen to the Warm”.