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McKuen, Rod (b. 1933)  
page: 1  2  

McKuen's songs have been recorded by a wide range of other artists from Glen Campbell to Nina Simone, from Henry Mancini to Dusty Springfield, and from Johnny Mathis to Madonna. But perhaps McKuen's best-known artistic collaboration has been with Jacques Brel, the popular Belgian singer and songwriter. McKuen's English lyrics to Brel's music helped win the composer an international audience. Among their collaborations are the much-covered, wistful songs "If You Go Away" and "Seasons in the Sun."

McKuen has also composed a considerable amount of classical music. His symphonies, concertos, suites, and song cycles have been performed by orchestras throughout the world. The City: A Suite for Narrator and Orchestra, commissioned by the Louisville Orchestra in 1972, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

McKuen has used his fame to support progressive causes. Not only has he been an outspoken peace activist (some credit him with coining the phrase "make love not war"), but he has also been a longtime supporter of the gay rights movement.

In 1977, as Florida orange juice spokeswoman Anita Bryant's Save Our Children campaign vilified gay men and lesbians, McKuen wrote "Don't Drink the Orange Juice" in support of the pro-gay boycott. He released the song on a manifestly gay-targeted album called "Slide...Easy In." The album, which was a sophisticated send-up of disco, featured on its cover a bare and hairy muscular male arm pulling a fistful of white lubricant from a can of Crisco, renamed "Disco."

Though McKuen has been very reticent about his private life, he has continued to support gay causes. He has frequently spoken out against in his column, "Flight Plan," published on his website. He ended one such column by describing himself as "an adult who practices several kinds of sex and will do so until he gets one right."

One of McKuen's signature lines is "It doesn't matter who you love, or how you love, but that you love." To the question "Are you married?" McKuen's standard response is the coy statement, "I have no legal certificate that says I am, but, let's just say I'm committed."

In 1981, McKuen abruptly announced that he would no longer tour. In 1982, he was diagnosed with clinical depression. As a consequence, he withdrew from the public eye. When his depression subsided, he returned to a more understated career, one that was active but not in the limelight.

For many years he served as president of the American Guild of Variety Artists. He continues to write poetry and songs and give occasional concerts. He also does voice-overs for movies. He communicates with his many fans through his website.

McKuen has been active in a number of charitable organizations, especially those dedicated to fighting AIDS and child abuse.

McKuen lives in Southern California with his brother Edward and four cats.

Tina Gianoulis

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literature >> Overview:  Beat Generation

The writers of the Beat Generation, many of whom were gay or bisexual, endorsed gay rights as a part of their rebellion against inhibition and self-censorship.

social sciences >> Overview:  Boycotts

Boycotts, the refusal to patronize companies or institutions, have in recent decades been organized by glbtq rights advocates to protest discriminatory practices and policies.

arts >> Overview:  Disco and Dance Music

No popular art form is more closely identified with gay culture than disco and dance music.

arts >> Overview:  Music: Classical

Classical music is an important component of Western culture to which glbt people have contributed significantly.

arts >> Overview:  Music: Popular

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered persons have had tremendous influence on popular music, though some musical genres have been more receptive to a homosexual presence than others.

literature >> Overview:  Poetry: Gay Male

The gay tradition in literature from ancient times to the present is primarily a tradition not of prose but of verse.

social sciences >> Bryant, Anita

Former beauty queen, popular singer, and orange juice pitchwoman, Anita Bryant became the poster-girl for homophobia in the late 1970s; her name continues to be a byword for bigotry.

literature >> Ginsberg, Allen

The forthrightly gay Allen Ginsberg is probably the best-known American poet to emerge in the post-World War II period.

literature >> Kerouac, Jack

The bisexual Jack Kerouac omitted references to his homosexuality from his otherwise autobiographical works.

arts >> Mathis, Johnny

One of the most gifted interpreters of romantic ballads in the history of American popular music, Johnny Mathis is notoriously reticent about his own romantic life.

arts >> Springfield, Dusty

Now widely acclaimed as one of the greatest voices of popular music, British rock star of the 1960s Dusty Springfield has long been a lesbian icon.


Adkins, Rose. "Rod McKuen's Sounds of Solitude." Writer's Digest 64 (February 1984): 24-32.

McKuen, Rod. Finding My Father. New York, Coward, McCann and Geoghegan, 1976.

_____. "Flight Plan for 11 February, 1999." Rod McKuen: A Safe Place to Land Website. /

_____. Rod McKuen: A Safe Place to Land Website.

Nykoruk, Barbara, ed. Authors in the News. Detroit: Gale Research, 1975.

"Script for September 25, 2000." Queer Music Heritage Website.


    Citation Information
    Author: Gianoulis, Tina  
    Entry Title: McKuen, Rod  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2005  
    Date Last Updated June 6, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2005, glbtq, inc.  


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