Rod McKuen (born April 29, 1933) is a bestselling American poet, composer, and singer, instrumental in the revitalization of popular poetry that took place in the 1960s and early 1970s. Born Rodney Marvin McKuen in Oakland, California, McKuen ran away from home at the age of eleven to escape an alcoholic stepfather and to send what money he could to his mother. After a series of jobs, from lumberjack, ranch hand, railroad worker to rodeo cowboy, throughout the west, McKuen began in the 1950s to excite audiences with his poetry readings...
Born Rodney Marvin McKuen in Oakland, California, McKuen ran away from home at the age of eleven to escape an alcoholic stepfather and to send what money he could to his mother. After a series of jobs, from lumberjack, ranch hand, railroad worker to rodeo cowboy, throughout the west, McKuen began in the 1950s to excite audiences with his poetry readings, appearing with such well-known poets as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; during this time, he often used the pseudonym "Dor". He moved to New York City in 1959 to compose and conduct for the TV show "The CBS Workshop." By the 1960s he had achieved fame, far surpassing in sales the works of the Beat poets who preceded him. During the early 1960s he spent most of his time in France. This began his project to translate the work of legendary singer/songwriter Jacques Brel, into English.
He became an icon across college campuses for his ability to capture in verse the feelings of anxiety, love, confusion, and hope that were common during the Vietnam era. His public readings had the drawing power of a rock concert.
McKuen's commercial success is unparalleled in the field of modern poetry. His poetic works have been translated into a dozen languages and sold over 65 million copies. Throughout his career he has continued to enjoy sell-out concerts around the world and appears regularly at New York's famed Carnegie Hall.
As a songwriter, he has contributed to the sale of over 100 million records. His material has been recorded by such artists as Love's Been Good To Me (1969), Waylon Jennings, The London Philharmonic, Greta Keller, Perry Como, and Madonna. Perhaps his most well-known song is Jean (1969).
McKuen has proven to be a prolific songwriter, penning over 1,500 songs. He has collaborated with a variety of internationally renowned composers, including Henry Mancini and John Williams, and a highly successful series of albums with Anita Kerr. His symphonies, concertos, and other classical works have been performed by orchestras around the globe. His suite for narrator and orchestra, "The City", was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Music. His work as a composer in the film industry has garnered him two Academy Award nominations.
Throughout his multi-award-winning career, McKuen has paired his artistic endeavors with a spirit for social reform. Before a tour of South Africa in the 1970s, McKuen demanded ?mixed seating? among white and black concert-goers, opening the doors for successful tours by a variety of African-American performers, including Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald. He has also spearheaded efforts to raise AIDS awareness and fund charities for children and senior citizens. His humanitarian efforts have twice won him the prestigious Freedoms Foundation Award.