So the Daily Prompt wants to know today who we idolized when we were teenagers. I think it’s very odd that the only “idols” they referred to were musical, as if music was all there was to the world. Good grief! How many kids wanted to be an astronaut like Neil Armstrong who walked on the moon on July 21, 1969? How about Olympic skater Peggy Fleming? Basketball player Wilt Chamberlain? Or Martin Luther King Jr., for heaven’s sake?
Though I loved the Beatles and Paul Revere and the Raiders, music did NOT make up the sum total of my life. Words did. The idol I made scrapbooks about was the poet Rod McKuen who passed away a year ago this month on January 29th. McKuen made an impact on me because I was not used to saying what I felt deep inside. He had a way of doing so with his own life in such a way that people were drawn to him because they could identify with his words. He was like a magnet for me.
McKuen’s early life was horrible. He had a lot to overcome. His stepfather was a violent alcoholic and McKuen ran away from home at age 11. He made his own way in the world, keeping a journal as he went, out of which grew his first poetry. And that he could channel all the hurt and abuse into such incredible poems was quite simply astounding to me. Between him and Charles Dickens I found the desire to write.
Rodney Marvin “Rod” McKuen (April 29, 1933 – January 29, 2015) was an American singer-songwriter, musician and poet. He was one of the best-selling poets in the United States during the late 1960s. Throughout his career, McKuen produced a wide range of recordings, which included popular music, spoken word poetry, film soundtracks and classical music. He earned two Academy Award nominations and one Pulitzer nomination for his music compositions. McKuen’s translations and adaptations of the songs of Jacques Brel were instrumental in bringing the Belgian songwriter to prominence in the English-speaking world. His poetry deals with themes of love, the natural world and spirituality. McKuen’s songs sold over 100 million recordings worldwide, and 60 million books of his poetry were sold as well, according to the Associated Press. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
So there you have it! My idol was a poet and a writer. And I choose to remember him this month for his wonderful relationship with words.
…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.
perhaps she’s been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.
From A Cat Named Sloopy by Rod McKuen. One of my favorite poems by him.
And btw, this little post is dedicated to my dear friend from Britain, Anna Cottage, whom I believe was McKuen’s biggest fan in the world! She has spent the last year bidding on treasures from his life as they’ve gone on sale from his estate, one of which was a private journal. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must have been like for her to hold that in her hands and have a read. So this post is for you, Princess Anna! And if you’d like to know a bit more about Princess Anna, you can find her story at The Song of Anna, composed and read by the wonderful poet Plato.
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DAILY PROMPT: Teen Age Idol
Who did you idolize as a teenager? Did you go crazy for the Beatles? Ga-ga over Duran Duran? In love with Justin Bieber? Did you think Elvis was the livin’ end?