From the NY Times obit:

Rodney Marvin McKuen was born in a charity hospital in Oakland, Calif., on April 29, 1933. He never knew his biological father, and he was reared by his mother and an abusive alcoholic stepfather. After making several attempts to run away, he left home for good at 11. Over the years, he worked throughout the American West at a series of odd jobs that might well have come from the pages of a John Steinbeck novel — ranch hand, disc jockey, railroad worker, rodeo cowboy and newspaperman.

Settling in San Francisco in the 1950s, he began writing poetry, delivering his work at readings alongside the likes of Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg; Mr. McKuen also sang at Bay Area nightclubs and was briefly a contract player at Universal Pictures. He later lived in Paris, where he became a close associate of Brel’s.

Mr. McKuen, who died at a rehabilitation center, had been ill with pneumonia, his half brother, Edward McKuen Habib, told The Associated Press.

People have secrets – and one of mine was Rod McKuen. There’s good reason why I attained the later nickname of “sentimental bug job” on the city block I grew up in.

I collected his books – I remember them being these undersized hard covers – and his albums. His voice always sounded a bit hoarse with no attempt at the high notes and somehow his music leaned more towards spoken word. It may have been the first time I heard a writer read his own work.

McKuen was considered more of a pop artist than a poet but he wrote simply with just the right amount of imagery. At least for me. The fact that he read his poetry alongside Jack Kerouac, who was to become one of my later obsessions, somehow seems to justify my indulgence.

There are certainly other writers and poets and artists that the critics feel should come further towards the head of the line. But his poetry and music was perfect for a boy in Brooklyn whose hormones were beginning to pop with the heavy lessons and attractions of romance.

Sad to know he’s gone – but glad to have seen him when he was here.

mckuenMr. McKuen on Stanyan Street in San Francisco,
after which he titled a song.
Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection, via Getty Images

 

 

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