LOVE’S BEEN GOOD TO ME-THE SONGS OF ROD McKUEN.

Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen.

The latest instalment in Ace Records’ long running and successful Songwriters’ series focuses on American singer, songwriter and poet Rod McKuen. His career spanned four decades and is celebrated on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen. It was released by Ace Records and features twenty-five songs from the most successful period of Rod McKuen’s career, the sixties and seventies. 

During that period, Rod McKuen wrote everything from folk anthems and movie soundtracks to country, jazz, pop and even French chanson ballads. These songs were recorded by the great and good music. This includes Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, Frank Sinatra, Nina Simone, Jacques Brel, Petula Clark, Dusty Springfield and Perry Como. Then there’s Barbara Kay, Shelby Flint, Glenn Yarbrough, Jimmie Rodgers and Terry Jacks. They all feature on  Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen. So does a trio of songs from Rod McKuen. His musical career began in the late fifties as a singer-songwriter. By then, Rod McKuen had had an eventful and sometimes traumatic life.

Rod McKuen was born on April 29th 1933, in a Salvation Army hostel. He never knew his biological father, and instead, was raised by his mother and step-father who was a violent alcoholic. Growing up, Rod McKuen was sexually and physically abused by various relatives. By the time he was eleven, Rod McKuen had had enough and ran away from home.

Over the next few years, Rod McKuen spent time in reform school and worked a variety of jobs. He spent time as a ranch hand, rode cowboy, lumberjack, stuntman sold shoes, worked in a cookie factory. Whatever he worked as,  Rod McKuen sent some money home to his mother, who he would later be reunited with in Oakland.

After several years where the wanderlust got the better of  Rod McKuen, he eventually reentered his mother’s life. By then, had had discovered poetry, movies and music. However, it soon became apparent that music was Rod’s first love.  Especially the great American songwriters like Johnny Mercer Cole Porter and Jerome Kern. Rod had become interested in folk music, and the music of Pete Seeger and The Weavers. The great American songwriters and folk music would later influence Rod as a poet and songwriter.

Despite his burgeoning interest in music and poetry,  Rod McKuen’s education had suffered. In 1951, eighteen year old Rod McKuen dropped out of Oakland Technical High School just before he should’ve graduated. By then, Rod had started keeping a journal and writing poetry and songs. 

Now living in Oakland, Rod McKuen began working at a local radio station.  Rod hosted the Rhonda With You Rod on KROW. He played records and then read romantic poetry that he had written. This was Rod’s entrance into the world of the world of show-business.

Rod McKuen’s poetry became so popular that a local newspaper gave him a column. Things were looking good for Rod, he with his radio show and newspaper column. However, Uncle Sam came calling in 1953. 

Just like many teenagers, Rod McKuen had to spend two years serving in the US Army. This was at the height of the Korean War. Rod was put to work writing psychological warfare scripts which were broadcast to the Korean troops. One of Rod’s most memorable phrases was said to be “make love, not war.” However, during the time he spent serving his country, Rod still found time further his musical career.

During his free time, Rod McKuen singing in rock ’n’ roll club in the Ginza Strip, in Tokyo. This was good practise and preparation, as Rod’s time in the US Army would come to an end in 1955. He planned to make a career out of music.

Fortunately, on his discharge from the US Army, Rod McKuen was reacquainted with Phyllis Diller, an old friend from KROW. They gave Rod a heaping hand, as he embarked upon a career as a singer and performance poet. One of places he performed was the Purple Onion, where Rod shared the stage with beat poet Jack Kerouac. However, before long, Rod’s career took an unexpected twist.

He decided to head to Hollywood, where he hoped to embark upon an acting career. He was signed by Universal Pictures, and featured in B Movies like Rock, Pretty Baby and Summer Love. Around this time, Rod’s musical career began.

In 1958, Rod McKuen released his debut album Songs For A Lazy Afternoon on Liberty. It featured mostly songs penned by Rod. Alas.  the album failed to find an audience. Despite that, the following year,  Rod released two quite different albums.

Beatsville which was released in 1959, was a spoken word album  It featured Rod McKuen’s poetry and was released by Hi-Fi Records. The other album Rod released during 1959, was Anywhere I Wander, which was released by Decca. Rod wrote Jump Up (In A Field Of Clover). Just like Songs For A Lazy Afternoon, Anywhere I Wander was overlooked by record buyers. This was disappointing for Rod, who continued to juggle several careers. 

Rod McKuen was working as a songwriter and could turn his hand to everything from folk and pop. Later, he would even write classical music. Soon, though he would get the opportunity to write television themes. 

This opportunity arose in 1959, when Rod McKuen was approached by CBS TV. They wanted him to write the theme to television shows and quiz programmes. This came at a cost though. Rod would need to move from Los Angeles to New York. He decided to do so, and turn his back on Hollywood.

As the fifties gave way to the sixties, Rod was about to begin what was the most important two decades of his career. The sixties began with Rod McKuen releasing Alone After Dark in February 1960, which was released on Decca.  Just like previous albums, commercial success eluded the album. Later in 1960, Dick Jacobs and Rod McKuen released Written In The Stars, an album the pair  had collaborated on. However, it failed to find an audience. 

By 1961, Rod McMcKuen had left Decca and signed to Kapp Records. He released just the one album on Dave Kapp’s label. This was Stranger In Town in 1961. After the album failed to find an audience, Rod began to concentrate his efforts on songwriting.

He didn’t return until 1963, when he released New Sound In Folk Music on Horizon Records. By then, some of the biggest names in music had started covering Rod McKuen’s songs. His solo career continued, but it was as a songwriter that Rod McMcKuen enjoyed most success. Twenty-five of his songs feature on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen.

Opening Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen is Waylon Jennings and the hurt-filled country ballad Doesn’t Anybody Know. My Name. It featured on Waylon Jennings’ 1966 album for RCA Victor Leavin’ Town. This was just the third album from Waylon Jennings, who would go on to become one of the legends of country music.

So would Glen Campbell, who in 1967 released the album Gentle On My Mind on Capitol Records. It featured The World I Used To Know, which like many of the songs penned by Rod McKuen has a nostalgic quality.  Glen Campbell breathes meaning and emotion into this cinematic and wistful song.

Without doubt, the Chairman of The Board, Frank Sinatra is the biggest name on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen.Lonesome Cities featured on his 1969 album A Man Alone and Other Songs Of Rod McKuen. Frank Sinatra rolls back the years, and sounds as if he’s living the lyrics as he delivers a melancholy cover of Lonesome Cities.

From the early sixties, Rod McKuen wrote songs with some of the top chansonniers. This included Jacques Brel. They cowrote Les Amants De Cœur which was recorded in 1964. However, it wasn’t released until 1982. That was when it featured on the L’Œuvre Intégrale box which was released by Barclay. Somewhat belatedly, this hidden gem from Jacques Brel was released. Thirty-five years later, it makes a welcome appearance on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen.

So does Petula Clark’s cover of The Wind Of Change. It featured on her album Petula 1971, which was released by Pye in 1971. Four years later, and Pye released this beautiful, ballad as a single in 1975. It features a heartfelt, emotive vocal from one of the best and most successful British female vocalists of her generation.

Rod McKuen features three times on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen. His first contribution is the ballad A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which lents its name to his 1969 album for Stanyon. The other two Rod McKuen songs have never been released before. This includes Nancy Sinatra and Rod McKuen’s duet Kaleidoscope, which was recorded in 1969 for The Kraft Music Hall TV Show. Three years later, and Rod McKuen recorded the ballad Because We Love in 1972. It was never released and and just like Kaleidoscope, makes its debut on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen

By 1967, Dusty Springfield wasn’t enjoying the success she had over the last few two years. Top ten hits were eluding her, and she only enjoyed two top thirty hits during 1967. In October, Dusty Springfield released a new album on Phillips, Where Am I Going? It stalled at forty in the UK charts. One of the highlights was a cover of Rod McKuen and Jacques Brel’s If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas). Dusty Springfield delivered an emotive rendition of a song originally recorded by Jacques Brel.

In 1968, Rod McKuen was commissioned by 20th Century Fox to write and record the soundtrack to Joanna. When it came to record the vocals,  Barbara Kay was drafted in to record Hello Heartaches. She delivers a breathy, impassioned vocal and is accompanied by an orchestra. Gradually, the arrangement unfolds and builds until it reaches a crescendo. Later in 1968, the soundtrack to Joanna was released by 20th Century Fox in 1968. One of its highlight is Barbara Kay’s vocal on Hello Heartaches.

Five years the release of Joanna, Rod McKuen was commissioned to write and record the soundtrack to The Borrowers. He brought Shelby Flint onboard to record the vocals to the opening and closing songs. Shelby Flint delivers a tender vocal on the ballad This Is Our House, which will bring back memories for anyone who remembers  film or soundtrack to The Borrowers. Both were released in 1973, with Stanyan Records releasing the soundtrack.

When Glenn Yarbrough released Baby The Rain Must Fall as a single in 1965, on RCA Victor, record buyer who turned over to the B-Side were in for a pleasant surprise. Tucked away, on the B-Side was a I’ve Been To Town a beautiful, heart-wrenching ballad that’s a welcome addition to Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen. So much so, that it’s one of the highlights of the compilation.

Ten years after his recording career began in 1957, Jimmie Rodgers recorded I’ll Say Goodbye. This was a song that Rod McKuen cowrote with Gilbert Bécaud. I’ll Say Goodbye was released by Jimmie Rodgers on A&M Records 1967. It’s a string drenched ballad where Jimmie Rodgers’ delivers a vocal that’s a mixture of sadness, and regret. Fifty years later, and the song has stood the test of time is still poignant and moving.

Closing Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen is Terry Jacks’ cover of Seasons In The Sun. The song was based on Le Moribond (The Dying Person), which was penned by Jacques Brel. Originally, it was a sardonic ballad.  When Rod McKuen rewrote the song, it was transformed and became Seasons In The Sun. 

It became the title-track to Canadian singer-songwriter Terry Jacks’ 1973 debut solo album. He released the album on his own label, Goldfish Records. When Seasons In The Sun was released as a single  in 1974, it reached number one in fifteen countries and sold over fourteen million copies. It’s a timeless song and the perfect way to close Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen.

The twenty-five songs on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen were recorded during what was the most successful period of Rod McKuen’s career, the sixties and seventies. It was also the most prolific period of Rod McKuen’s career. He would eventually write around 1,500 songs that sold over 100 million copies. This included everything from folk anthems to film soundtracks to country, jazz, pop and even French chanson ballads. They all feature on Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen, which was recently released by Ace Records. It’s a reminder of the most successful period of Rod McKuen’s career, the sixties and early seventies.

Rod McKuen began to change direction musically later in the seventies. He started to focus more on writing and recording film scores. By 1981,  Rod McKuen retired from live performances. A year later in 1982, he was diagnosed with clinical depression. This was the beginning a ten year battle with depression. During this period, Rod  wrote another four books of poetry. They would become hugely successful.

By the time of Rod McKuen’s death on January 29th 2015, he had sold over sixty million books of poetry.  Rod McKuen had come a long way after a difficult start in life. He had enjoyed a successful career as a poet and songwriter. One of the few disappointments that Rod McKuen had, was that he never enjoyed more success as a singer. That had how Rod McKuen had hoped to make a living. Sadly, that wasn’t to be, and nowadays, Rod McKuen is better known as a songwriter. However,  two years after his death aged seventy-eight, Ace Records released Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen which celebrates the career of one of the most successful and prolific songwriters of the sixties and seventies, Rod McKuen. 

Love’s Been Good To Me-The Songs Of Rod McKuen.

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