Rod McKuen

Rod McKuen
Shelly Gazin / Los Angeles Times


Rod McKuen
Music: North side of the 6700 block of Hollywood Boulevard
Born April 29, 1933 in Oakland, CA

Dismissed by critics and academia, Rod McKuen’s poetry has sold a reported 65 million books, and he’s also been a prolific and popular figure in music.

McKuen ran away from an abusive home at age 11 and drifted around the West, working such jobs as lumberjack and rodeo cowboy. He began to write and read his poetry in San Francisco during the Beat era and later sang folk songs and originals at the Purple Onion club. He recorded some albums for Decca in late ’50s, acted in a few films, sang with Lionel Hampton and composed and conducted for “The CBS Workshop.” He spent time in France, collaborating with and translating the lyrics of Jacques Brel and other major songwriters.

Later in the ’60s, his poetry books became hugely popular, and he recorded albums both of spoken poems and soft pop music. Frank Sinatra commissioned an entire album of material, “A Man Alone,” and the composer received Oscar nominations for “Jean” from “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and the score of “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” He began writing orchestral pieces, and has continued to turn out books of poetry and to record periodically.

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Points of interest

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    Academy Awards

    Year Category Work
    1969 Best Original Song "Jean" from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Nomination
    1970 Best Original Song Score A Boy Named Charlie Brown Nomination*
    * A joint nomination shared with other people.

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