Rod McKuen, Poet and Lyricist With Vast Following, Dies at 81
Rod McKuen, a ubiquitous poet, lyricist and songwriter whose work met with immense commercial success if little critical esteem, died on Thursday in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 81.
Mr. McKuen, whom The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture described as having been, at his height, “the unofficial poet laureate of America,” was the author of dozens of books of poetry, which together sold millions of copies.
For a generation of Americans at midcentury and afterward, Mr. McKuen’s poetry formed an enduring, solidly constructed bridge between the Beat generation and New Age sensibilities. Ranging over themes of love and loss, the natural world and spirituality, his work was prized by readers for its gentle accessibility while being condemned by many critics as facile, tepid and aphoristic.
Mr. McKuen’s output was as varied as it was vast, spanning song lyrics, including English-language adaptations (“Seasons in the Sun”) of works by his idol, Jacques Brel; music and lyrics, as for “Jean,” from the 1969 film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” for which he received an Academy Award nomination; and musical scores, including that of the 1973 television film “Lisa, Bright and Dark.” He also appeared as a singer on television, on many recordings and in live performance.
“What McKuen guarantees is that a certain California sexual daydreaming can be yours for the asking even if you do move your lips rapidly as you read,” Louis Cox sniped in The New Republic in 1971.