|The conjunction of these two men's gifts was
in some degree fortuitous, partially planned. For McKuen ("I was the original Frank
Sinatra fan") it was a climatic achievement toward which he had aspired for years.
The partnership seemed logical, if not inevitable, for both are twentieth century bards
who see life in the same colors, find in it the same sensory textures. Sometimes the line
between poet and performer becomes blurred as you wonder which is the true loner:
A man who listens to the trembling of the trees ... a man who still
goes walking in the rain, expecting love again ... a man who knows love is seldom what it
seems - only other people's dreams ...
"It's either of us. I identify with Frank because we
are both essentially loners. This is not the same as being lonely; a loner is a man who
wants to move along without encumbrances. Frank is a gentle man but a moveable target, a
product of mass adulation. It's murder, being on all the time, as he has to be ..."
Empty? ... don't talk to me about empty ...
"How it all came about? Well, he's a good friend of my
publisher, Bennett Cerf. Weekending at the Cerf's home, he heard a pressing of the sound
track of a movie I had scored, Joanna. He expressed a desire for us to get
together. Phyllis Cerf arranged it for my 35th birthday, April 29, 1968."
"I had tried for years to reach Frank; wrote songs
with him in mind, but could never get to him. When we finally met, instead of offering to
do just one or two, he promised me an entire album - which he'd never done before for any
other composer. It was incredible ..."
We go from day to day and we move from promise to
promise ... I've had a good many promises now, so I can wait for the harvest ...
It took a year for the crop to ripen, and for their busy
schedules to coincide. Between scoring sessions for another film, The Prime of Miss
Jean Brodie, McKuen recorded demonstration versions of his songs for Sinatra. "I
used a 36 piece orchestra. I figured if he didn't like the songs, I'd wind up with the
best and most expensive demos ever made."
One night at the Cerfs', Sinatra listened in silence to the
record. Quietly he said: "You really got inside me."
There's a few more lonesome cities that I've yet to see
There's a few more pretty women that I'd like to know ...
Rod McKuen, now become an internationally acknowledged
philosopher and guru of word and song, had to produce his first book himself (and sold
65,000 copies from his basement) because, as we all know, nobody loves a poet. Nobody but
the millions who have bought his books, seen him on television, heard him on records. And
now the visions of this spokesman for our time join with the voice of another, to mirror
the universality of their emotions, their lives.
The sense of involvement, the rare communication that is
the power of Sinatra, now becomes a medium in which biography and autobiography often are
indistinguishable (nor are they mutually exclusive).
We know that the poems were especially composed for the
singer. Sometimes, as you listen, you may wonder whether the singer himself was in a sense
specially composed for this poet ...
All the beautiful strangers who held me for a night
And fell down in the darkness on pillows soft and white ...
Here are a dozen studies of a man alone. That man could be
Frank Sinatra, or Rod McKuen, or you who hold this record. It could be anyone among us -
even those who foolishly try to claim that loneliness has never touched their lives.