Rod McKuen

The Single Man

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"The Single Man" is one of Rod McKuen's most moving compositions, a portrait of loneliness and bachelorhood that seems even more poignant since McKuen has come out as being gay. The song was recorded by Glenn Yarbrough and Frank Sinatra, and although both of their versions are excellent, McKuen's own reading is almost painfully personal, casting the melancholy spell conjured by his best work. The 1968 album The Single Man mixes music and poetry in roughly equal measure, but the songs -- particularly the title track, "The Girls of the Summer," and "I've Saved the Summer" -- are the bright spots. The poetry can be hard to stomach, with lines like "Will you remember how I tasted that first time? Someone said I taste like almonds" recited in an earnest half-whisper. It's a certainty that McKuen won't be remembered for his poetry, but he is one of the great unheralded songwriters of the 20th century. Accordingly, The Single Man is most successful when McKuen sticks to music.