Kinky Friedman Comes, Sees, and Conquers in Memphis

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Sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. Here, Kinky Friedman goes head-to-head with Folk Alliance attendee Dean Baxter.
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  • Sometimes, as Freud said, a cigar is just a cigar. Here, Kinky Friedman goes head-to-head with Folk Alliance attendee Dean Baxter.

Kinky Friedman, songwriter, singer, politician, author, comedian, and God-knows-what-else came, saw, and conquered Wednesday on a trip to Memphis, where he did a well-attended presentation of all his various guises in an evening appearance at the Folk Alliance storeefront headquarters on South Main St..

Friedman and his best-known ensemble performed for decades under the name “Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys.” The name is a hoot and was intended as such, but, like everything Kinky has been involved in, the band was a serious venture.

His song standards, a generous selection from which he rendered Wednesday night, have titles like “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” “Sold American,” “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns in the Bed,” “Asshole from El Paso,” “Home Erectus,” “Ride ‘Em Jewboy,” and “Rock and Roll Across the USA.” And, yes, of course, they have a satirical edge, but they are real music, too.

Kinky is a serious man. He has written 31 books, the most recent of which, Heroes of a Texas Childhood, was on sale at the Folk Alliance building. The book is a series of profiles of exemplars from the Lone Star State. Some of the subjects are Willie Nelson, Sam Rayburn, Sam Houston, Ladybird Johnson, and Bigfoot Wallace. Three others — former Texas governor Ann Richards, former Congresswoman Barbara Jordan, and legendary columnist Molly ivins, all now deceased — Friedman singled out for special tribute Wednesday night.

Friedman made a race for governor of Texas in 2006 and, running as an independent in a field that included eventual winner Rick Perry, finished with 13 percent of the vote. Although his list of heroes runs to Democrats and progressives, his current politics, as revealed in the following interview with the Flyer, may surprise you. By turns, Friedman’s answers are whimsical and dead serious.

Flyer: Is your political career on hold? In 2006 you finished respectably.

Friedman: That’s a kind word for it.

Fourth out of six? Something like that?

Yes, and I’m not bitter. I think the career of musician is a higher calling than that of a politician…..13 percent of Texas voted for me. Today almost all Texans feel that way…..They now have a chance to see Rick Perry run for president.

What are three things you know about Rick Perry? You can forget the third one.

I know that all the blonds and Aggies are now telling Rick Perry jokes.

What was your platform when you ran?

Never re-elect anybody. Two terms. One in office. One in prison. I didn’t really have a platform. There was a trap-door in it. I just came up with a lot of good ideas, and I think Texas missed a chance. I think we won that race every place but Texas.

Do you ever think about doing that again?

Not much. I’m getting O-L-D.

How old are you?

67. But I read at the 69-year-old level.

Is Heroes of a Texas Childhood your best [book]?

The best one is always the next one.

What is the next one?

One I’m doing with Willie Nelson, called The Troublemaker.

You haven’t had a new album in a few years….

At least.

Well, have you got plans for another one?

No.

No new material? Or what?

No new material. The songs are older than the audience….

Any last word on the presidential campaign, other than Rick Perry?

Well, I told my friend Don Imus, Herman Cain is deader than Elvis. I think at this point I would like a ticket like Romney-Rubio. That would be the one.

Really?

I think Obama’s got to go.

You’re serious? Why?

I think he’s a fraud. I think he’s a good candidate. I think he’s a good law instructor at Harvard. But he will never in his lifetime be a statesman or a leader. It’s not that I don’t like him. He doesn’t have the chops. He’s also — if you’re a Jew, you should never vote for this man. He’s isolated Israel even further than she was. And he’s appointed a lot of Jew-hating Jews around him. They hate Israel.

But why Romney, and, especially, why Rubio [the arch-conservative freshman Senator from Florida]?

Because they can win. That’s why. I don’t think Gingrich can win. I like Gingrich, but I don’t think he can win. I’m worried about Romney. He’s beating Obama right now in all the state polls. But the Republicans are the best friends Obama’s got. I’m an Independent. God bless all independents.

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