Country Music Star Passes Away At 79


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Kinky Friedman, the legendary country singer-songwriter known for his unique blend of humor and outspokenness, has died at the age of 79. Friedman, who passed away on Wednesday at his home in Texas, was a beloved figure in the music and literary worlds. His career spanned several decades, during which he became a close friend and collaborator of Willie Nelson. The cause of death was Parkinson’s disease, according to Texas Tribune.

“Kinky Friedman stepped on a rainbow at his beloved Echo Hill surrounded by family & friends,” a statement read on X on Thursday. “Kinkster endured tremendous pain & unthinkable loss in recent years but he never lost his fighting spirit and quick wit. Kinky will live on as his books are read and his songs are sung.”

Early in his life, Friedman relocated to Austin for college and ventured overseas with the Peace Corps to Borneo, before ultimately settling in Nashville in the early Seventies to pursue songwriting. To manage his stage fright, he adopted the stage name “Kinky,” inspired by an old college nickname. He first gained attention as the leader of the band Kinky Friedman and The Texas Jewboys in the early 1970s.

His music, characterized by satirical and often controversial lyrics, blended country with humor, covering social and political issues with a distinct irreverence. Some of his well-known songs include “Sold American” and “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore.” Friedman was also a prolific author, especially known for his detective novels featuring a fictionalized version of himself solving crimes in New York City. His writing style is marked by wit, noir-ish flair, and sharp commentary on American life. Besides his mystery novels, he has penned several non-fiction books, often reflecting his political views and personal experiences.

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Los Angeles, California/USA – May 31, 1994: Humorist Kinky Friedman appears at the American Booksellers Association trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center,

In the political arena, Friedman was known for his outsider and independent campaigns, most notably his run for Governor of Texas in 2006. Running as an independent with the slogan “Why the hell not?”, his platform included support for same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and anti-corruption measures. Though he did not win, his campaign brought significant attention to independent politics in Texas.

In 2018, Mickey Raphael, the harmonica player for Willie Nelson and a friend and collaborator of Friedman’s, spoke with Rolling Stone. “I thought he [Friedman] was brilliant, and very brave. I got the joke, but I wouldn’t have wanted to stand too close to him at that time. I still keep my distance. It was like, ‘That’s funny, but don’t say you know me.’”

In 2018, Friedman made a comeback to songwriting after over thirty years with “Circus of Life,” a collection of folk songs that were unexpectedly sincere and stripped-down, lacking the typical Kinky flamboyance and instead revealing a “vulnerability he never would have tolerated in himself long ago,” according to his brother, Roger Friedman. “Somewhere I read that having an alter ego is a very good way of shielding yourself from suffering,” he shared with Rolling Stone.

“I thought that was interesting.” In his later years, Friedman continued to devote himself to Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, a sanctuary for rescued animals he founded in 1998. He lived alone, surrounded by dogs and hummingbirds at Echo Hill Ranch, the place where he grew up, and kept writing and recording music.

Friedman is recognized not only for his artistic and political ventures but also for his charismatic and larger-than-life persona. He remains a cultural icon, admired for his daring to address sensitive and complex topics with humor and a sharp tongue, making him a unique figure in American culture.

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Scoop Diggins