Kinky Friedman Still Has Something to Say on His First Album in More Than 30 Years

Kinky Friedman
Kinky Friedman
Photo by Brian Kanof

Kinky Friedman was politically incorrect well before the term entered the popular idiom. After all, when you name your band the Texas Jewboys and boast signature songs like "They Ain't Making Jews Like Jesus Anymore," "Ride 'Em Jewboy," and "Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in Bed," it's safe to say you won't be invited to the White House anytime soon.

Irascible, outspoken, and still full of verve some 40 years after embarking on his precarious career, this cigar-smoking, wisecracking singer/songwriter is back on the road and making music once again.

It's been an incredibly long time since Kinky released an album — more than three decades — which makes the appearance of his new effort, The Loneliest Man I Ever Met, a significant milestone. However, like most things in Friedman's life, it's accompanied by no small degree of irony. Although he made his name by writing songs, the new album finds him doing covers — or, as he likes to say, "interpretations" — of material penned by Bob Dylan, Merle Haggard, Warren Zevon, and other notable musicians. The arrangements are bare-boned, sung with straight sentiment, and even real reverence at times.

The reason for Friedman's delayed musical output has a lot to do with his race for governor in his home state of Texas. Politics is one of his favorite topics these days. "In 2006, my independent race for governor found us winning everywhere but Texas," he insists. "We had issues that were way ahead of the curve. Supporting gay marriage — I was the only candidate statewide who was supporting gay marriage at a time when Hillary and Obama were decidedly against it. If I didn't run as Kinky Friedman, I would have won."

At the time of our conversation, Friedman hadn't yet decided whom he would support for president, but he's clearly leaning between two extremes. "Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump," he says. "One of them. I'm not sure which one I'm leaning towards. The two of them would make a good ticket. They're not corrupt at least."

Friedman himself hasn't ruled out a run for president. But every time his name comes up, it's often perceived as a joke, one reason his music may not have been given the credence it deserves. "It was a blessing and a curse, no doubt about it," Friedman reflects. "My college roommate gave it to me. But it didn't stop Nelson Mandela from appreciating me. Nelson Mandela had some of my tapes in the cell with him, and he could have listened to 'Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.' But the song he'd listen to all night was 'Ride 'Em, Jewboy.' That's remarkable."

Friedman's new album shows a serious side that's otherwise at odds with his irreverent — some would say insurgent — attitude. It's dark and often despondent, hardly the type of thing one would expect from a rabble-rouser of his caliber. "Well, it's romantic, and all romance ends in tragedy," Friedman says. "True love always ends in a hostage situation, and that's what this is about."

To hear Friedman speaking seriously is something of a shock. But he insists he's not the happy-go-lucky individual he's often perceived to be.

"If you're not miserable, you're not going to be a great artist," he maintains. "My definition of an artist is anyone's who's ahead of his time but behind on his rent."

An apt definition perhaps, but in Friedman's case, it's a little more complicated. "I'm just a bastard child of twin cultures, and both are important to me," he says. "The only thing that Jews and cowboys have in common — both are disappearing breeds. And both like to wear their hats indoors."

Kinky Friedman 8 p.m. Sunday, February 14, at Luna Star Cafe, 775 NE 125th St., North Miami; 305-799-7123; lunastarcafe.com. Admission costs $10.

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Luna Star Cafe

775 NE 125th St.
North Miami, FL 33161

305-799-7123

www.lunastarcafe.com


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