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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman is a singer/songwriter who has authored more than a dozen books. His new album, “Resurrection,” features guest vocals from pal Willie Nelson.   

Where do you come up with your best ideas?  
Usually when I’m far away from the subject matter. If I’m writing a mystery [novel] set in New York from say, a ranch in Texas, the writing is better.  

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received? 
A kiss from Miss Texas 1987. 

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given? 
I’ve given a lot of people grief. What really makes me happy is when I irritate my detractors.  

I haven’t relaxed in a long time. I don’t think it’s a particularly healthy state.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced? 
I think nobody does their best work in their 70s. Fortunately, I took a 40-year sabbatical, so I feel pretty fresh.  

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do? 
That’s what I’m trying to figure out right now. 

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made?  
In 1976 I was touring with Bob Dylan’s Rolling Thunder Revue. We were on an island with Dennis Hopper and some other folks. Bob asked me about five times, “Let’s make an album together,” and for some reason, I didn’t want to do it. I said, “No man, we’re tired; we’re on this long tour.” We played chess and did things like that instead. That might’ve been my biggest commercial mistake. But spiritually, it may be why Bob and I have always had a place in our hearts for each other. 

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had? 
Probably in the Peace Corps in 1968. Eating monkey brains with Penan tribesman in the jungles of Borneo. I lived with them for a while. Monkey brains were a delicacy. 

What opportunity do you regret passing up? 
Well, refer back to Bob Dylan. That was a biggie. Another was Shel Silverstein. He and I were friends, and we planned to write a song together in New York, and we were going to meet at a diner, and I overslept. Shel was furious. I was drunk or coked out and Shel said, “That’s why you are where you are, Kinky.” That irritated me, but I knew he was right. 

How do you relax? 
I haven’t relaxed in a long time. I don’t think it’s a particularly healthy state. There’s still a lot left I want to do. 

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go? 
Hawaii or Vegas. 

What is your most indelible childhood memory?
I remember vague things like streetcars, and radiators that have that musty smell Chicago once had. But I’m kind of Alzheimer’s-ed out. 

What’s the most valuable thing you learned in school?
I’ll have to quote Oscar Wilde on this one: “Anything worth knowing can’t be taught.” 

When you’re stuck, how do you get unstuck?
That’s been a problem plaguing writers since the history of man. You have to fight happiness at every turn. If you’re happy and well-adjusted, you’ll never write anything worth a damn. All the greats were facing tragedy and failure. 

What is your proudest moment?
One was being on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, with Dobie Gray.

What would you like to experience before you die? 
I was going to say something but it’s pretty off-color. How about: a little bit of slack.  

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Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage

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