Uncertain if this is sorta timely, given the rash of recent trashings of Jewish businesses in the UK, and further afield too, no doubt, in the wake of the current Gaza debacle, about which I am going to deliberately stay shtoom about, believing that the problem is the argument between the state of Israel and the would-be state of Palestine, rather than which side of the kosher/halal counter you lie. This is more a reminder around the never too far away waft of anti-semitism that permeates, given half the chance. And in the same way as niggers and queers have reclaimed words they now may only use, ain't the best way to respond is by ridicule?
Richard Samet Friedman was born nearly 70 years ago and is the self-styled most famous jewish cowboy in the world, something Lorne Greene and Michael landon, joint stars of Bonanza, might take issue with, but he is certainly the one who has taken that coveted title most overtly to his 5-starred heart. I doubt his parents originally envisaged his place in the entertainment canon to turn out as it did, he being a bit of a childhood chesss prodigy, later graduating as a psychology major at the University of Texas in 1962. It was there college mates labelled him Kinky, on account of his "jewfro" hair. Before music grabbed him full time, he served time in the Peace Corps and as a teacher. In 1971 he first formed his seminal band, as Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, along with similarly ironically titled Little Jewford, Big Nig, Panama Red, Wichita Culpepper, Sky Cap Adams, Rainbow Colours, and Snakebite Jacobs, encouraged as much by the disgust of his father for this "negative, hostile, peculiar thing" he had formed.
The early 70s were a good time for country-rockers, and it was the not unlike-minded Commander Cody, of his Lost Planet Airmen fame, who gave Kinky his first break, but it took a while before he became, by his own allegation, the first full-blooded Jew to appear at the Grand Ol' Opry. In itself this was no mean feat, his speciality being offence, or rather the lampooning of the political and received, often phobic, correctness of the day, whether it be around his race, social commentary or good old plain filth. Time for a song, and I clearly have to play his most famous song, the evocatively entitled "They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore", for which YouTube is awash with live versions. I use that one to show off the poetry inherent within the sentiment. His next most famous song led to the National Organisation of Women calling awarding him the male Chauvinist Pig award of 1973, a prize taken with pride. I'm sure you're ready to hear Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Buns in the Bed. (Sadly, it's not very good, aging particularly badly. Casual racism remains a far better target than does serious anti-feminism, unless it's just me.)
When his hit dried up he moved into literature, in particular that of crime fiction, featuring a wise-cracking Jewish sleuth called....... Kinky Friedman. Then, following an earlier failed bid to become Justice of the Peace for his area (as a republican), in 2004 he launched a bid to become Governor of Texas, with such convincing slogans as, "My Governor is a Jewish Cowboy" and "He ain't Kinky, he's my Governor", genuinely surprised not to be taken seriously and to being trumped into 6th place with 13% of the vote, in retrospect quite a solid achievement. Amongst policies to pay more for teachers, greater border controls and a suspension of the death penalty, the full legalisation of marijuana was perhaps a step to far for the moral majority of the Lonestar state. As late as last year he was threatening to once more enter the fray, but it is also evident that he has simultaneously kick-started his musical career and persona. In my research(!?) for this piece I came across this fascinating interview, which encapsulates the man and his myriad mythologies very neatly. I have to say I'm not entirely sure how offensive he comes over as in 2014, probably little, but I well recall the sharp intakes of breath as I described the man and his songs at a dinner party some years ago, failing to appreciate that both the host and the main body of his guests were the cream of local west midlands Jewry. Hey ho. I wasn't invited back.
Donate to his animal rescue centre!