History is on singer, songwriter, mystery writer and occasional candidate for Texas political office Kinky Friedman’s side.
In a March primary election, Friedman beat the Texas Democratic party’s preferred candidate for Texas agriculture commissioner. He based his campaign upon the legalization of marijuana for medical and recreational use.
Following legalization in Colorado, marijuana soon will be taxed and regulated in Washington. Alaskans will be able to vote for legalization in November.
But back in Texas, following Friedman’s March primary win, he lost in a May runoff to a previously unknown candidate.
“Texas has the finest cancer hospital in the world but no medicinal marijuana program,” the spurned troubadour lamented from his Echo Hill Ranch. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”
The Democratic leadership in Texas ganged up on him, Friedman said. “I told them there’s nothing more serious than a comedian when he’s telling the truth.”
Friedman takes solace in something Willie Nelson, his dear friend and fellow marijuana advocate, says: “If you fail at something long enough, you become a legend.”
Texas politics is also literature’s gain. As of last week, Friedman was 160 pages into writing his first mystery novel in 10 years.
“I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed this,” he said following his non-fiction collaborations with Nelson (“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings from the Road”) and Billy Bob Thornton (“A Cave Full of Ghosts”).
On the musical front, Friedman started his Kinky Friedman Victory Tour on Thursday. Its second date is Friday at the Red Dragon Listening Room.
“It’s a soulful place,” Friedman said of the Red Dragon, a little venue with a big heart.
“Of course,” Friedman continued, “my problem is the curse of being multi-talented. If you’re playing music, they send out emails and all that and you’ll get the music people. You won’t necessarily get the literary people or the political people or cultural people. But if you’re Leo Kottke or somebody, you can just be a pure musician and run that up the pole.”
But sometimes music and politics do sleep together. Friedman’s particularly proud of the affection that Nelson Mandela, the political prisoner turned president of South Africa, had for one of Friedman’s better known songs, “Ride ’Em Jewboy.”
“Nelson Mandela listened to that song repeatedly on Robben Island,” Friedman said.
In 1996, Mandela associate Tokyo Sexwale, who was imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island, told Friedman about the Mandela-“Ride ’Em Jewboy” connection. Dali Tambo, son of African National Congress leader Oliver Tambo, later confirmed it.
Having marveled for years about Mandela’s fondness for “Ride ’Em Jewboy,” Friedman said it only makes sense. Many Jews in South Africa objected to apartheid and supported Mandela. They included Helen Suzman, a Jewish, anti-apartheid member of the South African parliament who visited imprisoned political prisoners, including Mandela.
“Ride ’em all around the old corral,” Friedman sings. “Oh, I’m, I’m with you, boy, if I’ve got to ride six million miles.”
“You know, you never know who you’re going to reach,” Friedman said. “The last thing on my mind when I wrote that song was that Nelson Mandela would be listening to it in his prison cell. That’s staggering. It’s not a financial pleasure, but it’s a spiritual pleasure.”