Departed

Rod McKuen, mega-selling poet and performer, dies at 81

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 1985 file photo, Jill St. John, right, with Robert Wagner, center, and Rod McKuen, left, attend a party for "Night of 100 Stars II," in New York. McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose music and verse recordings won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. He was 81.

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 1985 file photo, Jill St. John, right, with Robert Wagner, center, and Rod McKuen, left, attend a party for "Night of 100 Stars II," in New York. McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose music and verse recordings won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. He was 81.  (AP)

Rod McKuen, the husky-voiced "King of Kitsch" whose music and verse recordings won him an Oscar nomination and made him one of the best-selling poets in history, has died. He was 81.

His half brother, Edward McKuen Habib, says McKuen died Thursday morning at a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills, California.

Habib says McKuen had been treated for pneumonia and also had been unable to digest food.

McKuen was an astonishingly successful and prolific force in popular culture in the 1960s and '70s. He turned out hundreds of songs and poems and records, including the Academy Award-nominated song "Jean" for the 1969 film "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie."

Sentimental, earnest and unashamed, he conjured a New Age spirit world that captivated those who didn't ordinarily like "poetry" and those who craved relief from the war, assassinations and riots of the time.

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