Arts & Entertainment

Still Kinky after all these years

Jewish cowboy Kinky Friedman is acomin’, with new tunes
Interviewed by Brett M. Rhyne
Advocate staff

Kinky Friedman 
PHOTO: BRIAN KANOF Kinky Friedman PHOTO: BRIAN KANOF AUSTIN, Texas – Legendary outlaw country singer/songwriter, novelist, political candidate and columnist Richard “Kinky” Friedman, 72, rides into town (well, Fall River and Northampton) later this month, playing cuts from his first studio album in 32 years, “The Loneliest Man I Ever Met.”

Kinky – so named for his curly hair – endeared himself to a legion of fans with satirical, politically incorrect songs like “They Don’t Make Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” in which Kinky verbally and physically beats up a drunken white racist; “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed,” in which he tweaks hardcore feminism; and perhaps his most famous tune, “Ride ’Em Jewboy,” in which he pays heartfelt tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

To some, Kinky’s simultaneous embracing of his Judaism and mocking of progressive Jewish beliefs is hysterical; to others, it is infuriating. We spoke with Kinky in the hopes of separating the person from the persona.

Kinky Friedman 
PHOTO: HANS BAUER Kinky Friedman PHOTO: HANS BAUER The Jewish Advocate: Your Fall River show falls on the second day of Passover – the third night.

Kinky Friedman: Deformed Jews like me don’t give a damn. I follow Joseph Heller’s covenant with God, which is, He leaves me alone and I leave Him alone.

TJA: You’ve run for office in Texas several times.

Kinky: Why the hell not? How hard can it be? That definition of politics is really true today: politics – poly, meaning more than one, and tics, meaning a bloodthirsty parasite. Being a musician is such a higher calling than being a politician.

I’m glad to see the Obama era over with. There’s no doubt that he only tried to achieve regime change in one country. That was Israel. And he did it with taxpayer money.

TJA: What do you think about the current guy?

Kinky: I think the current guy rode in on a jackass, with all these pompous CNN pundits mocking him. We live in a reality TV world today. Who better than Trump to run the show? Somebody who is not like the Jewish people. He is not on the outside looking in.

As I told the Europeans – I was over there last year – they were very concerned about if Trump won. I pointed out that their track record of who to be worried about, who to be scared about, is pretty bad. The Europeans never thought that Hitler or Mussolini was anything but a joke, until it was way too late.

There’s a chance, Brett, for people like you or me, if we were elected president of the United States, to become a great man, because the office will often make a great man. Someone who’s listening to his better angels, anyway. It didn’t have that effect on Obama. Most American Jews, I think, know that; but we’re still… Jackie Mason still makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t he? Or Kinky Friedman.

TJA: “Ride ’Em Jewboy,” which has such a richly-felt meaning, is still so easily misinterpreted by people.

Kinky: American Jews don’t understand “Ride ’Em Jewboy” as well as the German young people. Somewhere in there, I realized these young people can’t go to without seeing a pretty ugly picture. They know their granddaddy wasn’t a defender of the Alamo, OK? He was the guy who shot 200 little gypsy children in a ditch one morning. So they have my sympathies on that.

The other thing is, they really think America is great because of the troublemakers. People like me, and Hunter Thompson, and Graham Parsons, and Tom Waits, and Shel Silverstein. That’s who they look at. It’s the Americans who think Justin Bieber is great, who think Garth Brooks is great. We like the mainstream. The mainstream is worth absolutely nothing.

When I went to South Africa in 1996, I learned that Nelson Mandela, when he was in prison on Robin Island, listened to “Ride ’Em Jewboy” every night before he went to bed. I verified that with his right-hand man, Tokyo Sexwhale. That, to me, is like a Kurt Vonnegut novel, because the last thing I thought about this record, whatever disc jockeys liked it or Jewish record store chain owners didn’t like it, was that Nelson Mandela would be listening particularly to that song. Mandela got it, even though it’s not about Africa, it’s about the Holocaust. There’s a lot of holocausts, Mandela’s witnessed a lot of them.

There’s another thing. Mandela, remember, was a lawyer, but he couldn’t get work because he was black. To their credit, the Jewish law firm in Johannesburg embraced him. These guys were radicals, they were really left-wing guys, Communists. They loved Mandela. It’s kind of heartbreaking. They kept telling him, “Stay out of politics, Nelson.” Nelson could not do that. But he liked the Jews. But the little short f-----, Desmond Tutu, did not. He was just another anti-Semite, like Barack Obama. Those are garden variety; it’s pretty easy to not like the Jews.

TJA: Which brings us to anti-Semitism.

Kinky: Being a Jew and being an artist are almost the same thing. It’s like Lt. Columbo, being on the outside looking in at the country club. Trump who was never on the outside looking in. FDR and Churchill were very similar. They were aristocratic freaks, all three of those guys. Quite often, you get a guy who came out of a country club, just like Churchill did. But Churchill became, undeniably, a great man. There’s an opportunity in that office. FDR became a great man – a few little f------, like sending the St. Louis back – but otherwise, FDR did all right.

Their background is not as a social worker, or a Peace Corps guy. That’s why I’m pointing out Trump may wind up doing more for black people and Hispanics and coal miners and people in the Rust Belt than anybody ever dreamed. If he can just stay focused.

TJA: What about Trump and the Jews?

Kinky: The Jews are always our own worst enemy. Trump is already talking about Levinson, the guy that’s been missing for 10 years in Iran. Obama never mentioned his name. When all of those hostages that were freed, he never, never brought it up, even. Why would that be?

It’s a shame. Of the black people that could have been and should have been, including Barbara Jordan, from Texas, who should have been president, this was not the right guy. If the Democrats don’t know it by now – I mean, I supported Hillary, and I love Bill – but it’s time to go.

TJA: With the rise of Trump in the last couple of years, do you see an increase in anti-Semitism?

Kinky: It swells, and it goes away. It has nothing to do with Trump, or Steve Bannon. Bannon has had more dealings with Jewish partners, and coproducers of major films and stuff, to even think that guy is anti-Semitic is b-------. He’s a troublemaker. He likes stirring up s---. But that’s what you do when you’re trying to launch a website. To sit here and continue to worry about him being a vicious anti- Semite couldn’t be more wrong. And Trump has a very special place in his heart for the Jews. He may be the best president for the Jews since Harry Truman.

“The Resurrected Tour” of Kinky Friedman, with his uber sideman, Joe Cirotti; Narrows Center for the Arts, Fall River, April 12 (; Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton, April 16 (

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