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Posted: December 07, 2011

Kinky Friedman’s “Hanukkah Tour” ain’t what you think (unless you know the K

Texas singer-songwriter, author comes to Denver's Oriental Theater on Thursday

Mike Cote

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If you go:
Who: Kinky Friedman
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Oriental Theater, 4335 W. 44th Ave., Denver
Tickets: $35
www.theorientaltheater.com or 720-420-0030

Kinky Friedman wastes no time getting the work done during an interview from the road. "Let's kill this turkey," he says once he gets his bearings. From there, it's like pushing a button. You can just sit back and let the Kinkster take you on a ride. It's what he does.

Whether he's running for political office (a 2006 bid as an independent for governor of Texas), writing books (just finished one with Billy Bob Thornton, recently signed a contract to write one with Willie Nelson) or concocting money-making schemes (he's got his signature Men in Black tequila coming out in January), Friedman knows how to entertain.

But there's a seriousness of purpose behind his hucksterism. Right now, he's in the middle of a 14-show tour that has him revisiting his classic songs and reading from his latest book, Heroes of a Texas Childhood.

"There will be songs that will be older than much of the audience," who once led a band dubbed The Texas Jewboys. "We'll do stuff like "They Ain't Making Jews like Jesus Any More" -- an anthem against political correctness and bigotry -- and "Get Your Biscuit in the Oven and Get Your Buns in the Bed."

The former is the title of a 2005 import compilation that collected some of Friedman's songs from the '70s. It's scathing and hilarious but has at least one word that would run afoul of the 21st century P.C. police. Friedman says he stopped playing it for about a decade.

"Political correctness has really kind of hurt us," Friedman says. "The first person I ever heard warn against it was Barbara Jordan, Texas' closest thing to a modern-day statesman we've ever had. She was the first black congressperson from the South. Barbara Jordan warned us that political correctness would drown us someday if we don't watch it. I tell the audience if a young Richard Pryor would walk in here tonight we couldn't make a big star of him in our country. He'd be a cult guy."

Friedman's gimmicky tour poster dubs his show "The Hanukkah Tour," but short of getting people in the door, the holiday connection is pretty thin, he concedes.

"Hanukah and Christmas have become these corporate entities. It's kind of been merged into the same thing, a corporate holiday," Friedman says before getting in a rant about commercialism that makes "A Charlie Brown Christmas" seem shallow.

"Gandhi called America the one-eyed giant of the West because we had technology down and science down but we didn't understand wisdom and we still don't. The East may be afraid of an eclipse or something like that, and we understand exactly what it is, but people in the East know how to live in their home," Friedman says.

"They know how to live with their tribe, with their family, on their land. We still don't. We live beyond our organic need. If you have five homes, that ain't enough. You need eight. Then you need 12. If you make a billon dollars, that's just not enough for you. I say quite the opposite of that. I say find what you like and let it kill you."

If what Friedman likes is killing him, it's taking its sweet time: "I'm 67 years old, though I read at the 69-year-old level."

And, to his view, he's a few years shy of geezerhood. But the fellow musicians he admires the most have already made that leap.

"If you want to go see a really great inspiring act, you have to go see a geezer. I don't quite consider myself a geezer yet, but I tell you right now, if you and I really want to see rock 'n' roll, what it's all about, go see Levon Helms. You got to see a guy in his ‘70s - Bob (Dylan), Willie (Nelson), Merle (Haggard), Kris (Kristofferson) or Bill Joe Shaver. You won't find that heart in young acts."

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Mike Cote is the former editor of ColoradoBiz. E-mail him at mcote@cobizmag.com.

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