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Kinky Friedman's 'Victory Tour' to feature Nelson Mandela's favorite song

He may have lost the recent run-off election for Texas state commissioner of agriculture, but Kinky Friedman at least won his way into it--and is celebrating now with The Kinky Friedman Victory Tour! Texas to Toronto, July 31 through Aug. 15 and Sept. 3-7.

Kinky Friedman performs at The High Watt as part of the 2012 Americana Music Festival on September 15, 2012 in Nashville.
Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images

The tour begins in Houston at the Dosey Doe on July 31, then proceeds through South Louisiana and up the East Coast, hitting B.B. King’s in New York on Aug. 10 after Johnny D’s in Somerville, Mass., Aug. 8 and the Iron Horse in Northampton, Aug. 9. Then it’s Bridge Street Live in Collinsville, Conn. on Aug. 11, Café Nine in New Haven on Aug. 12 and Sportsman’s Tavern in Buffalo, Aug. 13, before dates in Canada and then back to Texas in September.

Friedman says he has a couple more tours scheduled before the end of the year, then he returns Down Under in January for the Misunderstood Genius Tour of Australia, with five shows in Sydney and Melbourne.

All dates are solo, with the North American ones opened by New Jersey-based Americana singer-songwriter Brian Molnar—also known as Ty Weatherford.

“Everything is Sirhan Sirhan, party of one,” says Friedman, now sometimes known as the Governor of the Heart of Texas, irreverent humor clearly intact.

“But [the tour’s] going to be a really good one, and based on the big response, it looks like a financial pleasure. I’ll try to make sure it’s a spiritual one.”

To the latter end, Friedman will relate a story that he hasn’t told in a long time, he says.

“I’ve kept it to myself,” he reveals, then recounts: “When I was in South Africa in 1996 I was doing a couple concerts and a book tour for [detective novel] God Bless John Wayne, and I did the national Dali Tambo Show. He’s the son of Oliver Tambo--Nelson Mandela’s mentor.”

“Tokyo Sexwale, the South African politician, was on the show with me,” Friedman continues. “'Kinky,’ he said, ‘Mandela was a big fan of yours! Not the books at all, but the music.’ And he proceeded to tell me how Mandela smuggled in taped cassettes whenever he could, and the song that Tokyo heard him play, virtually every night and sometimes repeatedly for months and months, was ‘Ride ‘Em Jewboy’ from [Friedman’s classic 1973 album] Sold American. He was in the cell next to Mandela for years at Robben Island, and I believe it was Helen Suzman, the only woman member of Parliament in South Africa during the entire apartheid era--and the only Jew and the only person in government to visit him in prison--that got him the tape.”

Friedman invokes the names of fellow novelist Joseph Heller, whose favorite Friedman song was “They Ain’t Makin’ Jews Like Jesus Anymore,” and President Bill Clinton, who's partial to “Waitret, Please, Waitret.”

“Of all the songs Mandela could have selected, he selected this one!” marvels Friedman. “I think he did it because he was a lawyer and coudn’t get into a firm because he was black, and the one he finally did get into was Jewish and very left wing and radical.”

Friedman recalls a conversation he had with Chuck Glaser, who produced Sold American, back in the day.

“I told him, ‘You have no idea who we’re going to reach, and how far.’ I was just thinking who would play it on the radio—not that Nelson Mandela would listen! I was asked by Huffington Post a few days ago if I had the choice of being more rich and famous or somebody whom Nelson Mandela listened to in prison on Robben Island, and I said the latter was more important.”

Friedman suggests that “anybody in entertainment who writes” should keep this story in mind.

“You never do know who you’re going to reach, give comfort or inspiration to at a time when they need it,” he says. “It wouldn’t have surprised me if Mandela had listened to Dylan or Willie Nelson, but he didn’t. Maybe I was all he had to work with, or he missed the Jewish lawyers who were his friends. But I think he recognized the universal appeal of the song, and like I always say, if you reach just one person out there, you’re a success.”

The same applies to his own political career.

“We lost the runoff, but politics’ loss has been literature’s gain--or as Willie says, if you fail at something long enough you become a legend.”

Hence, Friedman is now hard at work at “bringing The Kinkster back,” meaning that he’s halfway done with a new Kinky Friedman detective novel, his first since the 18th title in the series, Ten Little New Yorkers, in 2005.

“It’s called The Hard-Boiled Computer, and deals with [famed private investigator] Steve Rambam a lot—and privacy and missing persons and how to disappear. I’m already on Page 167.”

He adds that he’ll be bringing his new books, old books and CDs to sign on tour, including Lost and Found: The Famous Living Room Tape from 1971, which was released last year and features the demo for “Ride ‘Em Jewboy.”

“I’ll sign anything but bad legislation!” concludes the constant campaigner.

[The Examiner wrote the liner notes to the 30th anniversary edition of Kinky Friedman’s classic 1973 album Sold American, and appears as a character in his 1994 novel Armadillos & Old Lace.]

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