In a state of over-sized characters, one of its largest has died. Kinky Friedman — entertainer, rancher, gubernatorial candidate and dog lover — died Thursday at his ranch outside Medina. He was 79.

A cause of death was not known, however, the Texas Tribune said he had Parkinson’s disease. An official announcement was made on his X account.

Kent Perkins, a friend, wrote on Facebook that Friedman “leaves a legacy of laughter, music, loyalty, mercy, tolerance, servitude, and wisdom.”

Friedman was known for his irreverent take on country music, playing with a band he named Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, and at other times going solo.

Friedman’s musical performances embraced satire. His band titled one song “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed.”

After years of performances in the 1970s and 1980s, Friedman took a break from touring.

But one night several years ago, around 3 a.m., he said, the phone rang.

“Willie called — my psychiatrist Willie Nelson,” Friedman explained to TPR in 2018. “He says, ‘What are you doin,’ Kink?’ and I said, ‘I’m watching “Matlock.”‘ And he said, ‘That’s a sure sign of depression. Turn “Matlock” off and start writing.'”

When Willie tells you to write songs, apparently, you write songs, he said. “[I] wrote a dozen of them in one month.”

The album was “Circus of Life.” It was released in 2018.

“When I finished, I was pretty excited. I thought I really had something, had echoes of early Leonard Cohen and Kristofferson for me to describe what I think it sounded like,” he said.

He made an independent run for governor against Republican incumbent Rick Perry in 2006. He used campaign slogans like “How hard could it be?”

“He was a Texas legend,” said Laura Stromberg Hoke, who worked for his 2006 campaign. “He was a little bit of everything. He was a musician, an author—a pretty successful author. Bill Clinton always said Kinky was one of his favorite authors. He was an aspiring politician, but he certainly didn’t want to be your run of the mill politician. He was really trying to run against everything that Texas politics stood for. He was a poet at heart. He was an angry, frustrated, loving poet.”

Friedman also ran unsuccessfully for agriculture commissioner in 2010 and 2014.

In 2016, Friedman told “Houston Matters” host Craig Cohen why music was ultimately a better vehicle for his voice than politics.

“Being a songwriter — a struggling songwriter — maybe one of the highest callings that we have,” Friedman said, “because it sails very close to the truth. That’s the trick. Sail as close to the truth as you can without sinking the ship. … [B]eing a musician is a much higher calling than being a politician. I’ve been both.”

He has advice for those who also want to create: Be miserable. It’s reflected his new album, ‘Circus of Life.’

He was also a writer. He lived in New York City in the 1970s and penned a successful series of crime novels, largely built around real characters.

Friedman friend Joe Nick Patoski said his writing career was just one more chapter in a crowded life.

“By the late 70s, he’s in New York, and he’s reinvented himself as this humorous crime novelist. And, you know, based on kind of real people and real events, he’s an institution at the Lone Star Cafe, not so much for his music, but for just being a raconteur. And this figure, he always had a line, he always had something to say.”

Friedman was also known for his love of dogs. He opened and funded a no-kill dog shelter in Utopia.

There were no details yet on funeral arrangements.

Friedman’s incomplete biography on his official website — a whimsical piece by Michael Simmons — noted that “he’s never killed anyone makes him that much more of a rarity, moral beacon and American hero of our time.”

Houston Public Media’s Craig Cohen and Gail Delaughter contributed to this report.





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