January 30, 2020 | by Texas Music Admin
Kinky Friedman Runs for Governor (2006)

20 Years of Noteworthy Moments in Texas Music

BEFORE THERE WAS Donald Trump… well, there was Kinky, the singer-songwriter and Texas raconteur known for his satirical and intentionally provocative behavior, who managed to successfully launch an independent campaign for governor in 2006. David Hartstein’s 2009 documentary, Along Came Kinky … Texas Jewboy for Governor, chronicles Friedman’s antics.

There are similarities between Friedman and Trump, Hartstein insists. Both were outsiders who embraced their lack of political experience and promised to shake things up. Along the way, they had their celebrity status and raunchiness thrown back at them. “People embrace figures like Friedman or Trump because they don’t feel served and want somebody new,” Hartstein says. “But that doesn’t always work out.”Friedman finished fourth in a five-person race, garnering 12 percent of the vote. (Rick Perry was re-elected with 39 percent.) Friedman later ran for agriculture commissioner in 2014 as a Democrat, losing in a primary runoff.

Kinky and Willie

KINKY’S WILLIE: Nelson threw his support behind Friedman. IAN HALPERIN/UPI

But his campaign slogans were entertaining — like “If you elect me the first Jewish governor of Texas, I’ll reduce the speed limit to 54.95” and “I’m gonna de-wussify Texas if I’ve gotta do it one wuss at a time.”

Hartstein’s documentary takes viewers on an illuminating ride on the Kinky trail, where we see a much more personal side to the musician/author than the irreverent media sensation who genuinely believes he can break Texas’ two-party mold by running — and winning — as an independent.

But after securing a spot on the ballot it’s all downhill: he’s “tired and grumpy,” his jokes grow stale, he’s unfairly branded a racist based on decades-old comedy material, and he’s a complete flop at the gubernatorial debates.

But the film delivers a fresh perspective of Friedman and his dedicated quest to turn Texas politics-as-usual on its ear.

Kinky and Rick Perry

BLOWING SMOKE: Friedman on the debate stage with then-Gov. Rick Perry. SMILEY N. POOL

Friedman has always been brash and political, becoming famous in the early ’70s for his trailblazing, incredibly fringe country records. Those albums — 1973’s brilliant Sold American and 1974’s Kinky Friedman — were sardonic, sarcastic put-ons that established Friedman as the outlaw’s outlaw, a Jewish vaudeville-indebted honky-tonk provocateur who, among his cohort of singers that included Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson, was willing to go the furthest, for better and for worse, to defy, disobey and make an outright mockery of just about every convention and standard of decency in country music.

As virtually the only Jewish country singer operating out of Nashville in the ’70s, Friedman made his religious identity the central operating subject and object of his caricatured satire.

But his work didn’t shy away from addressing, however clumsily, any number of topics one normally wouldn’t find in a three-minute country hit: abortion, mass shootings, post-civil rights race relations in the South, the Holocaust.

Despite his political orientation, he couldn’t win over enough of the populace in his run for governor. Hartstein says Friedman started out his campaign “running to lose” in order to continue his satirical antics, which made it tough to transition into a serious candidate.

“But for a while, people did really take him seriously,” Hartstein adds. “He was who he was. He was Kinky running for governor.”

Kinky on Texas Music

INDEPENDENT MAN: Friedman garnered 12 percent of the vote — impressive for a third-party candidate.

Click here to read more noteworthy moments, artists and albums in Texas music.

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