It was a time when poetry was music and music was a quality of life.

When Rod Mckuen interpreted Jacques Brel's "Ne Me Quitte Pas" in Californian poetry, a carnival of talented voices competed to present "If You Go Away" in their own way: Nina Simone in jazz, Barbara Streisand in soft and, later, Madonna in pop. The "Chairman" Frank Sinatra devoted a whole album,"A Man Alone" for his lyrics.

Flying on his own wings, the tall photogenic Rod McKuen recited and sang his own touching observations of life in a husky sometimes broken voice. Activists, intellectuals and groupies repeated them in neighborhood cafes, home kitchens and public bars.

Former Hippies and upcoming Yuppies joined in as he became the unofficial Poet Laureate of a generation. A group of separate individuals, then young men and women, became friends as they spent hours in a Sausalito café across the Golden Gate Bridge to enjoy his casual appearances there.

Last week a number of admirers and old friends joined together in Beverly Hills where Rod McKuen passed away to share in an affectionate tribute to an inspiring creative artist and thoughtful sensitive friend. Together they jointly and softly chanted his most popular sigh:

If you go away on the sunny day
Then you might as well take the sun away
All the birds that flew in the summer sky

When our love was new and our hearts were high
When the day was young and the night was long
And the moon stood still for the night birds song

If you go away, if you go away
If you go away, if you go away

But if you stay, Ill make you a day
Like no day has been, or will be again
We'll sail on the sun, we'll ride on the rain

We'll talk to the trees, worship the wind
Then if you go, I'll understand
Leave me just enough love to fill up my hand

If you go away, if you go away
If you go away, if you go away

If you go away, as I know you must
There'll be nothing left in the world to trust
Just an empty room, full of empty space

Like the empty look I see on your face
I'd have been the shadow of your dog
If I thought it might have kept me by your side

If you go away, if you go away
If you go away
Please, don't go away