Keith Carradine talks about his brother's creative talent

Dec. 8, 1936-June 3, 2009

My brother had a peripatetic creative force: music, painting, writing, acting, dancing. He was a complete artist. As an actor, from his explosive portrayal of the Incan Sun King Atahualpa in Broadway’s The Royal Hunt of the Sun, through his establishment as a bona fide pop culture icon in Kung Fu, to his quintessentially American Woody Guthrie in Bound for Glory, to the vengeful romantic Bill of Kill Bill, he was always true.

His paintings evoked a Picasso-esque sense of line filtered through a North Beach beatnik’s eyes. His songwriting reflected his love of Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, Cole Porter, and George Gershwin. His dance training enabled him to finesse the fights in the first season of Kung Fu while he studied the actual Shaolin discipline, which he would deftly perform thereafter. His prose was, simply, his.

But there was also the nonpublic David, who was a husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and brother. He was unstinting in his love. He was no saint — and yet he could be utterly saintly. He would literally give you the shoes off his feet — if he was wearing any. You couldn’t embarrass him. The word shame did not exist in his lexicon. The Fool was his favorite tarot card. And he could play the fool as only a genius can. He was a seeker of truth who spent a lifetime walking on the edges of cliffs. He never seemed more at home than when he was on the brink. Perhaps because he knew that to step off didn’t mean falling — for him it meant flying.

David Carradine died of asphyxiation in Bangkok, Thailand.