Sunday, March 14, 2010

Love Is The Answer, Todd Rundgren and Utopia (1977)

Over the years, we've been served up any number of rock anthems of brotherhood.  Few of them have moved me.  Maybe it's because I don't think most people honestly care about brotherhood in our "it's all about me" society.

But the other day, I happened to hear the soaring voice of Todd Rundgren singing Love Is The Answer with his prog-rock band Utopia on Philadelphia's WXPN, and it brought a tear to my eye.

I've written about the mercurial Todd before - he wears a ton of hats and marches to the beat of his own banging drummer, been there, done that.  But what really interests me is that amazing lush voice of his, coming out of such an unlikely-looking person. Granted, he's looked like many different people over the years.  But none of them seem congruent with what emerges from that voicebox. Where on earth does it come from?  Because it's the voice that gets to me when I hear a song like this (no, England Dan and John Ford Coley did not write or originate it), or any of the great songs he wrote.

It's pretty well known that Todd grew up in the musical melting pot of Philadelphia, and in a recent interview with blogger Gene Myers he explained that in Philly, mainstream radio carried a lot of what was then referred to as race music. One of his early bands, The Nazz, didn't have a lot of original material and performed the music of others including, he said, "Ooh Baby Baby by the Miracles with the full harmonies ..."

Now we're getting somewhere!  Channeling Smokey Robinson - that would certainly explain a lot about the operatic sweetness of his voice. However, I want to know more. So far I haven't come across much that pertains to the singing specifically. Lots on every other aspect of his plethora of talents.  I'll keep looking. 
And speaking of those talents, tomorrow in New York City a new class will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For the 15th year, free spirit Todd Rundgren, the very embodiment of rock and roll, won't be included in that class - and ABBA will. He has been considered, but never made the cut, and I can only imagine what the pro-con discussions at the HOF must be like. While his legions of fans find this unseemly in the extreme, he may not care one whit. Still, as one fan says at the Future Rock Legends site, "Just do it before the Rapture, OK?"


Gene Myers said...

great blog!

KarmaSartre said...

When he gets to "When you need a friend" I completely lose it. A perfect overthetop moment.