The 74-year-old Philadelphia, Pennsylvania-born rocker Todd Rundgren marches to the beat of his own drum.
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He’s a self-proclaimed weirdo. An against the grain artist. But this method has paid off.
He is known today for his hit “We Gotta Get You a Woman,” released in 1970, and “Hello It’s Me” and “I Saw the Light,” in 1972. But more than that, Rundgren is something of an early bedroom rocker and recording artist. Many cite his psychedelic 1973 album, A Wizard, a True Star, as an influence on the style of making music that is prevalent today.
Rundgren is also thought of today as a pioneer in electronic music, prog rock, music video production, computer science, and more. He organized the first interactive television concert in 1978 and the first interactive album, No World Order, in 1994. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.
But what did the free-thinker have to say about life and love, his craft, and the world at large? Without further ado, here are the 20 best Todd Rundgren quotes.
1. “I want to be known as a professional weirdo. There aren’t many Salvador Dalis or Buckminster Fullers left. If I become popular enough, I can establish the next step for records.”
2. “Music is the way I understand how to communicate now, the way that I’ve learned how to communicate… but it will eventually have to go beyond that. You see, I’ve realized that music is not what keeps people involved—it’s the attitude behind the music.”
3. “People have always said that I could have been a highly successful pop artist, if only that were my intention. It never was. My original intention was to be a kind of behind-the-scenes participant in music, to just be a record producer and engineer. And I made a record for myself just so I could have an outlet for my musical ideas.”
4. “I’m a guitar player, really—I mean, first and foremost—I grew up with all that great 1960s music, in terms of growing up, becoming a musician, so it’s like first-love stuff; I’m always going to go back to it.”
5. “On occasion, I hear a rearrangement of a song that really makes me reevaluate it in a way.”
6. “Sometimes being a musician has little to do with viability and everything to do with survivability. Many musicians start out great, and they wind up out of the business in 10 years.”
7. “All it takes to become president is money and a certain kind of power. Being president is the first thing I can shoot for, not the highest. It may come to a point where people take rock and roll musicians more seriously than they take politicians. It may eventually turn out that musicians have more credibility.”
8. “I’ve become kind of a haven for people who like pop music, but that’s not the only thing they like. They also like music in general and want to be able to expand their own horizons. They haven’t completely given up on music and are willing to have somebody mediate new things that are happening in music to them.”
9. “I was lucky enough to grow up in an era when radio was less formatted. It was really special. You could hear a jazz song then a pop song then a show tune then some jazz. Basically, whatever the DJ felt like playing, he would play. He was educating you and exposing you to things you would never hear otherwise.”
10. “People who proclaim scrupulous honesty can only proclaim that if they don’t examine closely the things they believe.”
11. “People write me letters and say I should answer them. But I don’t like to answer letters. I don’t write letters. I’ve never written my mother one.”
12. “There are still people who believe in that and wake up every day believing it’s possible, and invest their whole selves in that.”
13. “People get comfort from music. They get joy from it and understanding from it, and most of all, the average person can’t do without it in some sense.”
14. “I figure it could become a self-fulfilling prophecy; if I make a successful arena rock record, I’ll wind up playing arenas! I wouldn’t mind being back in that kind of venue because of the kinds of things you can do with production. You can make your shows more interesting, which would be fun to do.”
15. “If I have an opportunity to do something safe or something challenging, I’ll often choose the latter. Sometimes, the objective is to submerge my viewpoint with the artist.”
16. “I don’t know what the inspiration for most of the songs really mean until I finish them. For the most part, I’m going for a visceral impression, and I write the words last.”
17. “If all you have is faith, then you never actually know anything.”
18. “Before there were any sort of ‘recordings’ there was performance. If we are devolved back to the Stone Age tomorrow, there will be performance.”
19. “I used to have sort of mixed feelings about a producer whose only skills seemed to be going into the studio, schmoozing the artists, and making them feel good. I can see now that in some cases, that’s what you have to do because that’s the only way you’re going to get them to produce.”
20. “If bearing a reputation as a weirdo is all it takes to be a genius, I’m a shoo-in. Come to think of it, half the people I know are geniuses—the other half, peculiarly enough, idiots.”
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