I have learned to separate a person from his work. When I meet someone that I am a fan of, I say, "I enjoy your work." I don't say "I love you, man. You changed my life." I try not to be that crazy kind of fan — the reason famous people have security. I have been a fan of Todd Rundgren ever since I heard his A Wizard, A True Star album back in 1973. That's a long time. Over these past 46 years, many Todd Rundgren albums have been released. I have carefully listened to each one and drawn from it what I find satisfying.
So it was with some reluctance that I read Todd's autobiography entitled the Individualist: digressions, dreams & dissertations. An individualist is a person who shows great independence or individuality in thought or action. Early in his career, Todd earned his living as a record producer, so his solo and band (Utopia) albums were exercises in artistic freedom. He didn't have to worry about commercial success which afforded him the independence to make albums that were to his own liking but outside popular culture. To me, this set his music apart from what one could hear on the radio.
So I approached this book out of curiosity. For starters, the format is novel, not something you would find in other autobiographies. Each chapter is exactly one page that has three parts:
- a description of an event from his life
- how he felt about that event at the time
- what he learned from that event that he could carry forward
This format means that the book can be read in any order. Readers can immediately skip to chapters that may be of interest. I chose to read it from cover to cover. I am more of a Traditionalist. As Paul Myers had already written a book about Todd's musical production work, A Wizard a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the studio, Todd chose to focus his autobiography on his personal journey and what he learned from those experiences.
As someone who has listened to Todd Rundgren interviews over the years, it is safe to say that the book is in his own voice. His lyrics have a wide vocabulary, and the book draws upon words that one does often encounter:
Based on what I got out of the chapters, mostly affirmations of my own beliefs, my favorites included:
- Music - Sometimes applying lyrics to an otherwise wide-open instrumental really limits how the music will be interpreted.
- Xmas - "Why shouldn't kids know that their parents care enough to try and guarantee them one happy day a year? Someone explain to me the long-term benefit of perpetuating the idea that a stranger is more generous than your own family."
- Pinball - Crime is something that you pay for here and now whereas sin is something you pay for in the next life.
- Electronique - People acclimate and gravitate to the music that they listened to in their formative years.
- Philly - Often, we don't know what we want until we're in a situation where we need something, but many times we don't even realize what situation we're in.
- Crows - Fate is not something that just happens to you. Although it does befall you, you have to be prepared for it or it doesn't take hold.
- House - Solitude may be the rarest commodity in the world.
- Istanbul - Acquiring knowledge has a cost/benefit that is not easy to calculate.
- Patna - "A full life is a balance of prudence and foolishness."
- Programming - The exhilaration of computer programming is that the computer does exactly what you tell it to do, and if you get the correct result, it confirms that you instructed it correctly.
- Wave - The hierarchy of engaging an audience includes: Entertainer (entry level position), Performer (demonstrate skill an average person lacks), and Artiste (unpredictable). To make a decent living, Performer is the way to go.
- Sunshine - "There is a distinct difference between fathering and husbanding."
- Silly - It's easy to become rich if you are willing to give up everything of value so that you can earn the money.
This book is really for fans. A person's story eventually gets told, so Todd wanted to be the one to tell his story. I found his journey fascinating because I can easily associate it with the music that I have enjoyed for almost 5 decades. Non-fans might enjoy it but probably wouldn't get it in the same way that radio listeners were confounded by his new albums when they were released.
Reading instead of listening is alive in the lab.