Okay I’ll Admit It, I’ve Got a “Man-crush” on Todd Rundgren
Okay I’ll Admit It,
I’ve Got a “Man-crush” on Todd Rundgren
by Jeff Maziarek
Right up front I have to say that owning up to having a “man-crush” on someone isn’t something I’d ever expect myself to do at my current age (i.e., 54), or at any other previous time of my life for that matter. The truth is I have only my wife Andrea to blame for this very public admission, for if it wasn’t for her calling me out on it I probably would have been able to keep it under wraps. Ah, the joy of having a life partner who forces you to be really honest with yourself!
In any event, this whole “man-crush” subject came about earlier this year, even though the positive feelings I’ve had for Todd Rundgren have been around for nearly three decades now. It was back in February when a friend recommended that we check out Episode 23 of “Live from Daryl’s House,” the Daryl Hall website that features monthly mini-concerts at Daryl’s restored country farmhouse somewhere in the eastern U.S. That particular episode, which featured Todd, was initially aired in September of 2009.
After just a few minutes of watching the video, we were both drawn completely into it and couldn’t resist viewing the entire show. When the final song was sung I looked over at Andrea and said very sincerely, “You know honey, I really love Todd Rundgren.” In a very tongue-in-cheek tone she quickly replied, “Jeff’s got a man-crush, Jeff’s got a man-crush!” Although for a split second I felt annoyed that my sincerity had been violated, I knew she was only trying to be funny and actually started to chuckle a bit about it.
The thing is, even though she was just goofing around, she really did have a point. At some level, I had to admit it; I did have a man-crush on Todd. This is not, however, a man-crush based on physical attraction, or one based on some starry-eyed rock star worship, but a true crush (if you will) on the soul, spirit, philosophy, and talent of an exceptionally gifted musician and lyricist. In an article called “The Voice of the Spirit in the Night” that I originally wrote in 1995 for “The Nexus” (a printed newsletter for Todd & Utopia fans), which was later posted on TRConnection.com (click this link to read it), I referred to Todd as “a somewhat more advanced soul.” This is not in any way to suggest that because of his musical talents and fame he is superior to the rest of us in the grand scheme of things. On the contrary, he is a human being just like we are and subject to the same challenges and ups and downs as the rest of us.
The difference is, based on the example he has set through the overall manner in which he has lived his life, and the philosophy he has espoused through the lyrics of many of his songs, he is simply operating at a higher level of spiritual awareness than much of the population. In some sense that makes him a type of “role model,” though I figure he’d probably cringe at the thought of actually being considered one! My so-called “man-crush” is actually based on these two factors: 1. a deep admiration for the man because of this “example” he no doubt isn’t even consciously trying to set, and 2. the truly profound (and often quite timely) inspirational and/or thought-provoking messages within his lyrics that have deeply touched my heart over the years.
In the balance of this article I’ll look more deeply into both of these factors.
1. Todd as the Unintentional Role Model
With respect to the way in which he lives his life, I obviously cannot speak to how it is to be around him on a day-to-day basis, for the truth is he probably could be as big (or bigger) pain in the ass than any of the rest of us can be on any given day. (I’m sure his wife Michelle could tell some stories there!) What I can say with confidence is that in his public life Mr. Rundgren sets a powerful example that being true to one’s self is one of the keys to true contentment in life. Just casually observing him it’s patently obvious that early on he learned the importance of, as the well-respected psychologist Abraham Maslow once wrote, “Living one’s life independent of the good opinion of other people.”
Rather than following the crowd and corrupting his art as a means of fitting into the traditional music business, he has consistently thumbed his nose at the establishment, listened to his heart instead of his head, and stuck to his principles. Did it cost him some coin? You’re darned right it did, perhaps even millions of dollars; but obviously in Todd’s mind principle was more important than capital. And, nonetheless, he experienced success on his own terms without selling out like the vast majority of musical artists do. This commitment to being “the Individualist” has allowed him to continually evolve himself and his music, and it also granted him the freedom to innovate and follow the whims of inspiration wherever they might lead. Music fans in the mainstream have no idea how important Todd’s creative musings have been to the overall evolution of the music business itself.
For example, as far as I know he was way ahead of everyone else when it came to the use of personal computers in creating and playing music. In this regard, I still remember a solo show he did at the Park West in Chicago back in the mid 1980s that featured just three guitars, a piano, and an Apple computer. This was groundbreaking stuff my friends, and though he deserves to be honored by the recording industry with induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as well as a lifetime achievement award for his many contributions, he is instead minimized and, to some extent, largely ignored. And what is Todd’s response to all of this? He continues to create music that is distinctive and fresh, and in the process he figuratively thumbs his nose at all of these small-minded folks. All I can say is, bravo Mr. Rundgren, and thanks for demonstrating how important it is to follow one’s heart despite the objections and ignorance of those with such limited vision.
Todd also sets a positive example in the way that he “does what he loves to do and puts as much love into it as he possibly can.” Anyone who has ever been to see Todd perform in person gets to see firsthand the beauty of watching the love and spirit of the God-force itself channel directly through the man. From the 20 or so live shows that I’ve seen over the years, it’s very apparent that Todd is not simply going through the motions in order to complete the gig; he is committed to giving the audience their money’s worth – not just out of obligation, but because he truly loves to perform and be in that space where that amazing energy can flow through him.
In some sense it’s as if he’s really childlike at times, seemingly saying to himself, ‘How cool is it that I get to do this?’ It’s really uplifting to watch that type of energy flow out of him, as it reminds me that I, too, can have access to that type of joy if I just follow my heart. One great example of this joy emanating from Todd can be found at the very end of the encore of Just One Victory on the Liars Live DVD (2005) – the camera catches him turning back to look at Jesse (or perhaps Prairie) for just a split second and the smile on his face in that moment is truly infectious – like the proverbial kid in a candy store. It’s really heartwarming to see. And, you don’t have to be a rock star on a stage to experience the same thing, you just have to find something you love to do and do it as often as you can, just for the sheer joy of it.
A third way in which Todd sets a positive example is through his consistent application of humor. Let’s face it; he can be a really funny guy sometimes, and he’s very quick witted. At times his wit is quite dry and sarcastic, while at other moments he can be downright cynical about something. In all cases it’s obvious he’s just having a good time, and he even pokes fun at himself occasionally. There are some great examples of Todd’s humorous side during Episode 23 on LiveFromDarylsHouse.com, with my favorite one being during the banter prior to the song “Wait for Me;” it occurs after Daryl corrects him a bit for the tone in which he’s singing the opening of the song. If you haven’t seen it, do check it out because Todd’s response is hysterical. Even though I’ve seen it numerous times I still laugh whenever I watch the video again. In the end, I believe that Todd’s humor demonstrates that he really doesn’t take himself so seriously, and that’s something all of us need to strive to remember to do as well.
2. Todd the Lyricist – Inspiring & at Times Irreverent
Over the years I’ve learned that a person’s choice in music is very personal in nature. For whatever reason, each of us is drawn to certain types of music, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that two people who like the exact same song like it for the same reason. For example, one person might be into the beat of the song, a second is hooked by a particular guitar riff or piano (or other instrument) sound, while a third is only drawn to the song because of the lyrics. Of course, it also can be a combination of these things that drives a person’s preference for a particular song.
In my case the most important aspect of any song is by far the lyrics (i.e., What is the exact message the writer is trying to communicate to me through his or her words? What are they trying to get me to think about? What emotions are they attempting to stir within me?) While I am an avowed “lyrics-hound,” occasionally I’ll be drawn to a song for its catchy beat or guitar solo or the like, but for the most part I’m really looking for the message. Since discovering Todd’s music in 1981, the fact is no other musical artist has provided me with more inspiration and more things to ponder on, than he has. Moreover, some of his work stirs powerful emotions within me that often bring me to tears, and it happens regardless of how many times I’ve heard the song. The lyrics have, in fact, meant so much to me that I even included five brief passages from Todd’s songs in my first book, Spirituality Simplified.
A very interesting thing about Todd’s lyrics is that he essentially leaves no stone unturned in his efforts to fully express himself. For example, he can write beautiful romantic ballads (e.g., A Dream Goes On Forever, Fade Away, Can We Still Be Friends, Fidelity, Kindness, The Past), craft tunes that feature what some might consider to be irreverent and that include biting social commentary (e.g., Bag Lady, Bread, Jesse, Public Servant, Liar, Soul Brother), and pen thought-provoking numbers that inspire serious contemplation about topics such as spirituality and religion (Love is the Answer, Hawking, Can’t Stop Running, Fascist Christ, Mammon, God Said [see my earlier article for more discussion about these types of songs]). He has also written wonderfully inspirational songs such as Just One Victory, Sometimes I Don’t Know What to Feel, I Love My Life).
Of course these examples are just the tip of the iceberg; so to speak, as I’m sure even more popped into your mind as you were reading this. The bottom line is that Todd is an exceptionally talented and versatile song writer. He can bring tears to your eyes, stir anger in your gut, put a smile on your face, and warm your heart with joy – sometimes all on the same CD! That my friends, is a tremendous gift and we are so blessed to have been able to benefit from this present for so many years.
In the past, many people have asked me, “What is your favorite Todd Rundgren song?” and my answer always is, “Just One Victory,” because of its powerful message about perseverance in the face of obstacles. Throughout the course of several entrepreneurial ventures since the early 1990s this song has served as a key motivational anthem for me. There have been many times I’ve listened to it and found myself crying heartily as I allowed previously trapped emotions of frustration and disappointment to just pour out of me. And yet, though the song does evoke such intense emotions of sadness within me, it also inspires me to keep moving forward in pursuing my dreams by reminding me that, “If you believe it’s true, it will surely happen.” In addition to that very inspiring quote, there are many other of Todd’s lyrics that have really impacted me, and that contribute heavily to my having this “man-crush,” including the following:
- “Something makes me stay on my feet, Don’t you dare admit to defeat, And if I tell myself it’s all right, I can comfort myself through the night and watch another day dawn, and everything will be cool Got to keep on keepin’ on, there’s nothing else I can do.” – Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel
- “Sometimes things fall apart, that’s God’s love in disguise.” – Love in Disguise
- “If I want more peace in the world, then I must make peace with myself. If I want more trust in the world, then I’ve got to trust in myself. And if I want more love in the world, I must show more love to myself.”- Change Myself
- “In the great design of life we are all so pitifully small.” – Hurting for You
- It's such a frightening thing to realize, every time you close your eyes you been cut down to size 'Cause you're stuck with yourself, ain't nobody else in there to compare yourself to. It's just you, and then you ask yourself, "What's it all about?" So you try to figure it out and that's when you'll be tempted to believe foolish things and deceive yourself by lettin' someone else do your thinkin' for you when they haven't got a clue.” – The Individualist
- “We may be losing now but we can’t stop trying, so hold that line baby hold that line.” – Just One Victory
- “There's no anger in me, you must mean someone else, Cause it's not me that you see, you're looking at yourself, And I won't give you a prize instead of someone else, Cause I don't play favorites, so get over yourself.” – God Said
- “Mankind's strugglin' hard to see the light, to hear the voice of the spirit in the night, to lay down his heavy burden and pick up his soul power, and build a heaven on earth hour by hour by hour.” – No World Order
- “Who decides what is true and what is not true? We do, you and I.” – I Love My Life
So there you have it, I’ve admitted to my crush on Todd and feel relieved to be in full admission of these previously unexpressed feelings. Seriously, though, I can say with confidence that the quality of my life has been enhanced because of Todd Rundgren’s music and lyrics. I feel very fortunate to have discovered it and to have had the pleasure of enjoying it for so many years. It’s also wonderful to know there are multitudes of other people out there who feel exactly the same way I do, and if you’ve read this article, then you know exactly what I mean. Long live Todd!
Jeff Maziarek is an author and inspirational speaker. His first book, Spirituality Simplified is an easy-to-understand work that provides an ideal starting point for anyone interested in the path of personal and/or spiritual growth. His second book, Codi's Journey, is a memoir about his Border Collie who passed away in 2005. It is slated for release as an eBook in December 2010. Jeff also operates a free daily inspirational message website at Pondercentral.com. To contact Jeff via email click here.