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Todd Rundgren Biography

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Birth Name: Todd Harry Rundgren
Born: 1948/06/22
Birth Place: Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Years Active: 1967 – present
Genres: Progressive Rock, Soft Rock, Power Pop, Pop Rock, Hard Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul

Todd Rundgren (born Todd Harry Rundgren, June 22, 1948) is an American multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and record producer. Rundgren's career has produced a diverse range of recordings as solo artist, and during the 1970s and 1980s with the band Utopia. He has also been prolific as a producer and engineer on the recorded work of other musicians. Currently his is a member of the reformed The New Cars.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Rundgren engineered and/or produced many notable albums for other acts, including “Straight Up” by Badfinger, “Stage Fright” by The Band, “We're an American Band” by Grand Funk Railroad, “Bat Out of Hell” by Meat Loaf, and “Skylarking” by XTC.

He began his career in Woody's Truck Stop, a Philadelphia-based group based on the model of Paul Butterfield Blues Band. However, Rundgren and bassist Carson Van Osten left the band to form the garage rock group Nazz in 1967. Nazz released three albums during this time: “Nazz” (1968), “Nazz Nazz” (1969), and “Nazz III” (1971).

After leaving the Nazz in 1969, Rundgren relocated temporarily to New York and began working as a producer for other groups. He became one of the first artists signed to the Bearsville Records label established by Albert Grossman, and in 1970 he formed the band Runt, consisting of himself, Hunt Sales on drums, and his brother Tony Sales on bass (the Sales brothers are the sons of US comedian Soupy Sales and went on to play with Iggy Pop, David Bowie, and Tin Machine). Rundgren himself wrote, produced, sang and played guitars, keyboards and other instruments.

Whether Runt is best described as a band or simply as a pseudonym for Rundgren as a solo artist is unclear—for the 1970 album “Runt” the group appeared to be a bona-fide trio, but in 1971 on their second album “Runt: The Ballad of Todd Rundgren,” Hunt Sales played on only two tracks and was replaced by N.D. Smart on the rest of the album. Furthermore, only Rundgren is pictured on the covers of both albums, and both albums have been subsequently reissued with the same titles and cover art, but bearing the artist credit “Todd Rundgren.” Whether a solo project or a band, Runt had a #20 hit in the U.S. with “We Gotta Get You a Woman” in 1970, and two other Runt songs placed in the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.

By 1972, the Runt persona/band identity had been abandoned, and Rundgren's next project, the ambitious double LP “Something/Anything?” was credited simply to Rundgren, who wrote, played, sang, engineered, and produced everything on three of the four sides of the album. “Something/Anything”? featured the Top 20 hits “I Saw The Light” and a remake of the Nazz near-hit “Hello It's Me,” which reached #5 and is Rundgren's biggest hit.

Although he opposed the use of drugs during his days with Nazz, in the early 1970s Rundgren changed his views and began experimenting with various mind-altering substances including marijuana, LSD and the stimulant Ritalin and this had a marked effect both on the style of his music and his productivity.

Though he often revisited the classic popular song format, during the early 1970s Rundgren's music began to incorporate elements of progressive rock. 1973's transitional “A Wizard, a True Star” marked the beginning of this trend, which came to fruition with his next two solo albums 1974’s “Todd” and 1975’s “Initiation” and the early recordings under the guidance of his new group project Utopia.

His 1976 album “Faithful” marked a return to the pop/rock genre, featuring one side of original songs and one side of covers of significant songs from 1966, including the Yardbirds' “Happening Ten Years Time Ago” (the B-side of that Yardbirds single gave Nazz its name) and a nearly identical re-creation of the Beach Boys' “Good Vibrations.”

“Faithful” was followed in 1978 by “Hermit of Mink Hollow” which included the hit ballad “Can We Still Be Friends,” which reached #29 and was accompanied by an innovative self-produced music video, and the album became the second most successful of his career, reaching #36 on the Billboard 200 Albums chart.

Subsequent solo releases included the 1981 concept album “Healing” and the 1982 New Wave-tinged “The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect” which included a cover of The Small Faces hit “Tin Soldier.” The latter album also marked the end of Rundgren's tenure with Bearsville Records.

He then signed with Warner Bros. Records who issued his 1985 album, “A Cappella,” which was recorded using Rundgren's multi-tracked voice, accompanied by arrangements constructed entirely from programmed vocal samples. In 1986, Rundgren scored four episodes of the popular children's television show “Pee Wee's Playhouse.”

1989’s “Nearly Human”“ and 1991’s “2nd Wind” were both recorded live, the former in the studio, the latter in a theater before a live audience, which was instructed to remain silent. Each song on these albums was recorded as a complete single take with no later overdubbing. Both albums marked, in part, a return to his Philly soul roots. “2nd Wind” also included several excerpts from Rundgren's musical “Up Against It,” which was adapted from the screenplay that British playwright Joe Orton had originally offered to The Beatles for their never-made follow-up to “Help!.” “2nd Wind” was Rundgren's last release through a major label and all his subsequent recordings have been self-released.

The next few years saw Rundgren recording under the pseudonym TR-i ("Todd Rundgren interactive") for two albums. The first of these, 1993's “No World Order,” consisted of hundreds of seconds-long snippets of music that could be combined in various ways to suit the listener. Initially targeted for the Philips CD-i platform, “No World Order” featured interactive controls for tempo, mood, and other parameters, along with pre-programmed mixes by Rundgren himself, Bob Clearmountain, Don Was, and Jerry Harrison. The music itself was quite a departure from Rundgren's previous work, with a dance/techno feel and much rapping by Rundgren.

The follow-up, 1995's “The Individualist,” featured interactive video content that could be viewed or in one case, played. It was a simple video game along with the music, which was more rock-oriented than “No World Order.”

Rundgren returned to recording under his own name in 1997 for “With a Twist,” an album of bossa-nova covers of his older material. His Patronet work, which trickled out to subscribers over more than a year, was released in 2000 as “One Long Year.” In 2004, Rundgren released “Liars,” a concept album about “paucity of truth” that features a mixture of his older and newer sounds.

In early 2008, he released the rock album “Arena.” In concert, he had been performing the album in full and in sequence before its release. Rundgren released the live compilation album, “For Lack of Honest Work,” in 2010. The album was advertised as a collection of bootleg recordings that were approved by Rundgren himself.

2011 saw the release of “Todd Rundgren's Johnson,” a collection of Robert Johnson covers which had been recorded more than a year earlier. On another 2011 release, a further album of covers entitled “re:Production” saw him performing tracks he had previously produced for other acts, including Grand Funk Railroad's “Walk Like a Man” and XTC's “Dear God.”