Todd Rundgren is one of the most influential and innovative pop musicians of my generation [Baby Boomer, if you’re wondering]. Unlike the deification of Eric Clapton, which, legend has it, was announced on a London subway wall, “Todd is God” seems to have been coined concurrently by those of us who have been deeply touched by his music. He has written hit songs [Hello It’s Me, I Saw The Light, Can We Still Be Friends] and produced hit albums for other artists [Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell, Grand Funk’s We’re An American Band], and yet has managed to fly under the radar of pop music’s mainstream and, not coincidentally, maintained his artistic integrity.
Todd is God the lyricist: There are dozens of elegant, profound Todd Rundgren lyrics, from the spiritual [Love Is The Answer, Can’t Stop Running, All The Children Sing] to those that speak of social conscience [Bread, Unloved Children, Bag Lady], from the sublime [Hurting For You, Couldn’t I Just Tell You] to the ridiculous [Onomatopoeia, Piss Aaron].
Todd is God the composer: Todd’s gift for melody, particularly in his ballads, is noteworthy. Songs like Lucky Guy and Can We Still Be Friends have melodies reminiscent of the best of the Great American Songbook, i.e. Gershwin, Cole Porter, etc. And although the chord progressions from these 2 songs are basically diatonic [staying within the confines of one key, like most pop/rock], Todd was an innovator in changing the color of his harmonies by replacing chord roots with alternate scale tones in the bass. For example, the triad built on the 5th note of a scale [G major triad in the key of C] with an F in the bass.
Todd is God the comedian: Humor is an essential element to Todd Rundgren’s music. There are lyrics that are silly [Bang On the Drum] and sarcastic [Eastern Intrigue]. And, of course, the chorus from Slut [“S-L-U-T, she may be a slut, but she looks good to me”]. There is the wonderfully corny, Gilbert and Sullivan-esque musical arrangement of Onomatopoeia, replete with sound effects for every onomatopoeia mentioned in the lyric.
Todd is God the musician: A world-class guitarist [an excellent blues-rock soloist]. Todd is also a strong pianist and alto sax player, and played drums and bass on the Hermit of Mink Hollow and Something/Anything albums. He is also an accomplished arranger and singer of vocal harmony and backgrounds, and a soulful, r&b-style lead singer with a sweet falsetto register.
Can we consider Todd Rundgren God of American pop music? Perhaps, as in Greek mythology, Todd Rundgren is one of several gods [Brian Wilson, Randy Newman and Walter Becker/Donald Fagan come to mind]. But there is no denying the significance and influence of his music.