Patti Smith welcomed her old friend Todd Rundgren into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday with a brief but heartfelt speech. She reflected on their lengthy personal history together, saying that when they first met, Rundgren was the “runt” — a riff on the name of his early band and the title of his 1971 LP — to her wallflower. She spoke about his rapid evolution as an artist and about his wisdom as a producer, which she witnessed firsthand when Rundgren worked on her 1979 album, Wave. Praising him near the end, she called him “our wizard, our true star” as a nod to his 1972 album A Wizard, a True Star, which she reviewed for Creem at the time.
A little over 50 years ago, Patti Smith reviewed Rundgren’s Runt. The Ballad of Todd Rundgren for Rolling Stone.
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“Todd Rundgren has a fine hand in everything,” she wrote. “For The Ballad he mixes his hard-edge comic book humor with the various musical colors of the Putney [synthesizer]; produced in a sort of warped rock space that most people have still failed to enter. About a hundred years ago the runt of a Sioux tribe breathed his visions on his people. They dropped that runt crap and crowned him Crazy Horse. I think it’s time ‘runt’ be dropped from Todd Rundgren.”
Read Smith’s full Rock Hall speech for Todd Rundgren here.
Todd Rundgren is among the artists being honored tonight, a recognition so deserved on so many levels. The arc of his accomplishments as a musician, songwriter, performer, producer, innovator is so vast I could not possibly encapsulate them, so I’ll take a personal route. Todd and I met in our early twenties. We were both from the Philadelphia area, the runt and the wallflower. I was working in a bookstore writing poetry, and Todd was already quite accomplished at 22 years old, the head engineer at Bearsville Studios. I was allowed to sit in the studio while he worked on Stage Fright with the Band.
As his friend. I was privy to the stages of his work on his solo albums — such a swift evolution, from shimmering pop songs to soaring experimental pieces, and he was unflinching in the face of new technology. He would just bend it in his hands. Todd was our producer on my last album with the Patti Smith Group. He would tell the band, “If you know what you want, I will help you get it; if you don’t know what you want, I’ll do it for you.” Todd and I have our own personal mantra: “No grown-ups allowed.” And that is Todd Rundgren, the Peter Pan prodigy, ever curious, ever youthful, ever defiant. He has been our alchemist, our wizard, our true star. And it is my privilege to welcome Todd Rundgren into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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