The Individualists tour was winding down, the 25th of June, EMO’s in Austin, on a pleasantly cool summer night. Finishing my stint at the Spirit of Harmony table, I hurriedly ushered myself to my friend-held seat, and was quickly introduced to a new acquaintance, sitting solo to my left. Hardly time to talk, only to exchange that she was there as a tribute to her late husband. Immersed in the show I would occasionally and hopefully very discreetly, make quick side-glances and I watched her as the music of Todd guided her to places she had been before, but with her husband by her side.
Reminiscing with me through e-mail and text she shared with me later, “I sat quietly with my hands folded under my chin, listened intently and watched the contributions of each band member on the stage”. Not true, as I was stealing glances, I witnessed that she did sit quietly, but her hands were not folded, but pressed together almost as in prayer.
Her name, Rollyn and his Ken, they met and married in their late 30’s. Ken will be gone from this earth, five years in August. Rollyn, or Ronnie as she is also known said: “I went to hear Todd Rundgren here in Austin this summer. For one thing, I’ve become a fan, albeit one of the more restrained fans. But I also wanted to see if I could hear Ken one more time in an atmosphere that was like oxygen to him.”
“His love affair with music began in 7th grade with the Beatles then moved to Jimi Hendrix. He graduated from that after high school to more sophisticated sounds such as Gentle Giant, Peter Gabriel, Scott Walker (solo, after the Walker Brothers), Laurie Anderson, and then … he found Todd Rundgren.”
This week, Rollyn openly shared with me her first clues that to love Ken was to love Todd: “As I sat on the floor in his room looking through his vinyl collection (a habit acquired by most children of the 60’s and 70’s, which is similar behavior to one dog sniffing another dog’s butt to see if he/she passed muster), I discovered six albums by Todd Rundgren: Runt; Something/Anything?; A Wizard, A True Star; Todd; Initiation.” Rollyn, a self-admitted early lover of bubble-gum and music of a lighter fare, tells me that, “Ken made it clear our relationship wasn’t going to flourish until I expanded my taste in music. He took me to a Rundgren concert at the Austin Opry House, I think it was either 1992 or 1993. He was never one of the wild and loud Rundgren fans, that wasn’t Ken’s style. He would never be one of the folks who stood in line to get physically close. He sat quietly and watched intently. But he loved Rundgren’s work, and as he had me listen to more and more of his music I realized why…”
When the show had concluded, my new friend and I, bonded by the music, left almost silently. Looking back she said: “In an interesting turn of the knob I found myself listening the way Ken would. Sweetheart? I’ve evolved.”
And in the timeless words of Todd…
I see with my heart
I hear with my heart
I feel with my heart
Sometimes it works better – Real Man, Todd Rundgren
(All photos By Jim Spann for RockChat.com)