Over the course of its history, especially during the past couple of decades, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has been a target for ire from those who haven’t nominated — or who were but didn’t get in. And some of them, such as members of KISS, Deep Purple and Bon Jovi, wind up having to eat or at least equivocate on their words.
Now Todd Rundgren, just named to the class of 2021 after being on the ballot for a third year, finds himself in that same boat.
Just three months after he told Billboard that “it’s no secret I don’t care about it,” Rundgren is at the moment opting for a simple prepared statement: “I’m happy for my fans. They’ve wanted this for a long time.” But he certainly had support from the Rock Hall’s 1,000-plus professional voters, as he finished just seventh on the fan ballot and got in, while some who fared better — including Fela Kuti and Iron Maiden — did not.
Ironically, that fan ballot is actually Rundgren’s main issue with the Rock Hall. He felt that his fans had been duped when he was first nominated during 2019. Although they flocked to vote for him and raised Rundgren to No. 3, he failed to make the inductees list, causing him to label the exercise a “scam.”
“They essentially hosed my fans,” Rundgren told Billboard in a previous interview. “That made me angry, and I had to tell (the fans) that it was pointless casting votes, ’cause it really doesn’t count for anything.”
Rundgren also voiced a belief that the Rock Hall nominee lists and inductee classes are veering too far from what he considers… well, rock n’ roll.
“I’m a big Dionne Warwick fan, but name me one Dionne Warwick rock n’ roll song,” he explained earlier in 2021, citing one of this year’s other nominees. “While I’m aware of Fela Kuti, I can’t name a single musician who’s ever cited him as a principal influence. Year by year it makes even less sense, so why would I be more excited about it or suddenly change my mind? Why don’t they just start inducting blues guys? Why do they have to go to Dionne Warwick or Mary J. Blige?”
Rundgren certainly merits membership in the Rock Hall. Eligible since 1993, 25 years after his first album with the band Nazz (which included the first version of “Hello It’s Me”), Rundgren has maintained an active and ambitious career as an artist, producer and technology pioneer. His 23 studio albums — plus nine more with his band Utopia — have explored a wide variety of stylistic and sonic directions. He’s produced hit albums for the likes of Meat Loaf, Grand Funk Railroad, Badfinger, the Tubes, XTC, Hall & Oates and others, as well as two for the New York Dolls, who were also nominated on this year’s Rock Hall ballot.
A new album, Space Force, is due out after Rundgren releases a series of singles — most recently “Your Fandango” with Sparks, whose debut album, under the moniker Halfnelson, Rundgren produced back in 1971.
Rundgren, who has a son living in Cleveland, has not yet indicated if he’ll attend this year’s induction ceremony, scheduled for Oct. 30 at the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse in Cleveland. “True halls of fame, to me, are for retirees and dead people, because your legacy has been established,” he said earlier. “I’m too busy working to worry about my legacy — and plan to continue working until whenever.”