Roger Hodgson collected credentials as one of the driving forces of the legendary rock group Super-tramp. Together with Rick Davies he founded the band in 1969 and went on to write at least half of their songs. Hodgson’s plaintive singing style, the bright melodies and the ironic yet introspective lyrics of his songs, and his staccato piano contributed a great deal to Super-tramp’s distinctive sound. After Supertramp’s success had peaked, Hodgson, looking for new personal and musical directions, left the band to pursue a solo career. After leaving Supertramp he recorded three solo albums. Throughout 1998 he promoted his album Rites of Passage with live performances in the United States and Canada. By 1999, Hodgson was working on his new album Open The Door.
At age 12, Roger Hodgson played his own songs for his schoolmates at a private boarding school in Surrey, England. Soon after that he played in his first band, People Like Us, which recorded four demo songs, including one written by Hodgson. When Lionel Conway of Blue Mountain Music heard Hodgson’s “Mr. Boyd,” he
Born Charles Roger Pomfret Hodgson March 21, 1950 in Portsmouth, England; son of Charles and Jill Hodgson; married Karuna, March 7, 1979.
First performance at age 12 for friends at a boarding school; wrote “Mr. Boyd” for his first band People Like Us; his first single “Argosy” released, 1969; formed Supertramp together with Rick Davies, 1969; wrote many of Supertramp’s hits, sang and played keyboards and guitar, 1970-1983; set up UNICORN studio at his home in Nevada City, 1983; released solo album In The Eye of The Storm, 1984; second solo album Hai Hai released, 1987; third album, Rites Of Passage released, 1997.
Awards: “The Logical Song” named Best Song, Musically & Lyrically at the 25th Annual Ivor Novello Awards, held at London’s Grosnevor House Hotel, May 9, 1980.
Addresses: Record company —Unichord Productions, P.O. Box 1656, Nevada City, CA 95959; Website— http://www.unichord.com.
invited him to record a single, which was released under the name “Argosy” and contained “Imagine” on the B side. According to Hodgson’s web site, one of the session musicians on the side was Elton John.
After Hodgson returned home from boarding school, his mother Jill encouraged him to respond to a “genuine opportunity” ad that English rock musician Rick Davies had placed in Melody Maker. Davies had found a wealthy sponsor to financially back up his new band and Hodgson was one out of hundreds of musicians who showed up to audition. He played acoustic guitar and sang Traffic’s “Dear Mr. Fantasy.” He had a beer with Davies during a break, and they soon became friends and formed the rock band Supertramp. When Supertramp’s second album failed to sell, the band disintegrated and could have spelled the end of Supertramp. Hodgson and Davies remained together, however, and in 1973 they reformed the group with different musicians.
While Davies and Hodgson co-wrote songs on the first two Supertramp albums, they now wrote and sang their own songs but continued to share the songwhting credit for them. The well-educated optimist Hodgson was driven by dreams and aspirations for a better world, and his creative energy was not diminished by the lack of any musical equipment. According to Hodgson’s web site, he even “recorded a demo of ‘Dreamer’ in his mother’s back room, banging on boxes and over-dubbing all the voices and instruments.” Hodgson wrote many of Supertramp’s most popular songs, including “Dreamer,” “Sister Moonshine,” “Give a Little Bit,” “The Logical Song,” “Breakfast In America,” “Take the Long Way Home,” and “It’s Raining Again.”
Superior sound combined with films, slides and a computer-controlled light show became hallmarks of Supertramp’s live performances. However, this perfectionism—primarily Hodgson’s—led critics to complain about the band’s overly polished sound. Famous Last Words, Supertramp’s 1982 studio album, was released three years aftertheir breakthrough album, Breakfast in America. Unhappy with the heavy blues influence and feeling that the band’s creativity was vanishing, Hodgson left Supertramp in 1983.
After his departure from Supertramp Hodgson set up a 48-track studio in his home. Hodgson’s first solo album was released in 1984 by A&M Records. In The Eye of The Storm included seven tracks, many of which had been written for Supertramp. The songs on the album covered wide stylistic ground, including “Had a Dream (Sleeping with the Enemy)” which some fans believed resembled Pink Floyd more than Supertramp.
Hodgson’s search for a new beginning and new meaning in his life, as well as the challenges he was suddenly facing as a solo artist, were inspirations for these new songs. He performed, arranged and produced all of the songs on In The Eye of The Storm except for a few pieces on which Michael Shrieve played the drums, Jimmy Johnson fretless bass and Ken Allardyce harmonica. In The Eye of The Storm was frenetically embraced by the community of Supertramp fans and went platinum.
Hodgson’s second solo album Hai Hai was released in 1987. Recorded during a 16-month period with seasoned Los Angeles session musicians, the album did not match Hodgson’s expectations. The demanding perfectionist, according to his web site, “felt the album lacked focus and failed to express what he wanted as an artist. Unhappy with the outcome of Hai Hai and disillusioned by music industry pressures, Roger was further frustrated by his upcoming tour to promote an album that didn’t meet his high standards.” One week after Hai Hai was released Hodgson broke his wrists in an accident, and was not able to play piano for two years. It would take him a decade to recover physically and emotionally, until his comeback in 1997.
After Hodgson’s numerous attempts to create satisfying results in his studio had failed, his wife Karuna took the initiative. Convinced that only live performing could enable her husband to overcome his self-doubt and perfectionism, and to re-awaken his joy in life and music, she conceived the idea of a live album that would get Hodgson back in touch with his music. Hodgson later told the Los Angeles Times: “She took the risk and was courageous enough to say, ‘Roger, all you have to do is show up and play. I’ll handle everything else.’” And that she did. Not only did she provide funding and successfully ensure that Hodgson and the band worked together instead of having the band work forhim, she also founded her own record label to avoid the pressure that comes with contracting for a major label.
Physically weakened by post-infectious arthritis resulting from a trip to South America and emotionally exhausted from witnessing his sister Caroline’s death from cancer, Hodgson managed to finish the work on the live album. A quickly assembled band including Hodgson’s son Andrew and Supertramp saxophonist John Heliwell performed at six quickly organized concerts in August 1996 during his son’s summer break from school. Although they planned to use the best recordings from all the performances for the album, all the songs on Rites Of Passage came from a concert performed in Hodgson’s hometown Nevada City. They included six new Hodgson songs, three of his Supertramp classics, two songs by band member Mikail Graham, and one by his son Andrew who also played drums, piano and harmonica.
Rites Of Passage was released in 1997, the same year Supertramp released its first studio album in a decade and reunited for a world tour. Hodgson went on his own tour called “Solo Tramp” in spring 1998. The national tour—his first in more than 14 years—took Hodgson to over 25 cities in the US and Canada. Like the album, the tour presented a mixture of Hodgson’s Supertramp hits and new material that he performed alone on guitar, keyboards and the old pump organ on which he composed hits for Supertramp back in the 1970s. In interviews posted on his official Web site Hodgson commented on renewed musical energy: “My creative juices are flowing again and I feel the best is yet to come… I’m very hungry to play for people again and I’m ready for a new love affair with my music and the world.”
In The Eye of The Storm, A&M Records, 1984.
Hai Hai, A&M Records, 1987.
Rites of Passage, Unichord Productions, 1997.
Columbian, April 2, 1998.
Dallas Morning News, June 5, 1997.
Independent, September 17, 1997.
Los Angeles Times, August 16, 1997; April 11, 1998.
Rolling Stone, July 12, 1979; December 9, 1982.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 07, 1998.
Additional information for this profile was provided by Karuna Hodgson.