Roger Hodgson takes the long way home

Supertramp icon makes his Israel debut to mark 40 years since ‘Breakfast of Champions.’

ROGER HODGSON (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The refrain of “I know it sounds absurd/Please tell me who I am” has probably been repeated by millions around the world, sung in unison in concert halls or alone to the radio. But while “The Logical Song” offers a universal theme, the composer of the iconic tune by 1970s favorites Supertramp, Roger Hodgson, wrote the lyrics from a deeply personal place.
“I went to school, which was great in a way, because it taught me things. But there were all these other questions – like ‘why am I here?” “How can I find happiness?” “What is God” – all these burning questions that I wasn’t being told the answers to. That’s what I wrote about,” said the 69-year-old guitarist/keyboardist recalling the subject matter of the song and the dozen other Supertramp hits like “Dreamer,” “Give a Little Bit,” “Take the Long Way Home” and “It’s Raining Again” that are seared into the memories of classic rock fans.
“It was my own way to express my personal search for meaning and love,” he added. “I didn’t write for anyone else, it was a real personal experience. So it was incredible to find out later in life that those songs touched so many people and helped to verbalize what they were feeling but had no way of expressing.”
Cheerful and soft-spoken in a phone interview with The Jerusalem Post, Hodgson is currently finishing up a nearly year-long tour celebrating the 40th anniversary of Supertramp’s landmark 1979 album, Breakfast in America, which turned the tuneful progressive rockers into international superstars with more than 20 million copies sold.
It also led to Hodgson’s decision to leave the band and retreat from the music industry in the early 1980s at the height of his fame, a scenario that is rarely witnessed in the “get it while you can” entertainment business philosophy.
“Mega success is a double-edged sword. It’s wonderful, obviously... the abundance and all, but it’s also very challenging because your life gets turned around. After Breakfast in America, I had to step back and take a breath,” said Hodgson, also citing contention within the band and with co-songwriter and singer Richard Davies.
“What keeps a band together is the urge to succeed,” he said. “Once you have achieved success, it’s a challenge for the band. That happened at the same time I was starting a family. I had two small children, and I got a loud message to stop and make raising my kids a priority.”
Hodgson left his adopted home in Los Angeles, where the band had moved to in the mid-1970s and moved to Northern California, where he bought land, built a home off the grid and abandoned the music world.
“I had a little studio so I could still make music but basically I stopped touring and recording. Which was good, because when I came back 15 years later or so and started touring, I discovered I had changed a lot and was really ready for the next phase of my musical career,” he said.
Hodgson released a handful of solo albums, but it’s his Supertramp legacy which has dwarfed all his latter work – a fact that sits well with him.
“It’s an amazing feeling to have written songs that have endured,” said Hodgson. “For me it’s always been about the song. People have incredibly deep relationships with many of the songs I wrote. And I feel very grateful to be able to sing them and bring joy to people.”
“My job is much less to go out and celebrate my success and much more about giving people the gift of the songs and reminding them about the deeper things in life,” he said. “I look upon what I do as a service industry.”
Hodgson will get a chance to serve the people of Israel for the first time at the Menorah Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv on November 11. His songs are regularly played on local radio and Supertramp has a sizeable Israeli base of fans of a certain age.
“Somehow, my body is keeping it together,” he laughed about being on the road. “It’s grueling, but I love performing, and I love meeting people and hearing their stories. And I’m excited to be coming to Israel for the first time. I know that there are people flying in to Tel Aviv from all over Europe for the show.”
“It’s an amazing feeling to look out at an audience during a show and see them smiling and crying and hugging each other,” he said. “It’s a special connection that has a deep sense of energy and joy.”
“It provides a reawakening of a place – I call it the real place,” Hodgson said. “Modern life we’re so consumed with stimulation from the outside that it’s rare we have to time to really stop and question some of the deeper things in life. I would like to meditate but I’m terrible at it, so for me, music achieves the same goal. When I lose myself in an incredible sound of an instrument, magic occurs, inspiration comes and amazing things happen.”
A packed basketball arena is an unlikely place to have such revelations, but with Roger Hodgson performing his classic songs, it’s quite logical.