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The enduring voice: Supertramp's Roger Hodgson 

click to enlarge Roger Hodgson - SUBMITTED PHOTO

You probably remember the songs, ones like “Take the Long Way Home” and especially “Give a Little Bit,” which was honored by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as one of the most played compositions in its repertoire. What you may forget, or may not have ever known, is the voice behind them.

That would be Roger Hodgson, who co-founded Supertramp in 1969 with Rick Davies. Over the next 14 years, the British progressive rock band sold more than 60 million albums worldwide, including having the top-selling release, Breakfast in America, in 1979.

This year marks the first major U.S. tour Hodgson has undertaken since leaving Supertramp in 1983. He’s toured the rest of the world for the last eight years, including Canada, where at Supertramp’s height, one out of every 15 of the country’s citizens owned Breakfast in America and the 1974 release Crime of the Century.

“It’s been hard getting a tour arranged in America,” Hodgson said during a recent phone interview. “Part of that is name recognition. It’s ironic that almost everyone knows my voice and certainly knows my songs, but they think of Supertramp and not Roger Hodgson. That’s been the biggest challenge — connecting the dots for people.”

That’s why Hodgson calls this tour, which stops Nov. 13 at Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts, the “Breakfast in America Tour,” after Supertramp’s top-selling record and stateside breakthrough. While most of the set list is comprised of Supertramp songs, Hodgson considers them his own. He and Davies composed separately despite sharing songwriting credits, much like John Lennon and Paul McCartney did in The Beatles.

“Obviously a large portion of the show is the songs that people want to hear,” Hodgson said of his tour. “It’s tricky because I have so many and everyone wants to hear them all. But I do weave in some solo things and try to throw in a brand new song or two. It’s a very rich show.”

Hodgson says he was following his heart when he left Supertramp, even though the band was still quite popular. There were multiple reasons. It felt to him like the group was splintering. Plus he now had two children that he wanted to spend more time with. He was growing increasingly disillusioned with the music industry too.

“I needed to take a break from that and focus on my family, and get back in touch with something I could feel passionate about,” Hodgson said of what he still calls one of the most difficult decisions he’s ever made. “The band had a great run, but I felt it had run its course. I didn’t want to continue just to be making money. I don’t function well that way. As an artist I need to feel passionate about what I’m doing or involved in.”

He’s had business-related contact with Davies in the past few years, but nothing more. Ultimately Hodgson says they’ve led separate lives for more than 30 years now.

“I don’t really foresee any sort of collaboration at this point,” he said

Hodgson did, however, send a letter to Davies offering to play on a few shows of Supertramp’s 2010 tour, marking the 40th anniversary of the band’s debut. That offer was declined.

“I think that was really the last opportunity,” Hodgson said of a reunion.

To him it feels like he’s continuing the Supertramp legacy now anyway, even if he’s not playing with the actual band. At this point he estimates he’s playing to at least four generations.

“I see a lot more young people now, all the way up to 50-some year-olds,” Hodgson said. “It feels like I am still waving the Supertramp flag in a way. So many people have told me after shows, 'I felt like I just saw Supertramp.’ Some have even said this band is better than Supertramp. People are going home with smiles on their faces.”

There was a time when playing music at all was jeopardized for Hodgson. In 1987, the same week he released his second solo album, Hodgson shattered both his wrists. Doctors told him he’d never play music again. It took a year and a half of physical therapy and prayer, but Hodgson returned to form.

It’s that spirituality that has been his “compass” and a major influence on his songwriting.

“Music is where I go to express my deepest longing, pain, joy, confusion — the deepest part of me,” Hodgson said. “There’s always been a part of me that’s wanted to know the purpose of my life and what or who God is and where God is to be found.”

He thinks that’s a big part of why so many of his songs have endured.

“They aren’t contrived, but very personal,” said Hodgson, who plans to continue touring through next year and hopefully release new music. “I’ve never held back with what I’m feeling. That’s why so many relate to the journey I’ve been on and the questions I’ve had. That’s an artist’s job — to be a voice for the people who don’t have that way to express it.”


"Give a Little Bit," Live
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