Hawking

Album: Nearly Human (1989)
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Songfacts®:

  • He's not mentioned in the lyrics, but this song was inspired by the celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking, who helped broaden our understanding of the origins of the universe. In 1963 at age 21, he was diagnosed with ALS, which left him wheelchair-bound and able to communicate only through an electronic device. Despite the disease, he continued working and teaching until his death in 2018.

    In a Songfacts interview with Todd Rundgren, he explained: "That was about the idea of how most of us are able to divert ourselves. We have our full faculties and we can go for a walk, we can play volleyball, we can pick up a book and read it, we can do all these things that for someone like Stephen Hawking are either impossible or extremely difficult to do. And so, what do you do? You go inside yourself and you think the thoughts that only you can think. And, in the case of Stephen Hawking, they're thoughts that essentially opened up universes for other people. He's stuck in a chair and can't go anywhere but he brings the universe into people's heads."
  • Like Prince, Rundgren could play every instrument needed on his albums, and often did. He took a different approach on Nearly Human though, bringing in outside musicians and recording them live with minimal overdubbing. Most of the songs were recorded in one day, with Rundgren rehearsing the rhythm section, then the singers, then the other musicians. He would then bring them all together to record the song as a unit. The process was much more communal than the albums Rundgren made where he did everything himself, layer by layer, in a studio.
  • Musicians on this track in addition to Rundgren are:

    Guitar: Vernon Black
    Congas: Michael Pluznick
    Piano: Byron Allred
    Saxophone: Bobby Strickland
    Synthesizer: Brent Bourgeois
    Backing vocals: Annie Stocking, Bryan Thym, Keta Bill, Larry Tagg, Raz Kennedy, Skyler Jett

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