top of page

For a few hours, Durham will be music's hottest spot.

"Say, did y'all ever get that cloning thing fixed?"

I never found out, because the scientist at the University of Utah's Health Sciences department never called back after I left a message explaining why I was calling.

Here's why I was calling:

By some accursed twist of fate, Todd Rundgren and Smokey Robinson will both be performing in Durham on April 29, within a mile of each other at the same time. I simply wanted to find out if I could get an emergency clone job so I could see both shows.

Nothing weird about that, right?

Upon first hearing that these for-real pop music icons were going to be in Durham at the same time, I thought "Great! For a couple of hours, Durham will be the music capital of the world. Oh happy day!"

That was my first thought.

My second thought was - Nah, better not say.

My third thought was "How could the fates be so cruel as to schedule two of my favorite songwriters a half-mile from each other at the same time? Smokey will be performing at the Durham Performing Arts Center while Rundgren will be at the Carolina Theatre.

Turns out it wasn't fate, but the schedule-makers.


Runt and Smokey appearing simultaneously in Bull City? For lovers of both, that's some BULL!

Or, rather, the absence of schedule-makers. I asked Joe Student, senior director of live events at the Carolina Theatre, how that venue tries to avoid conflicting with the DPAC.

"We really don't," Student said. "If we tried to schedule things only for the nights they didn't have anything, we wouldn't have very many events. I'm sure they would say the same thing.

"What we try to do is not to have an overlap in the audiences. Most schedule programmers," he said, "Would not see Smokey Robinson and Todd Rundgren as overlapping."

Great. Once again, I'm the weirdo.

Am I the only person who rushed out to buy "Baby, Baby Don't Cry" with his last 71 cents from Waxey Maxey's in Washington, and then was two hours late for school because he had to be at John's Record Shop when it opened in Rockingham to buy "I Saw The Light"?

Yes, apparently, but when it comes to music, my philosophy is the same as Duke Ellington's: there are only two kinds of music - good and bad.

When it comes to Robinson and Rundgren, there are only two kinds, too - good and superb.

Smokey wrote, among others, the great love-song tandem of the 1960s - "My Guy" and "My Girl" - while Rundgren wrote the quintessential song of the "Have a nice day," yellow-smiley-face early 1970s: "Hello, It's Me."

Pop music lore has it that Carole King, upon hearing the Carpenters perform "It's Going To Take Some Time This Time," said her own previously recorded version sounded like a demo by comparison.

I doubt Rundgren said the same thing after hearing England Dan & John Ford Coley's version of his previously recorded "Love Is the Answer."

They did a fine, respectable - no, theirs was waaaaay better than respectable - rendition that moved your feet, but Rundgren's version, along with Stevie Wonder's "Love's In Need of Love Today", is the song we all need to listen right now.

Both will move your soul.

If you're at the Carolina Theatre and hear someone singing "We've Got to Get You a Woman" really badly, it'll probably be me.

If you look closer, though, you'll probably see the tracks of my tears because I'm not at the DPAC.




Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


  • Twitter Round
  • Instagram - Black Circle
  • b-facebook
bottom of page