He was best known for his association with Todd Rundgren, the singer, songwriter and producer. It was Mr. Rundgren who announced that Mr. Klingman, an original member of his band Utopia, died on Nov. 15 in Manhattan. He was 61.
Mr. Klingman lived most of his life out of the limelight, though he and his groups, most recently the Peaceniks, had long been part of the New York music scene.
As Mr. Klingman’s health declined, starting with bladder cancer, Mr. Rundgren summoned him and the other original members of Utopia to play a series of concerts. They had not played together in more than 30 years. They are continuing their tour to help pay Mr. Klingman’s medical expenses. Information on survivors was not available.
Mr. Klingman produced and played keyboards on “Buckets of Rain,” Ms. Midler’s duet with Bob Dylan of the Dylan song for her 1976 Atlantic album, “Songs for the New Depression.” “Friends,” also known as “(You Got to Have) Friends,” a song Mr. Klingman wrote with Buzzy Linhart, was a hit for Ms. Midler in 1973.
Original compositions included on Mr. Klingman’s own first album, “Moogy” (Capitol, 1972), were later recorded by Carly Simon, Johnny Winter, James Cotton and Thelma Houston.
Mark Klingman was born on Sept. 7, 1950; sources differ on whether he was born in New York City or Great Neck, N.Y. His nickname from childhood, Moogy, had nothing to do with the Moog synthesizers he played.
As a youth Mr. Klingman developed a distinctive style of piano playing informed by boogie-woogie and jazz, and by the time he was 16 he was spending more time in Greenwich Village than in high school. He formed a rock group and sat in with top musicians, including Hendrix.
In 1968 he played on the soundtrack for the Jane Fonda science fiction film “Barbarella.” He met Mr. Rundgren outside the Cafe Au Go Go in Greenwich Village that same year.
Mr. Rundgren and Mr. Klingman built a recording studio, Secret Sound, in Mr. Rundgren’s Manhattan loft. When Mr. Rundgren formed Utopia in 1973, he used members of Mr. Klingman’s band, Moogy and the Rhythm Kings, as the core.
Mr. Rundgren was scheduled to produce a “super session” in 1969 involving Mr. Clapton, Mr. Beck, Dr. John, Linda Ronstadt and other musicians. But after Mr. Rundgren’s manager refused the payment offered, Mr. Klingman, at 18, took on the project and found himself supervising his musical idols. The effort led to a single album, “Summit Meeting,” and a double album, “Music From Free Creek,” both released in England in the 1970s. The musicians used pseudonyms on the album. Mr. Clapton was “King Cool” and Mr. Beck “A. N. Other.”
In a 2001 interview with the magazine Heavy Metal Mayhem, Mr. Klingman said he had approached the sessions dreading that someone would say, “Who are you, Sonny, to tell us what to do?” No one did. “I knew when to back off,” he said.
Mark “Moogy” Klingman has been a part of rock ’n’ roll history for more than four decades. As a loyal sideman to Todd Rundgren on some of his most celebrated albums, Moogy tackled a wide variety of piano, organ, and synth parts on classics like “Hello It’s Me,” “Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel,” “Utopia Theme,” and “The Ikon.” As a founding member of Utopia, he was at the forefront of progressive rock, with a style deeply rooted in funk, boogie-woogie, and jazz. He co-wrote Bette Midler’s signature song “Friends” and produced her album Songs for the New Depression, which featured her duet with Bob Dylan, “Buckets of Rain.”
Klingman has never stopped playing all over New York City, but a recent diagnosis of an aggressive form of cancer has given him a new outlook on life and a supercharge of energy. In February, the original lineup of Utopia reunited for two sold-out shows at the Highline Ballroom in New York to raise funds for his treatments. Klingman was overwhelmed with emotion, playing with musicians he had not seen in 30 years. He credits music as a major part of his recovery.
How did you get the nickname “Moogy?”
My real name is Mark, and my original nickname was Marky. My little sister used to mispronounce it, and that’s how I ended up with Moogy. It’s coincidental that I ended up playing the Moog synthesizer in Utopia.
What made you decide to play piano?
I saw the movie Rhapsody in Blue, and of course, the opening music was George Gershwin’s composition of the same name. The next day I started playing piano. Utopia’s song “Freak Parade” was based on Rhapsody in Blue. Two of my biggest influences are Gershwin and Aaron Copland.
There are similarities in the way you and Todd write on the piano. How did that happen?
We were both listening to a lot of Laura Nyro when we were 18 and 19; specifically, we both learned a lot from listening to her album Eli and the Thirteenth Confession. We went on to influence each other greatly.
Who are some of your piano influences?
Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Bill Evans, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, and Keith Jarrett, who I studied with.
What were some of the classic keyboards you used in Utopia?
The Fender Rhodes, Minimoog, Univox Mini-Korg, a Hammond L-100 organ, Sound City Piano, an RMI Keyboard Computer and Rock-Si- Chord, a Clavinet, and a Yamaha Grand in the studio.
How did you prepare for the Utopia reunion shows?
We rehearsed ten times without Todd and three hours with Todd. I think it came out rather well.
How did it feel playing the long sets?
Music eliminates all the pain from the battle with “the big C.” Music is a real pain reliever. Music is magical. I’ve been going through operations and treatments, and I felt no pain onstage. It was a real rebirth, but it’s a shame that it had to take the form of a fundraiser for me.
What’s next for you?
More Utopia shows, I hope. I have a band called the Peacenicks that plays a few times a month, and now I’ll be doing some shows with the Utopia Brothers, which includes John Seigler and Kevin Ellman. I have to play a lot because I don’t know how long I have left in this world. Ultimately, if I can hang around for a few more years it would be amazing. But if I go soon, I have to say that it was a miracle that I could do these shows, and every show will be a miracle.