Utopia keyboardist Mark ‘Moogy’ Klingman dies at 61


Mark “Moogy” Klingman, a veteran of the New York rock music scene who worked with musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, and Bette Midler from the late 1960s on, died Nov. 15 at 61 from cancer.

Klingman’s death was announced by classic rocker Todd Rundgren, with whom Klingman played as one of the three keyboard players in Utopia, a progressive rock band from the 1970s and 1980s that has a continuing cult following.


Rundgren, who reunited Utopia this year for the first time in more than 20 years to perform benefit concerts for Klingman, announced his death on a Facebook post: "I have some sorrowful news this morning. Last night Moogy Klingman, longtime friend and Utopian passed away after a difficult battle with cancer. He will be greatly missed."

Klingman, whose group Moogy and the Rhythm Kings formed the core of Utopia, played alongside Rundgren from 1969 on, including on his breakthrough album, "Something, Anything." But by then Klingman had already hung out with Bob Dylan, played back up for Hendrix, been in a band with classic heavy metal guitarist and Jewish Long islander, Leslie West, and produced what has become a treasured rarity, a lengthy jam session that included Clapton, Jeff Beck, Dr. John, Keith Emerson, Linda Ronstadt, and others. Klingman ended up as producer of that lengthy session in 1969 at age 19, after a financial dispute kept Rundgren out of the slot. The sessions have become part of classic rock lore, but Klingman discussed them in detail in several interviews and posts on his website about 10 years ago. Klingman was selling recordings of the albums on his website.

“Things were disorganized as no one was really in charge. I went into the control room and (record company executive) Earl said "Moogy, get things going out there. I’m depending on you." So, I went out and let them know that I was kind of running things for Earl. "Now, who has any ideas for recording?" I said.

In the following years, Klingman co-wrote the pop ballad, “(You’ve Got to Have) Friends,” with another New York Jewish rocker and cult favorite, Buzzy Linhart. The song has been recorded many times, with perhaps the most famous version by Bette Midler, who made it her theme song for many years. (Click here for a hysterical video of Midler singing “Friends” at a UJA Telethon in the early 1970s.)

Klingman stayed active throughout the last few years, even as his bladder cancer made him ill. His last group was called, “The Peaceniks,” and they performed in and around New York. Numerous music-obsessed bloggers have written lengthy tributes to Klingman, along with detailed histories of his discography.

“Music eliminates all the pain from the battle with “the big C,” Klingman told a music magazine last year. “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….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.”

Klingman was raised in Great Neck, a New York suburb, and attended high school and performed with comedian and performance artist, Andy Kaufman, who died from cancer in 1984.

The Eulogizer highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org.

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