Happy Birthday to Who frontman Roger Daltrey, who turns 79 today (March 1st). Coming on March 31st is the Who's latest live set, The Who With Orchestra Live At Wembley. The collection, which was recorded back on July 6th, 2019, will be issued as a two-CD/Blu-ray or three-LP set.
The band's latest studio set, titled WHO, was released on December 6th, 2019 and entered the Billboard 200 at Number Two. WHO hit the UK charts at Number Three — and still marks the Who's best charting album in the States since 1978's Who Are You — which also peaked at Number Two.
In June 2019, Daltrey released a live album, The Who's Tommy Orchestral. The set was recorded during his 2018 tour stops in Budapest and Bethel in upstate New York — the scene of the first Woodstock festival 50 years ago, where the Who performed Tommy in its entirety.
October 2018 saw the release of Roger Daltrey's long-awaited autobiography, Thanks A Lot Mr. Kibblewhite: My Story. The book, which reads as though you're in the room with Daltrey, covers his early life during and after World War II, his days as a factory worker — not to mention the trials and tribulations, failures and successes with the Who. The “Draconian headmaster” who is immortalized in the book's title, had expelled Daltrey from high school, leading him to reach his true potential as a musician.
Daltrey talked frankly about how the band ended up being ripped off by their beloved managers Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp as the pair fell deeper into a morass of addiction; embodying the characters Pete Townshend created for Tommy, Lifehouse, and Quadrophenia; dealing with his often temperamental partners; his illegitimate children; and how he and Townshend ended up closer than ever after 50 years as bandmates. Most fascinatingly, Daltrey spotlights his 54-year relationship with his wife Heather.
Roger Daltrey told us that the Who growing up in the shadow and rubble of bomb cratered England after World War II essentially made them into the band they became: “It gave us incredible opportunities because it was a blank canvas to paint on. Y'know, a lot of people have said to me, 'And you were all very poor' — and I say, 'No, actually, we weren't very poor, we were incredibly wealthy! We didn't have much money, but that's got (laughs) nothing to do with. . . ' Y'know, everybody just equates that with poverty now. The community becomes stronger through the war and imagination, and there's something about need and not easy accessible excess (laughs) — which is what we're in today — (that) makes you very creative. And that's what we did.”
In June 2018, Daltrey issued his latest solo studio set, titled, As Long As I Have You. The collection features Pete Townshend on seven of the album's 11 tracks and includes the Daltrey originals — “Certified Rose” and “Always Heading Home.” Among the covers on the set are Daltrey's take on Stephen Stills' Manassas favorite “How Far” and Stevie Wonder's classic “You Haven’t Done Nothing.”
Roger Daltrey told us that it was Pete Townshend's urging that saw the solo set finally see completion: “And I just lost the momentum of it and didn't like what I was hearing and I just thought it's not a good idea and I was going to shelve it. And then unbeknown (sic) to me, my management sent it out to Pete — 'cause they were still enthusiastic about it and so were the record company. And Pete called me up; it was him that convinced me to carry on. He loved it! He said, 'This is great, Roger — you've got to finish it!' And then he offered to play guitar on it and that was the clincher for me, because, as you might know, he's my favorite guitarist.”
Over the past two decades, Roger Daltrey has worked tirelessly to raise money and awareness for the Who's patron charity, the Teenage Cancer Trust. Daltrey told us he's doing all he can to socialize teen cancer patients, who respond far better to being with others their own age during treatment than being stuck on a kids' ward, or with full-grown adults: “I went to Yale when we first started this off. In Yale there were three boys that had Leukemia and they were all in three different rooms, and not one of them knew that the next boy next to them had the same disease, was sittin’ with his parents, all worried to death. Not one of them met each other and none of the parents had met each other. I mean, I just think that’s criminal.”
Over the past dozen years, Daltrey has reignited his solo live career performing the Who's Tommy along with assorted Who and solo classics, which featured Daltrey singing better than ever after undergoing throat surgery in recent years.
Roger Daltrey's tour-de-force lead vocal on Quadrophenia's finale “Love Reign O'er Me” is one of dozens of examples of him taking a Pete Townshend song and completely reinventing it as his own: “That's what I used to try and do is to leave people with a mood in a note, and a passion in the song. That in somehow or the other, either went against the lyric, or took the lyric to somewhere where you didn't think. . . It's like 'Love Reign O'er Me' for instance. Pete never, ever saw that as a loud screaming plea, the way I sang it. He saw it as a quiet song — which obviously you can do. In the terms of the way Quadrophenia was, I saw it as that scream of desperation from the street. He didn't like it. He didn't like what I did with it (laughs) probably still doesn't!”
Pete Townshend admits that it's been tough throughout the years for Daltrey to have to bide his time until he's finished the next song cycle for a new Who project: “This was very frustrating for Roger, who is a fantastic singer of my material. The greatest interpreter that a writer could ever, ever want. Y'know, he's a fantastic performer, singer, and brings stuff to my work that I can't bring to it myself. Certainly, I've never heard any other singer bring it to it.”
Townshend says that after five decades of working with Daltrey, he's only recently found the proper way to present his new material to him: “And Roger just said to me several times, 'Y'know, I'll support you in whatever you want to do, let's take some real chances.' And I kind of stamped around the room saying, 'Well that's all very well in words but when it actually comes to it and I deliver him my big ideas, he doesn't want to get behind them, or he doesn't do this or do that . . .' And then actually when it came to it, I realized (that) as long as the work I was delivering him was finished, he would simply make the choice of an editor or a performer.”
Daltrey told us that his relationship with longtime sideman — and kid brother of Pete Townshend — Simon Townshend is so tight, that he actually considers him to be family. Simon, who's 15 years younger than Pete, has been a constant in the Who's live shows since 2002, has backed Daltrey on the road for years.
Daltrey explains that his connection with Simon goes far deeper than just being bandmates: “I've always had a close relationship with Simon since he was a little boy. He was Pete's brother, and he used to be 'round my house all the time. He was a real Who fan. And he's been in my band since — well, every time I've had a solo band, he's been in it. And I actually call him my brother (laughs). It's totally unconditional, I mean, he's great vibes. I mean, he knows the music so well.”
Simon Townshend admits that he's been close to Daltrey ever since he was a boy: “I always loved Roger. Roger was the one I could run up to and cuddle. I couldn't run up and cuddle Moonie, I couldn't run up and cuddle Pete, I couldn't run up and cuddle John (Entwistle), but I could run up and cuddle Roger. He's a dear friend, really, Rog.”