Happy Birthday to Who frontman, Roger Daltrey, who turns 69-years-old today (March 1st). Last night (February 28th), Daltrey along with the Who, performed along with Elvis Costello at Manhattan's Theater At Madison Square Garden for the Teen Cancer America Benefit. Over the past four years, Daltrey has reignited his solo live career performing the Who's Tommy along with assorted Who and solo classics.
Daltrey has been wowing crowds on the Who's just-wrapped North American leg of their Quadrophenia & More Tour, which caught Daltrey singing better than ever after undergoing throat surgery in recent years. 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 been a constant in the Who's live shows since 2002, has backed Daltrey on the road for years, and during his last string of solo dates actually managed to steal the show with an incendiary nightly rendition of the Who's Next classic "Goin' Mobile."
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."
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