Happy Birthday to Roger Daltrey, who turns 75 today (March 1st). Daltrey is currently in the recording studio laying down vocal tracks for the Who's upcoming album due out this year -- which marks the band's first studio set since 2006. The Who will kick off its 2019 dates on May 7th in Grand Rapids, Michigan at Van Andel Arena with local orchestral backing at every gig.

October 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 a bandmates. Most fascinatingly, Daltrey spotlights his 51-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."

Last summer, Roger Daltrey wowed both Who die-hards and casual fans with his solo tour in which he performed Tommy in its entirety -- along with a symphony orchestra at each stop. Daltrey admitted that playing a solo show is a cakewalk compared to a typical Who gig any day: "One thing I'm really not worried about -- I'm not short of material. It's just nice to do something that's not as much pressure as a Who tour. Y'know, ultimately is there a good night out, aren't you. . . is there a good time? What more can you do? As long as everyone enjoys themselves, I think that's the secret to this, and I'm just gonna have a lot of fun. Who tours can be quite grueling. The Who shows can be quite grueling. It's floor to the floor the whole way -- that's not easy every night. This gives it a bit more. . . a little bit more freedom. In that sense pressure will be off -- and the size of the venues, of course."

In June 2018, Roger Daltrey released his latest solo album, 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."

Back in 2015 the Who were forced to postpone their shows after it was announced that Roger Daltrey was stricken with viral meningitis. Daltrey spoke about getting sick and the terror of not knowing the cause, telling Yahoo News, "I kept getting these strange twinges and headaches, and they got worse and worse and worse. In the end, I was basically on my hands and knees. I was in hospital for a week and they couldn’t find out what was wrong with me. They did bone marrow scans and I had about four spinal taps. . . There were a couple of days there when I didn’t think I was going to make it."

He went on to say: "I was shocked when they told me what it was. They immediately sent the anti-virals going and God knows how many antibiotics and how much cortisone. It’s big guns -- not pleasant at all. The whole time I was in there, pretty much all I could do was lay there and groan. It’s a weird one and there’s an awful long recovery process, too."

Since recovering, Roger Daltrey has covered Pete Townshend's 1980 solo hit "Let My Love Open The Door" to draw attention to the Who's charity, Teenage Cancer America (TCA).

In 2014, Daltrey released his first non-Who related solo album in 22 years, with Going Back Home, his joint album with former Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson in which they revisit Johnson's back catalogue. The pair struck up a friendship back in 2010 -- prior to Johnson's January 2013 diagnosis of terminal pancreatic cancer. Daltrey donated his proceeds from the album to the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Over the past eight years, Daltrey has reignited his solo live career performing the Who's Tommy along with assorted Who and solo classics. The Who's recent dates caught 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."

IN OTHER WHO NEWS


The Who's pre-fame drummer Doug Sandom, died on February 27th at age 89 -- one day after his birthday. In 1964, Sandom, who was forced out of the band -- then known as the High Numbers -- after early management deemed him far to old to be playing with Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle, who were all around 15 years younger than him.

Pete Townshend took time out to eulogize Sandom on TheWho.com:

Just heard from his son that Doug, drummer with the early Who, passed away yesterday at the age of 89. If you have read my book Who I Am you will know how kind Doug was to me, and how clumsily I dealt with his leaving the band to be replaced eventually by Keith Moon. A bricklayer by trade, Doug was an excellent drummer but was considered by our first record label to be too old for us. It was his age and his wisdom that made him important to me. He never sneered at my aspirations the way some of my peers tended to do (I was a bit of an egoistic handful sometimes). He encouraged me – as did my best friend in those days Richard Barnes. Doug took a while to forgive me, but did so in the end, and although I didn’t see much of him we remained friends. He would almost certainly have tried to visit with Roger and me at Wembley Stadium this year, and we will both miss seeing him.

Pete,
28 February 2019

AUDIO: SIMON TOWNSHEND ON ROGER DALTREY
AUDIO: ROGER DALTREY ON BOND WITH SIMON TOWNSHEND
AUDIO: PETE TOWNSHEND ON ROGER DALTREY SUPPORTING HIM CREATIVELY
AUDIO: PETE TOWNSHEND ON ROGER DALTREY INTERPRETING HIS SONGS
AUDIO: ROGER DALTREY ON 'LOVE REIGN O'ER ME'
AUDIO: ROGER DALTREY ON TEENS WITH CANCER
AUDIO: ROGER DALTREY ON PETE TOWNSHEND SAVING HIS SOLO ALBUM
AUDIO: ROGER DALTREY ON SOLO SHOWS BEING LESS GRUELING
AUDIO: ROGER DALTREY ON POST-WAR LONDON