Roger Daltrey: A Rock God in Golden Twilight

Roger Daltrey

 Roger Harry Daltrey, CBE turns 72 on March 1st. He is one of the reigning Gods of Rock. A King of Cool and a cultural icon with confidence to back up his Shepherd’s Bush swagger. And he’s a pretty good singer, fronting for the Who.

The road to Rock Godhood started quietly March 1st, 1944 but makes a quantum leap 20 years later when Daltrey joins Pete Townshend, John Entwistle and Keith Moon in the Who. They become mod icons with a steady stream of innovative singles. Morphing into psychedelic tastemakers by 1967, they start making history with their appearance at the Monterrey International Pop Music Festival, where their microphone spinning, guitar-and-drum smashing performance went toe-to-toe with Jimi Hendrix.

Rock Godhood is firmly cemented by 1969 with the rock opera “Tommy” and an appearance at the Woodstock Music Festival, enhanced by fringe. At that point in time, nothing promotes Rock Godhood like fringe, and Daltrey owns it. The deification is furthered at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 and the incorporation of lace, but fringe would return.

In the decade of the 1970s the Who become one of the most reliable outdoor stadium attractions in the world, going shoulder to shoulder with the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin. And heavenly status proceeds unabated with forays into acting. Not only reprising his role as the title character in “Tommy”, he provides a liberal and libidinous take on Franz Liszt in “Listomania”, among other noteworthy or otherwise notorious roles. He is quoted as saying. “Who needs a bleedin’ Oscar? Not me!”

Living a relatively clean lifestyle by comparison to his band mates and peers, Daltrey eschews hard substance abuse and devotes himself to a weightlifting discipline. Dougall Butler (an aide to the Who and personal assistant to Keith Moon) describes his post concert ritual involving tea, a cucumber muffin and a groupie: “He drinks the tea, eats the muffin and pokes the bird”. He even rebounds from the requisite Rock God divorce by remarrying in 1972 and making it work for over 4 decades.

The decades of the 80s and 90s were harsh, as was often the case with the true Gods of Rock. A promising solo career launched in the 1970s becomes murky and uneven, where Daltrey finds out like Mick Jagger that people really don’t care for him singing away from his band.. The Who break-up and reunite, with different drummers replacing the now deceased Keith Moon. And acting no longer provides a relief or any redemption.

The reunion tours finally find a rhythm and purpose in the New Millennium, and Godhood is restored, then challenged with the death of John Entwistle. Soldiering on with the Who, death provides motivation to help the living. His work in founding and maintaining the Teenage Cancer Trust earns him an order of Commanding Officer of the British Empire. Knighthood is second to Godhood. And though he has difficulty hitting the high notes like he used to, catch the God of Rock on the Who’s 50th Anniversary Tour, while you can. Godhood is forever, bands are not. Happy 72nd Birthday, Roger.

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