Roger Harry Daltrey CBE (born 1 March 1944) is an English singer-songwriter and actor, best known as the founder and lead singer of English rock band The Who. He has maintained a musical career as a solo artist and has also worked in the film industry, acting in a large number of film, theatre and television roles and also producing films.
Roger Harry Daltrey was born in the Hammersmith area of London, but was raised in Acton, the same working class suburban neighborhood that produced fellow Who members Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. He was one of three children born to parents Irene and Harry Daltrey, and grew up with two sisters, Gillian and Carol. Harry Daltrey worked for a water closet manufacturer, and Irene Daltrey was told she would be unable to have children because of losing a kidney in 1937. Nevertheless, she went into labour during a World War II air raid and gave birth to her son at the nearby Hammersmith Hospital, West London. At the age of three, the young Roger swallowed a rusty nail which had to be surgically removed, leaving a visible scar. At the age of five, the rust from the nail caused an ulcer in his stomach which required him to be hospitalised.
Daltrey attended Victoria Primary School and then Acton County Grammar School for boys along with Pete Townshend and John Entwistle. He showed academic promise in the English state school system, ranking at the top of his class on the eleven plus examination that led to his enrollment at the Acton County Grammar School. His parents hoped he would eventually continue on to study at the university, but Daltrey turned out to be a self-described "school rebel" and developed a dedicated interest in the emerging rock and roll music scene instead.
He made his first guitar from a block of wood and formed a skiffle band called The Detours. When his father bought him an Epiphone guitar in 1959, he became the lead guitarist for the band and soon afterward was expelled from school for smoking. Describing the post-war times, Pete Townshend wrote in his autobiography, "Until he was expelled, Roger had been a good pupil. Then he heard Elvis and transmogrified into a Teddy Boy with an electric guitar and a dress-sneer. Was it simply rock ?n? roll? It was obvious to a young man as intelligent as Roger that there was no future in conforming any more."
Daltrey became a sheet metal worker during the day, while practicing and performing nights with the band at weddings, pubs and men's clubs. He invited schoolmate John Entwistle to play bass in the band, and on the advice of Entwistle, invited Pete Townshend to play guitar. At that time, the band consisted of Daltrey on lead guitar, Pete Townshend on rhythm guitar, John Entwistle on bass, Doug Sandom on Drums and Colin Dawson on lead vocals. After Colin Dawson left the band, Daltrey switched to vocals and played harmonica as well, while Townshend became the lead guitarist. In 1964 drummer Doug Sandom left the band, eventually being replaced by Keith Moon. Lately, Daltrey has played acoustic guitar on some songs during concerts.
Early on, Daltrey was the band's leader, earning a reputation for using his fists to exercise control when needed, despite his small stature (his height is reportedly 5 feet 7 inches (1.70 m). According to Townshend, Roger "ran things the way he wanted. If you argued with him, you usually got a bunch of fives." He generally selected the music they performed, including songs by The Beatles, various Motown artists, James Brown, and other rock standards.
In 1964 the group discovered another band working as The Detours and discussed changing their name. Pete Townshend suggested "The Hair" and Townshend's roommate Richard Barnes suggested "The Who." The next morning, Daltrey made the decision for the band, saying "It's The Who, innit?"
During 1964, band manager Peter Meaden renamed the band The High Numbers as part of a move to establish the band as Mod favourites. The name was a reference to the T-shirts with "numbers" that the Mods used at the time. Pete Meaden composed Mod songs for them (in fact, the songs were almost copies of Mod hits at the time, with changed lyrics) and they released one single, "I'm The Face/Zoot Suit", on Fontana Records. The single was unsuccessful.
After Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp discovered The High Numbers at the Railway Hotel, the band quickly changed their name back to The Who, since neither Lambert nor Stamp liked the name "The High Numbers".
The Who years
With the band's first hit single and record deal in early 1965, Townshend began writing original material and Daltrey's dominance of the band began to decline. In the midst of the band's success, Daltrey repeatedly found himself fighting to keep the other members of The Who away from the drug and alcohol dependence that he believed would destroy them. During a show in Copenhagen, Daltrey left the stage while the band, who were all over their heads with amphetamines, and flushed drummer Keith Moon's pills down the toilet. Moon was furious, and they ended up having a punch-up.
Because of such incidents and also the shifting dynamics of control within the group, the other members of The Who expelled Daltrey from the band in late 1965, causing him to examine his methods of dealing with people. A week later, Daltrey was admitted back to the band, but was told he'd be on probation. He promised there would be no more violent outbursts or assaults. Daltrey recalled, "I thought if I lost the band I was dead. If I didn't stick with The Who, I would be a sheet metal worker for the rest of my life."
The band's second single, "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" was the only song on which Daltrey and Townshend collaborated, and Daltrey only wrote two other songs for the band. As Townshend developed into one of rock's most accomplished composers, Daltrey's vocals became the vehicle through which Townshend's visions were expressed, and he gained an equally vaunted reputation as a powerful vocalist and riveting frontman. The Who's stage act was highly energetic, and Daltrey's habit of swinging the microphone around by its cord on stage became his signature move.
Daltrey, with microphone, and Townshend, on stage
Daltrey's stuttering expression of youthful anger, frustration and arrogance in the band's breakthrough single, "My Generation", captured the revolutionary feeling of the 1960s for many young people around the world and became the band's trademark. Later, his scream near the end of "Won't Get Fooled Again" became a defining moment in rock and roll. (Note: The stuttering was initially made by Pete Townshend on the demo for "My Generation" as a way of expressing the rapid-fire speech of the Mods at the time. Daltrey followed the demo faithfully in this regard.)
In October 1973, Townshend was at a low point after struggling through the rock opera Lifehouse and Quadrophenia projects, and Daltrey was experiencing success with his solo projects and acting roles. Daltrey had quite a bit of free time while others of the band worked on recording the music for Quadrophenia, and he used some of this time to check The Who's books. He found they had fallen into disarray under the management of Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp. Kit Lambert was also Pete Townshend's artistic mentor and challenging him led to renewed tension within the band. During a filming session (in an incident that Daltrey claimed was overblown) Townshend and Daltrey argued over the schedule. Townshend whacked the singer over the head with his guitar and Daltrey responded by knocking Townshend unconscious, again with a single blow.
With each of The Who's milestone achievements, Tommy, Who's Next, and Quadrophenia, Daltrey was the face and voice of the band as they defined themselves as the ultimate rebels in a generation of change. When Ken Russell's adaptation of Tommy appeared as a feature film in 1975, Daltrey played the lead role and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture". Afterward, Daltrey worked with Russell again, starring as Franz Liszt in Lisztomania. He worked with Rick Wakeman on the soundtrack to this film, writing the lyrics to three songs and also performing these, as well as others.
Daltrey with Pete Townshend
The Who went on after the death of Keith Moon in 1978, but tension continued as Daltrey felt new drummer Kenney Jones was the wrong choice for The Who. In 1980 Daltrey completed a major project for The Who Films, Ltd., a dramatic film called McVicar about U.K. bank robber John McVicar. Daltrey produced and starred in the film, and completed a striking soundtrack with other members of the band. This success, along with other stresses, contributed to a deterioration of relations with Townshend, and The Who retired from active touring in 1982 when Townshend felt he was no longer able to write for the band. The band continued to work together sporadically, reuniting for the Live Aid concert and recording songs for Daltrey's solo album Under a Raging Moon and Townshend's solo album Iron Man.
Daltrey turned to working as an actor, completing such high profile projects as The Beggar's Opera and The Comedy of Errors for the BBC. He also appeared in several film, television and stage productions during this period, including Mike Batt's The Hunting of the Snark (1987), The Little Match Girl (1987), Buddy's Song (1990), which he also produced, and Mack the Knife (1990). In 1991 he received a Grammy Award with The Chieftains for An Irish Evening: Live at the Grand Opera House, Belfast.
The Who returned in 1989 with their 25th anniversary tour, which was also the 20th anniversary tour of the rock opera Tommy. The tour featured a large backing band and guest appearances by Steve Winwood, Patti LaBelle, Phil Collins and Elton John. Although Daltrey experienced life-threatening health problems, he managed to complete the tour. He continued to work on stage and screen during this period, completing projects such as The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True (1995) appearing as the Tin Woodman alongside Nathan Lane, Joel Grey, Natalie Cole, and Jewel Kilcher as Dorothy. During this time, he also began to appear in U.S. television shows.
In 1994 Daltrey celebrated his 50th birthday by producing a two-night show at Carnegie Hall called A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, and popularly called Daltrey Sings Townshend. The Who's music was arranged for orchestra by Michael Kamen, who directed The Juilliard Orchestra for the event. Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Eddie Vedder, Sin?ad O'Connor, Lou Reed, David Sanborn, Alice Cooper, Linda Perry, The Chieftains and others performed as special guests. The event was followed by a major tour financed by Daltrey and including John Entwistle on bass, Zak Starkey on drums and Simon Townshend on guitar. Although the tour was considered an artistic success, it failed to make a profit and was concluded early. However, it did serve the purpose of attracting attention to songs from The Who's Quadrophenia, and gathered support for a staging and major tour of the rock opera in 1996-1997.
In 1996 Pete Townshend was approached to produce Quadrophenia for The Prince's Trust concert at Hyde Park, London. He at first planned to perform the opera as a solo acoustic piece using parts of the film on the screens, but after receiving offers of financing decided on a full out production. When he first contacted Daltrey to request a collaboration, Daltrey refused, but after some discussion, he agreed to help produce a one-off performance. The opera was performed with a large backing band, including John Entwistle on bass, Pete Townshend on acoustic guitar and vocals, Zak Starkey on drums, Rabbit Bundrick and Jon Carin on keyboards, Simon Townshend on guitar and special guests including David Gilmour, Adrian Edmondson, Trevor McDonald and Gary Glitter. A horn section was added, and backing vocalists, along with other actors. On the night before the show, Daltrey was struck in the face by a microphone stand swung by Gary Glitter. The accident fractured his eye socket and caused considerable concern that he might not be able to perform safely, but Daltrey donned an eye-patch to cover the bruises and completed the show as scheduled. Afterward, Townshend decided to take the production on tour in 1996-1997 as The Who.
After their tour to present the rock opus was successful, they returned as The Who in a stripped-down, five-piece lineup for tours in 1999-2000. The band continued to work together, making a major impact at The Concert for New York City. After Entwistle's death in June 2002, both Daltrey and Townshend decided to continue with an already planned tour as The Who. Bassist Pino Palladino was chosen to fill the gap left in his place. They also completed a brief tour in 2004. In 2006, they released their first studio album of new material in twenty-four years, Endless Wire, leading some fans and critics to say that the highly acclaimed artistic tension within The Who lay between these two principals. They completed a world tour in 2006-2007 to support this album.
After The Who retired from active work in 1982, Daltrey developed his career in film and took on a number of other projects, including a tour with the British Rock Symphony in 1998, and the Night of the Proms in 2005.
Daltrey also worked with the Rock 'n Roll Fantasy Camp, raising money for charities during the final concert.
In 1992, Daltrey appeared in The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, singing the hard rock song I Want It All, to pay homage Freddie, his longlife friend, who died a year before.
In 2005, Daltrey had a short weekly series on BBC Radio 2, presenting a personal choice of rock'n'roll favourites.
In 2006, Roger Daltrey starred as the voice of "Argon the Dragon Bus Driver" in the children's home DVD called The Wheels on the Bus: Mango and Papaya's Animal Adventure from Armstrong Moving Pictures. The DVD features Daltrey as a costumed children's dragon, who drives a bus for two lost puppets trying to return to their home at the zoo. Daltrey sings children's classics, such as "The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round" in addition to songs written specifically for the home video.
When Colin Dawson left The Detours and Roger Daltrey took over lead vocals, Daltrey struggled to find a voice to present the new music flooding into England. When Pete Townshend began to write hit songs for The Who, Daltrey struggled to find a voice for those as well. His expression carried Townshend?s material well enough in recordings, and at the time his live persona suited the small club scene where The Who made their beginnings. However, this presentation lacked the confidence of later years, and he was arguably still a singer seeking a voice.
In 1967 The Who made their first tour of America, appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival, and Daltrey brought back new experiences in dealing with larger venues and stages. 1968 proved a transition year, and Daltrey?s performance in The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus showed him with a new confidence in dealing with Townshend?s material. In 1969 The Who?s first major rock opera Tommy was released, and Daltrey found a voice for the lead character that carried The Who to world stardom at such music venues as Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1969 and 1970.
Daltrey has long been known as one of the most charismatic of rock?s front men. His stage persona embraces the audience and projects The Who?s repertoire as heroic anthems and touching ballads that have gripped the emotions and imagination of audiences for forty years. This persona has earned him a position as one of the ?gods of rock and roll? and has influenced the development of many other bands since.
His appearance in the early 1970's included striking, long blond curly hair and a sexually ambivalent look which became more masculine as the seventies progressed. He developed a trademark move of swinging and throwing his microphone through a complex sequence, always trying to match these sequences with the tempo of the song that was being played at the moment. Although Daltrey reduced the athleticism of his performance during later years, his presentation remains dynamic and gripping.
In 2003, Roger Daltrey was honoured by Time Magazine as a European Hero for his work with the Teenage Cancer Trust and other charities. In the New Year's Honours List published on 31 December 2004, he was created a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to Music, the Entertainment Industry, and Charity. In December 2008, he and Pete Townshend were honored with America's most prestigious cultural awards as recipients of the 31st annual Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. On March 4, 2009, 3 days after his 65th birthday, he accepted the James Joyce Award from the Literary and Historical Society of University College Dublin for outstanding success in the music field.
Roger Daltrey supports many charities both as a solo artist and jointly with other members of The Who. All The Who's Encore Series profits go to young peoples' charities. Daltrey was instrumental in starting the Teenage Cancer Trust concert series in 2000, with The Who actually playing in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2007. Daltrey played benefits with the RD Crusaders in 2003, 2004, 2006; performed with The Who at Live 8 in 2005, for the Nordoff-Robbins Silver Clef benefit in 2005, and for the Los Angeles area City of Hope benefit in 2001 and 2004.
With The Who, he performed for the Robin Hood Foundation at the The Concert for New York City and other benefits in 2001; at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit in 1999; and in the Quadrophenia Concert for The Prince's Trust in Hyde Park, 1996. In addition, Daltrey performed at benefits in Vail, Colorado, in 1999, and attended a PETA benefit with Sarah McLachlan and Chrissie Hynde in the same year.
Daltrey appeared in The Wizard of Oz in Concert: Dreams Come True in 1995 for The Children's Defense Fund, and at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert to benefit AIDS research in 1992.
He sang "Rock and Roll" on a charity single released as McEnroe & Cash with The Full Metal Rackets for Rock Aid Armenia in 1986, and performed with The Who at Live Aid in 1985 and Concert for Kampuchea in 1979. In 1976, he performed at the Celtic Football Ground in Glasgow, Scotland. An audience of 35,000 attended and a sum of over ?100,000 was donated to charity.
Daltrey was also a judge for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.
Daltrey has been married twice. In 1964, he married the former Jacqueline "Jackie" Rickman, and had one child, born in 1965, Simon. The couple divorced in 1968. In 1967, Daltrey's son Mathias was born, the result of an affair with Swedish model Elisabeth Aronsson. In 1971, he met Heather Taylor, his current wife. Together, they have 3 children, Rosie Lea (born in 1972), Willow Amber (born in 1975) and Jamie (born in 1981). He also has four granddaughters, Lily, Lola, Ramona and Scarlet; and one grandson, Jonjo.
Albums with The Who
For a full listing of Daltrey's albums with The Who, see The Who discography.
Who songs written by Daltrey
Although never a writing force in The Who and though greatly overshadowed by the songwriting talents of Townshend and Entwistle, Daltrey did contribute a small handful of songs to the band's catalogue during their career:
"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" (1965)-The Who's second single, co-written by Townshend.
"See My Way" (1966)-Daltrey's sole contribution to A Quick One.
"Here for More" (1970)-B-side to "The Seeker".
Another Daltrey song, entitled "Certified Rose," was apparently rehearsed by The Who shortly before the death of John Entwistle. The band had planned on playing it (as well as Townshend's "Real Good Looking Boy") during their 2002 tour, but plans were halted after Entwistle's death. A studio version was supposedly recorded during the Endless Wire sessions (and may feature Entwistle's basslines from 2002.) The song has not yet been released.
"Early Morning Cold Taxi", a song recorded during The Who Sell Out sessions in 1967 and released in 1994 on the Thirty Years of Maximum R n'B boxset, is credited to Roger Daltrey and Who roadie Dave "Cy" Langston; the song was actually solely written by Langston. At the time Daltrey and Langston were planning to form a writing-partnership, where all songs written by either of them would be credited as Daltrey/Langston (similar to Lennon-McCartney). The partnership did not produce any other songs (besides an unreleased demo titled "Blue Caravan.") Langston went on to play guitar on John Entwistle's first solo album, Smash Your Head Against the Wall, in 1970.
Solo music career
Roger Daltrey closing out a Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert, December 2007
Daltrey has released eight solo albums. The first was the self-titled Daltrey in 1973, made during a hiatus in The Who's touring schedule. The top single off the album, "Giving It All Away", reached number five in the UK and the album, which introduced Leo Sayer as a songwriter, made the Top 50 in the United States. The inner sleeve photography shows a trompe-l'?il in playful reference to the Narcissus myth, for Daltrey's reflection in the water differs from his real appearance.
Daltrey's second album, Ride a Rock Horse, was released in 1975 and is his second most commercially successful solo album. Its cover, photographed by Daltrey's cousin Graham Hughes, is remarkable for depicting the muscular singer as a rampant centaur. When Sayer launched his own career as an artist, Daltrey called on a widening group of friends to write for and perform on his albums. Paul McCartney contributed the new song "Giddy" to One of the Boys, where the band included Eric Clapton, Alvin Lee and Mick Ronson. On this cover, another visual trick is played with Daltrey's mirror image, with reference to Magritte's famous painting Reproduction interdite.
McVicar was billed as a soundtrack album for the film of the same name, in which Daltrey starred and also co-produced. It featured all the other members of The Who (Townshend, Entwistle and Kenney Jones). McVicar included two hit singles, "Free Me" and "Without Your Love", and is Daltrey's best-selling solo recording.
The title track to Under a Raging Moon was a tribute to Who drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978. Each of the album's tracks, including "Let Me Down Easy" by Bryan Adams, expresses the frustration of growing older as only a man who sang "Hope I die before I get old" can. Daltrey is credited as co-writer on "Don't Talk to Strangers," "The Pride You Hide," "Move Better in the Night" and "It Don't Satisfy Me."
On Can't Wait to See the Movie, Daltrey is credited as co-writer on the tracks "Balance on Wires" and "Take Me Home." On Rocks in the Head, Daltrey is credited (along with Gerard McMahon) for co-writing seven of the eleven tracks, including: "Times Changed," "You Can't Call It Love," "Love Is," "Blues Man's Road," "Days of Light," "Everything A Heart Could Ever Want" and "Unforgettable Opera." This was his first major effort as a song-writer for his own solo albums. Daltrey's voice does not seem to have aged at all on this album, ranging from a powerful bluesy growl ? la Howlin' Wolf to the tender vocals shared with his daughter Willow on the ballad 'Everything A Heart Could Ever Want".
Daltrey celebrated his fiftieth birthday in 1994 by performing at Carnegie Hall in two shows (23 and 24 February) later issued on CD and video called A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, sometimes called Daltrey Sings Townshend, accompanied by The Juilliard Orchestra, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Irish dancers and other special guests. The success of these two shows led to a U.S. tour by the same name, featuring Pete Townshend's brother Simon on lead guitar with Phil Spalding taking bass duties for the first half of each show and John Entwistle playing for the second half. An Australian leg was considered but eventually scrapped.
Besides the songs Daltrey co-wrote for his solo albums, he is credited for co-writing others, including: "Child O Mine" with Gerard McMahon, used on the soundtrack for The Banger Sisters and on the TV show Witchblade; and "A Second Out" with Steve McEwan, issued on his compilation album Moonlighting. On the soundtrack for Lisztomania, Daltrey is credited with "Love's Dream", "Orpheus Song" and "Peace at Last."
In 2006, he wrote and performed a specially commissioned song, "Highbury Highs", for the 7 May Highbury Farewell ceremony following the final football match at Arsenal Stadium between Arsenal and Wigan, in which Arsenal celebrated the previous 93 years at Highbury, preparing for their move to the Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, the following season.
Roger Daltrey will embark on a solo tour during the fall of 2009 in the U.S.