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Roger Harry Daltrey, CBE (born 1 March 1944) is an English singer, musician, 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 films, theatre and television roles and also producing films. In 2008 he was ranked number 61 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 greatest singers of all time.
Roger Harry Daltrey was born in the Hammersmith area of London, but was brought up in Acton, the same working class suburban district 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 Daltrey.
Daltrey attended Victoria Primary School and then Acton County Grammar School for Boys and girls along with Townshend and 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 enrolment at the Acton County Grammar School. His parents hoped he would eventually continue on to study at 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, a cherry red Strat copy, and joined an existing skiffle band called the Detours in need of a lead singer. They told him he had to bring a guitar, and within a few weeks he showed up with it, and he could play it too. When his father bought him an Epiphone guitar in 1959, he became the lead guitarist for the band and soon afterwards he was expelled from school for smoking. Describing the post-war times, Townshend wrote in his autobiography, "until he was expelled Roger had been a good pupil."
Daltrey became a sheet metal worker during the day, while practising and performing nights with the band at weddings, pubs and working men's clubs. He invited schoolmate Entwistle to play bass in the band, and on the advice of Entwistle, invited Townshend to play guitar. At that time, the band also had Doug Sandom on drums and Colin Dawson on lead vocals. After Dawson left the band, Daltrey switched to lead vocals and played harmonica as well, while Townshend became the lead guitarist. In 1964 drummer Sandom left the band, eventually being replaced by Keith Moon.
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" (slaps or punches). He generally selected the music they performed, including songs by the Beatles, various Motown artists, James Brown and rock standards.
In 1964 the group discovered another band working as the Detours and discussed changing their name. 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 to "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. Peter 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 proved to be unsuccessful.
After Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp discovered the High Numbers at the Railway Hotel, the band 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 ("I Can't Explain") and record deal in early 1965, Townshend began writing original material and Daltrey's dominance of the band began to decline.
The other members of the Who expelled Daltrey from the band in late 1965 after he beat up their drummer Keith Moon for supplying drugs to Townshend and Entwistle, causing him to re-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 that 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 during these years. 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 front-man. 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's Townshend-inspired 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.
By 1973, Daltrey was experiencing considerable success with his solo projects and acting roles. While others of the band worked on recording the music for Quadrophenia, Daltrey 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. 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, was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for "Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture" and appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine on 10 April 1975. 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.
The Who went on after the premature death of their drummer, Keith Moon in 1978, but tension continued to rise as Daltrey felt that their 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 British 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 (1992), 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 of their rock opera Tommy. The tour featured a large backing band and guest appearances by Steve Winwood, Patti LaBelle, Phil Collins, Elton John and Billy Idol. Although Daltrey experienced severe health problems due to an abdominal hemangioma (later removed by surgery), he managed to complete the tour. He continued to work on stage and screen during these years, 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 performing a two-night spectacular at Carnegie Hall titled A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and The Who, which is popularly called Daltrey Sings Townshend. The show was produced by Daltrey's manager at the time, Richard Flanzer. The Who's music was arranged for orchestra by Michael Kamen, who conducted the Juilliard Orchestra for the event. Bob Ezrin, who produced Pink Floyd's The Wall album, among other famous albums, produced the live album. Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Eddie Vedder (who performed a special acoustic tribute), Sinéad O'Connor, Lou Reed, David Sanborn, Alice Cooper, Linda Perry, the Chieftains and others performed as special guests. Michael Lindsay-Hogg directed the telecast, which was aired on satellite TV. The concert, at the time, was the fastest sell-out in the famed venue's history. 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 any profit due to the expense of providing extraordinary musicians and orchestras in every city to replicate the Carnegie Hall event. Significantly, the tour did attract attention to songs from the Who's rock opera Quadrophenia and gathered support for a staging and major tour of the rock opera in 1996–97.
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, John "Rabbit" Bundrick and Jon Carin on keyboards, Simon Townshend on guitar and special guests including Dave Gilmour, Adrian Edmondson, Trevor McDonald and Gary Glitter. A horn section and backing vocalists were added, 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 1996–97 as the Who.
After their Quadrophenia tour was successful, the band returned as the Who in a stripped-down, five-piece line-up 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 Entwistle's place. The band 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 the two principals Daltrey and Townshend. The band completed a world tour in 2006–07 to support this album.
In February 2010, Townshend and Daltrey, headlining as the Who, performed the half-time show at Super Bowl XLIV in front of 105.97 million viewers across the globe. In March 2010, Townshend and Daltrey, along with an extensive backing band, performed Quadrophenia at the Royal Albert Hall in London as a tenth anniversary charity benefit for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam sang the part of the Godfather, and Tom Meighan of Kasabian sang the part of Aceface, and Tom Norris, London Symphony Orchestra Co-Principal Second Violin, played violin for the production.
When Colin Dawson left the Detours, Roger Daltrey took over as their lead vocalist, giving up his guitar. The band as a whole acknowledged Moon and Entwistle's innovation and talent on their instruments, and Pete Townshend had begun writing their hit songs, but Daltrey struggled to find a voice to present their new music. 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.
The Who first toured North America in 1967, appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival, and Daltrey brought back new experiences in dealing with larger venues and stages. 1968 proved a pivotal year with Townshend's movement beyond the quick three-minute single towards his goal of writing a rock opera. Beginning with "A Quick One (While He's Away)", a nine-minute mini-opera, 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 worldwide stardom at such music venues as Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival, and in opera houses around the world during the next two years. Townshend later remarked in the film Amazing Journey, that with Tommy, and with Daltrey's adaptation to portraying the character on-stage, the singer evolved from what was essentially a tight, tough guy to one who outstretched his arms, bared his body to the audiences, and began to truly engage them. "With this change, the band was at last complete," he summed up. "It was a marriage," Townshend emphasised, "but it was a good marriage. Those were glorious years". Daltrey confirmed this, saying, he felt at last accepted, displaying a newly energetic role and sound during live performances.
Daltrey has long been known as one of the most charismatic of rock's front-men. According to Pete Townshend, "He almost invented the pseudo-messianic role taken up later by Jim Morrison and Robert Plant." His persona has earned him a position as one of the "gods of rock and roll" He developed a trademark move of swinging and throwing his microphone through a complex sequence, matching these sequences with the tempo of the song that was being played at the moment, although Daltrey reduced the athleticism of his performances in later years.
Roger Daltrey hand-built his first guitar from a piece of plywood, and also built guitars for the band in the early days when they had little money to buy equipment. As lead guitarist for the Detours, Daltrey played a 1961 Epiphone Wilshire solidbody electric guitar which he later sold to Pete Townshend on an easy payment plan. After he took over vocals for the band in the 1960s and during the 1970s, Daltrey rarely played guitar on stage; however, he played a Martin acoustic guitar for appearances to promote his solo album Daltrey. He began playing guitar with the Who again during the band's tours in the 1980s, and used a Fender Esquire to play a second guitar part for the song "Eminence Front" on the Who's 1982, 1989 and later tours. During the 1989 tour, he played a Gibson Chet Atkins SST guitar for the song "Hey Joe." During the Who's 1996–97 Quadrophenia tour, Daltrey played a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar.
After 1999, it became more common for Daltrey to play guitar during both the Who and solo shows. He ordered a Versoul Buxom 6 handmade acoustic guitar that he played on the Who's 2002 tour. Daltrey owns a Gibson Everly Brothers Flattop acoustic guitar which he played on the Who and solo tours in the late first decade of the 21st century. On his 2009 tour, Daltrey played Pete Townshend's "Blue, Red and Grey" on an Ashbury cutaway tenor EQ ukulele.
Roger Daltrey is known as one of the harmonica players who brought the instrument out of blues and into popular music. Although the mouth harps that Daltrey uses have varied over the years, brands he has used include Hohner and Lee Oskar harmonicas. Daltrey plays using the blues harp (2nd position) or cross harp technique which originated in blues music.
Daltrey uses Shure microphones with cords which he tapes to reinforce the connection and avoid cutting his hands when he swings and catches the microphone. He commonly uses a standard Shure SM58, but has also used Shure SM78 (in 1981), Shure model 565D Unisphere 1, and Shure model 548 Unidyne IV. Daltrey also uses a hybrid monitoring system with one in-ear monitor supplemented by floor wedges.
Who songs written by Daltrey
Although never being a writing force in the Who and being overshadowed by the song writing talents of Townshend and Entwistle, Daltrey only contributed a small handful of songs to the band's catalogue during their early career:
"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" (1965)-The Who's second single, co-written by Townshend.
"See My Way" (1966)-Daltrey's contribution to A Quick One.
"Early Morning Cold Taxi" (1968)-Outtake from The Who Sell Out (later appearing as a bonus track on deluxe editions), co-written with David "Cyrano" Langston.
"Here for More" (1970)-B-side to "The Seeker".
Daltrey also wrote a song called "Crossroads Now" for the Who which grew out of an on-stage jam in 1999 after the song "My Generation." Another Daltrey song, entitled "Certified Rose," was 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. Although it was rumoured that a studio version was recorded during the Endless Wire sessions (and might feature Entwistle's bass-lines from 2002), Townshend later stated that no such recording was made.
"Early Morning Cold Taxi", is a song recorded during The Who Sell Out's recording sessions in 1967 and was released in 1994 on the Thirty Years of Maximum R&B boxset, which is credited to Roger Daltrey and Who roadie Dave "Cyrano" Langston. Some sources report that the song was 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. The partnership produced only one other song—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 1971.
Solo music career
Daltrey has released eight solo albums throughout his career. The first was the self-titled Daltrey in 1973, recorded during a hiatus time 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'œil in reference to the Narcissus myth, as Daltrey's reflection in the water differs from his real appearance. He also released a single in 1973, "Thinking" with "There is Love" on the B-side. Bizarrely, the British release, with considerable airplay of "Giving it All Away" (first lines "I paid all my dues so I picked up my shoes, I got up and walked away") coincided with news reports of the Who being sued for unpaid damage to their hotel on a recent tour, including a TV set being thrown out of the window.
Daltrey's second album, Ride a Rock Horse, was released in 1975 and is his second most commercially successful solo album. Its cover was photographed by Daltrey's cousin Graham Hughes, which is remarkable for depicting the singer as a rampant centaur.
When Sayer launched his own career as an solo 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 Hank Marvin, 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 at the time (Townshend, Entwistle and Kenney Jones). McVicar included two hit singles, "Free Me" and "Without Your Love", which 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 "I Hope I die before I get old" can. On his next album Rocks in the Head, Daltrey's voice ranges from a powerful bluesy growl à la Howlin' Wolf to the tender vocals shared with his daughter Willow on the ballad "Everything A Heart Could Ever Want". This was his first major effort as a songwriter for his own solo career.
In 1992, Daltrey appeared in the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, singing the hard rock song "I Want It All", to pay homage to his lifelong friend Freddie Mercury, who died the previous year one day after a public announcement that he suffered from AIDS.
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.
Daltrey took on a number of other solo 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 many charities during the final concert. In 2005, Daltrey had a short weekly series on BBC Radio 2, presenting a personal choice of rock 'n' roll favourites. In 2009, Daltrey formed a new touring band.
Daltrey is talking about making a new solo album because "the Who don't do enough gigs for me. If I stop singing at the age I am now, my voice will be gone within two years. So I've got to keep it going. It's like a car engine you've got to keep running."
No Plan B/The Roger Daltrey Band
Roger Daltrey embarked on a solo tour of the U.S. and Canada on 10 October 2009, officially called the "Use It or Lose It" tour with a new band that he called "No Plan B" on the Alan Titchmarsh Show. The band included Simon Townshend on rhythm guitar and backing vocals, Frank Simes on lead guitar, Jon Button on bass guitar, Loren Gold on keyboards and Scott Devours on drums. Eddie Vedder made a guest appearance at the Seattle, WA show on 12 October. In 2010, Daltrey and No Plan B appeared for several dates with Eric Clapton, including Summerfest at Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The band also scheduled additional dates in 2010 without Clapton.
In 2011 the band performed the rock opera Tommy and other songs at a warm-up show in Bournemouth at the O2 Academy 19 March in preparation for a show scheduled at the Royal Albert Hall to benefit the Teenage Cancer Trust on 24 March. Pete Townshend played and sang as a guest at the TCT show. Later in 2011, the band scheduled the "Tommy Reborn" tour of the UK and Europe, followed by a tour of the US and Canada. Additional dates were booked in Europe and Australia for 2012. Downloads from the tour were made available through the Internet.
Non-Who songs written by Daltrey
After his first efforts at writing songs with the Who, Daltrey wrote songs almost entirely for his solo recordings or for other projects. Daltrey first co-wrote songs for his solo albums beginning with the 1977 One of the Boys, including "The Prisoner", "Satin and Lace" and "Doing it All Again." On his 1985 solo album he Under a Raging Moon, 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 the 1987 solo album Can't Wait to See the Movie, Daltrey is credited as co-writer of the tracks "Balance on Wires" and "Take Me Home." On the 1992 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 (Willow)" and "Unforgettable Opera." For his 2005 compilation album Moonlighting, Daltrey co-wrote the song "A Second Out" with Steve McEwan of the band UnAmerican. The recording features Daltrey's vocals backed by McEwan on acoustic guitar.
Daltrey's song-writing for other projects includes the 1975 soundtrack for Lisztomania, where he is credited with co-writing "Love's Dream", "Orpheus Song" and "Peace at Last." Daltrey also wrote "Child O Mine" with Gerard McMahon, featured on the soundtrack for The Banger Sisters and on the TV show Witchblade. In 2006, he wrote and performed a specially commissioned song, "Highbury Highs", for the Highbury Farewell ceremony following the final football match on 7 May at Highbury between Arsenal and Wigan Athletic, in which Arsenal celebrated the previous 93 years at Highbury, preparing for their move to the Emirates Stadium, Ashburton Grove, the following season.
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