Who lead singer Roger Daltrey forged a parallel solo career beginning in 1973, when the group had begun to fall apart in the aftermath of Quadrophenia. Born March 1, 1944 in London, Daltrey grew up in the same Shepherd’s Bush neighborhood as future Who bandmates Pete Townshend and John Entwistle, performing with them as the Detours as early as his late teen years. Over time, Daltrey developed into one of rock’s most powerful lead vocalists, a position to which he staked his claim on the Who’s 1971 masterpiece Who’s Next; his on-stage persona was one of macho swagger, accompanied by such antics as twirling his microphone like a lasso.
Daltrey first traveled the solo route in 1973 with an album titled simply Daltrey, featuring mostly material penned by a then-unknown Leo Sayer that served as a departure from the Who’s signature hard rock sound. The Who reconvened for The Who by Numbers in 1975, a year that saw Daltrey release his second solo album, Ride a Rock Horse, and appear in Ken Russell’s films Lisztomania (as composer Franz Liszt) and an adaptation of Tommy (in the title role). While the Who went on hiatus for several years, Daltrey released One of the Boys in 1977 and appeared in the 1978 film The Legacy. During the Who’s post-Keith Moon era, Daltrey co-produced and starred in the film McVicar, a biography of train robber John McVicar; members of the Who appeared on its soundtrack, which essentially served as a full-fledged Daltrey album and found him bridging the gap between hard rock and the pop songs of his earlier solo work. After the Who officially disbanded in 1983, Daltrey’s solo albums became uniformly hard-rocking affairs, most notable among them 1985’s Under a Raging Moon. In addition to the Who’s 1989 reunion tour, Daltrey has since continued to act in occasional television and film roles, as well as releasing the solo album Rocks in the Head in 1992.
To celebrate turning 50, Daltrey played two nights at Carnegie Hall in 1994 and the recordings were issued later that year as A Celebration: The Music of Pete Townshend and the Who, with a companion DVD surfacing in 1998. In 1999 he performed alongside artists such as Darlene Love and Zak Starkey at a Royal Albert Hall show by an act billed as the British Rock Symphony. Fueled by a full orchestra and gospel choir, the set list consisted of classic material originally performed by the Who and their contemporaries. A related studio album followed, as did wider European and U.S. tours, before a live DVD appeared in 2000. Daltrey returned to the Albert Hall in November 2000 for the inaugural Teenage Cancer Trust benefit show. He became a patron of the charity, overseeing a run of yearly star-studded events at the venue that lasted well into the next decade.
In May 2006 he performed “Highbury Highs,” a song especially written for a ceremony to mark Arsenal’s final football game at the Highbury Stadium in North London. By 2009 he was touring the U.S. once again with a lineup that included Pete Townshend’s brother Simon, and Daltrey retained this band for a 2011 Teenage Cancer Trust performance of Tommy. In November 2013, a mere six months after his friend and former Dr. Feelgood guitarist Wilko Johnson was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Daltrey accompanied him on sessions for an album entitled Going Back Home. Featuring reinterpretations of material from throughout Johnson’s career, the record was launched with a gig at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire in February 2014. ~ Steve Huey & James Wilkinson