One the most famous lines Pete Townshend ever wrote was “Hope I die before I get old.” Thankfully, that didn’t happen. The Who’s guitarist, main songwriter and creative mastermind turns 75 today.
The Who — which also featured singer Roger Daltrey, bassist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon — exploded on the U.K. rock scene in 1964, winning fans with their dynamic, destructive concerts and Townshend’s witty and quirky pop-rock songs like “My Generation,” “I Can’t Explain” and “Substitute.”
Pete himself became known for his iconic windmill strumming and for regularly smashing his guitar during shows. After grabbing the attention of U.S. audiences with an incendiary performance at 1967’s Monterey Pop festival, the band became an international sensation, thanks to Townshend’s imaginative 1969 rock opera, Tommy.
Townshend solidified his reputation as one of the rock world’s great songwriters with The Who’s classics-filled 1971 album Who’s Next and the acclaimed 1973 rock opera Quadrophenia, both of which were later turned into movies. Tommy also was adapted into a Tony-winning Broadway musical during the 1990s.
After drummer Moon’s untimely death in 1978, The Who continued with founding Faces drummer Kenney Jones, while Townshend also began focusing simultaneously on a solo career that included hits like “Let My Love Open the Door,” “Rough Boys” and “Face Dances, Pt. 2.”
The Who essentially disbanded after a 1983 “farewell tour,” but the band re-formed sporadically for special events like Live Aid in 1985, and for tours in 1989 and 1996. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
After Entwistle passed away in 2002, on the eve of another reunion trek, Townshend and Daltrey have continued to perform together regularly under the band’s name, accompanied by a touring band.
Last year, The Who released its first studio album in 13 years, WHO, which reached #2 on the Billboard 200. Townshend also published his first novel, The Age of Anxiety.
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