Roger profile in The Telegraph
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 8 06:47:30 CDT 2008
Roger Daltrey: rock legend who strikes a chord
Roger Daltrey is back on stage, and it's all in a good cause, says Judith
A group of teenagers is gathered in a room that could have come straight
from the Big Brother house, with its trendy wallpaper and funky modern chairs. A
huge plasma television screen is playing MTV while many are chatting to friends
via webcams, playing computer games or browsing through Facebook.
It could be any well-appointed youth club, were it not for the rows of
metal-framed beds, the drips on stands and the shelves of medical equipment. And
the fact that rock legend Roger Daltrey is perched on the arm of a chair
chatting to a 16-year-old about rugby.
That boy may not know much about The Who, but it is thanks to the band's
frontman that he is being treated on a state-of-the-art Teenage Cancer Trust
ward. For the past eight years, Daltrey has raised more than £4.5 million for
specialist units such as this, most notably by establishing an annual series of
concerts at the Royal Albert Hall.
The 2008 Teenage Cancer Trust season kicks off today with Madness and
includes an evening of comedy hosted by Noel Fielding of The Mighty Boosh as
well as gigs by Paul Weller, Duffy, Muse, and Joan Armatrading, plus an acoustic
set by Daltrey and Pete Townsend.
"I've done a lot of charity work, but there's something about the plight of
these teenagers that affects me very deeply," says Daltrey, himself a father of
eight by various relationships. "Without teenagers I wouldn't have had a career,
for a start, so I want to give something back. It's also more than that. I meet
these kids who are going through adolescence, which is psychologically hard, and
they're also facing gruelling treatment. But they display a courageous spirit
that's very humbling. Then I look at their parents' faces and see the pain and
fear and it breaks my heart."
Six teenagers are diagnosed with cancer in Britain every day, adding up to
2,000 cases a year and the numbers are on the increase - up 50 per cent over the
past 30 years - although experts still don't know why. There are now more
teenagers than children with cancer, yet 70 per cent of them have no access to a
Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) ward.
"It's appalling that teenagers with cancer are so overlooked by the NHS,"
says Daltrey. "They get stuck in the middle and are neglected. Under the current
system they are treated in the same wards as much older cancer patients who are
dying, or even in baby wards, which they find completely alienating."
There are currently nine TCT units. Four more will open this year and the
aim of the charity is to treat every young person with cancer on a teenage ward.
That means opening a further 15 units, at a cost of more than £2 million
Daltrey, who was made a CBE in 2005 for both his music and charity work, is
now 64, but he looks a startling 20 years younger. He's been married to his
second wife, Heather, (mother to four of his children) for 37 years, and credits
his good health to "lots of walking and even more sha-----". The man who once
screamed he hoped he'd die before he got old has also been dedicating himself to
his new hobby; a 45?x?25ft model railway in his attic. "I have a great bunch of
friends who come over - men of a certain age. We have a laugh."
Yet Daltrey isn't remotely ready to retire. In July he and Townsend will
fly to the United States to be honoured at the VH1 Rock Awards. Later, there
will be tours of Japan, Australia and America. "These days I play for free, it's
the schlepping about that I get paid for," says Daltrey. "Performing isn't a
problem, it's the travelling that's exhausting."
For now, he is focused on the TCT concerts; he's always gratified when big
names lend their support.
"Most people are really positive and if they can't make it one year they'll
come back to me the next," he says. "The biggest surprise is that the boy bands
and the youngsters are the last to put up; maybe they're more ruled by their
managers and don't get to make their own decisions, which is a shame.
"In the current climate everyone is tightening their belts, but we really
need to sell tickets and get people to these shows - not only will they see
great gigs, but they'll be making a tangible difference to teenagers' lives at a
time when they need someone to reach out and help them."
Roger Daltrey's week of shows for the Teenage Cancer Trust are at the Royal Albert Hall from April 8 to 13. Tickets are still available. Visit www.teenagecancertrust.org
-Brian in Atlanta
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