Look Who's a teenage lifesaver

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sun Mar 22 13:46:40 UTC 2009

>From the Lake County News on Sunday:

Look Who's a teenage lifesaver
MUSIC | Daltrey now helps kids fight cancer

BY STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN szimmermann at suntimes.com [see separate post "Roger & Me]
March 22, 2009 

After a rock career spanning more than four decades, you'd think Roger Daltrey of the Who would be resting somewhere on a beach. But the charismatic singer is busier than ever, having just received the Kennedy Center Honors in December and organizing this week's Concerts for the Teenage Cancer Trust (Tuesday and Wednesday at Royal Albert Hall in London).

Besides his work on the Teenage Cancer Trust shows -- which have raised more than 5 million British pounds (about $7 million U.S.) since he started doing them in 2000 -- Daltrey and Pete Townshend performed in November for Michael J. Fox's charity concert, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's. His extensive charitable work helped earned him the title of Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2004.

Just before his 65th birthday last month, Daltrey talked about music, Chicago, his charitable work and what it's like to age gracefully as a rock star:

Q.What was it like to receive the American arts establishment's highest recognition at the Kennedy Center Honors? 

A. It was very humbling. It was a fun weekend and I just threw myself into it and partied. It was great to not to have to do the work or entertain people -- they get to entertain you.

Q. How was it, hanging out with former President Bush?

A. You know, it was weird because you have preconceptions of how people are, and of course, politics is such a dirty game. And, you know, I was kind of questioning whether I -- because I loathe some of Bush's decisions as a politician. And then I met the man, and I kind of felt in a lot of ways sorry for him -- you know, a man wrongly advised. ... But as a human being, he was incredibly gracious.

Q. The DVD you just released last year -- "The Who at Kilburn: 1977" -- is such a treasure because it contains one of the last live performances by the late drummer Keith Moon. But at the time, the band wasn't happy with it?

A. They were painful days for us, because Keith was in such a bad way. ... At the time, when you're in the thick of it, and knowing that Moon was barely going to make the show because he was in such a state -- but then there are those wonderful shots of when he's singing and playing and he's never more alive. And that was the part of Keith that we loved so much, that joy in him and that child in him. But also that child could be a terribly, terribly destructive spoiled brat, so it was -- oh, it was a roller coaster.

Q. The Who has a huge fan base in Chicago. What's your take on our city?

A. We love Chicago. I've spent quite a bit of time there. I did a film there, an English film there once ["Cold Justice," a 1989 film in which he played an ex-prizefighter on the South Side], so I actually lived there for two months, and that was great. ... I just like the people. They're not wacky like they are in L.A., and it's a little bit more relaxed than New York ... and I love the architecture.

Q. Is it surreal for you to know that there are people in their 40s and 50s, who have families, careers, responsibilities, etc., who can hear a Who song on the radio and instantly be transported to their teen years? Those songs seemed to capture teen angst in a way other bands did not.

A. Townshend wrote very introspectively, didn't he? But an introspection from the perception that, you know, everybody's going through this. He had the knack of writing what everybody was feeling. And like you're saying, he was incredibly articulate and intelligent, so there was an intelligence to his writing. It wasn't just pure pop.

Q. Do you have a favorite Who song?

A. No. If I had to have one I could live with, it would be "Behind Blue Eyes." On my desert island if I was tortured enough and they would give me a Who track to take away with me, that would be the one that I could at least live with the most.

Q. You're very involved with the Teenage Cancer Trust.

A. It's my main job these days. I was determined to do something and really leave a mark, rather than -- so many charities, they never see any result. The money just kind of seems to disappear. ... 

I found a charity that helps the people who gave me my life, really. Without teenagers, we wouldn't have had a career. I'm on target to do what I set out to do, to build all the hospitals we need to cover every teenager in [the U.K.]. Every teenager that gets cancer in this country, hopefully by 2012, will be covered by one of our units. Which keeps them out of being on a children's unit or on a geriatric unit, which is not really conducive to a teenager with cancer. ...

I think you could do it in America, really. Over here it's taken -- if we get it done by 2012, it will have taken us 20 years, to build the units and keep them going. But then we were starting from just an idea. But now we've got the model; we can go to America and say, this is what we're finding by treating teenagers in this way, we're finding that on the same medication that you give them without what we provide -- which is the environment -- we're getting a 15 percent improvement on your success rates.

Q. If you did a similar effort in the United States, how would it work?

A. I'm quite willing to come over once the thing would be formed with the people that can run a proper foundation. I don't want any Mickey Mouse things, because it's a serious job to do. I'm quite willing to come over and do the early groundwork and sell the thing to the public. Again, all it is, is about inspiring people. Don't just sit there and moan about your health system. Get out there and change it. ... What I've got to have in place is someone to take it over, like an Eddie Vedder or a Bruce Springsteen or a Dave Grohl -- they're all having children now who are all going to become teenagers. 

Q. Speaking of health, you were one of the first healthy rock stars, long before it was fashionable. 

A. Because [Townshend's] lyrics were what they were, you couldn't slur them and they couldn't become incoherent like so many songs that you listen to, because they are so important. ... You have to develop some kind of identity and a vocal for that, to make what he's saying have its own presence. So that demanded an awful lot of energy in the voice. 

So to do that, you've got to be a good singer, and to be a good singer, you have to be in good health. I suffered a lot of stomach surgery when I was a kid, which made me really have to eat properly. ... And I got lucky and I didn't take any of the chemical drugs, apart from sleeping pills, which I did get hooked on. And that was just from touring, because you get so wound up and the singers don't sleep. So the only drugs I've really been addicted to were bloody prescription drugs. And I used to have a puff of pot, you know. But I think most of my marbles are still here and the ones that I don't know about, I don't care about. (laughs)

Q. You seem like such a nice guy for a rock star.

A. Well, it's so easy to be awful to people, isn't it? I've seen too much in life where it's so easy to crush people. So I just try and make every day a bit better than yesterday. If we could go through life like that, we'd all be doing all right.

-Brian in Atlanta
The Who This Month!


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