May 19, 1945: Pete Townshend Born

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Pete Townshend at The Who concert at NYC’s Madison Square Garden, March 3, 2016. (Photo: Best Classic Bands)

The guitarist and primary songwriter with The Who was born on May 19, 1945, in the Chiswick section of London, England into a musical family, 11 days after the end of World War II in Europe. His father Cliff was a saxophonist with the Squadronaires, the Royal Air Force dance band. His mother sang with the Sydney Torch and Les Douglass Orchestras.

In 1956, at 11 years old, Pete Townshend saw the film Rock Around The Clock, attended his first concert (by rock pioneer Bill Haley), and got his first guitar for Christmas that year from his grandmother Emma. Although his early ambition was to be a journalist, he soon after started his first band with his friend John Entwistle.

Townshend went on to forge one of the most distinguished careers in rock music both as the guitarist and primary songwriter with The Who and as a solo artist. He is also an author – he published his autobiography, Who I Am, in 2012 – and worked as an editor for the publishing house Faber and Faber in the mid 1980s.

Related: Townshend’s 10 best guitar moments with The Who


And though he’s lost two bandmates, the man who wrote in 1965 that he hoped to die before he got old in his song “My Generation” is very much alive and well as he turns 72 today.

He will return to North America with The Who for 14 dates this summer including their first Las Vegas residency. In September the band will undertake the first South American tour of their storied career.

As for new Who music, it’s anyone’s guess. “The Who’s future with recording is still in the air,” Townshend told Music Week in January 2017. “We’ve tried a lot to make records together, very much like the Stones. They did their blues album [Blue & Lonesome], which has done very well. So now everyone’s suggesting The Who should do the same! Roger and I have had a few occasions where we’ve tried to write and record together but we are more optimistic than ever before, because Roger has grown such a lot; he’s developed creatively, hugely. We’re optimistic we might be able to do something.”

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