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Happy Birthday Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend
Rick Diamond, Getty Images

Happy Birthday to Pete Townshend, who turns 68-years-old today (May 19th) Townshend, who is the primary creative force behind the Who, wrote nearly all of the band’s music and has been responsible for crafting the stories and themes behind such rock classics as Tommy, Who’s Next, and Quadrophenia. In February, he wrapped the North American dates for the Who’s Quadrophenia & More tour, with the trek resuming next month in Europe. Last year, he published his long awaited autobiography, titled, Who I Am, to critical acclaim.

In January 2012, Townshend signed an exclusive, new publishing deal with Spirit Music Group to administer and promote his past and future songwriting catalogue. The pact also includes a long-term publishing agreement for Townshend’s upcoming projects, including new songs composed for potential solo and Who releases — as well as songs from Townshend’s upcoming multimedia piece, Floss, which is based around an aging couple. Back in 2010 he pushed back a series of Who dates to presumably complete Floss. He was quick to explain that the project is not the Who’s next “rock opera” posting on TheWho.com, “Floss is not a new Who album. It is a musical play. Some of the music might work for Roger (Daltrey) and me; I am still working on it. I reckon I have another year to go writing.”

In 2009 he had announced the Floss project by stating: “Floss will be a (sound and light) musical piece, intended for outdoor performance, or arenas. Several of the more conventional songs from Floss will be featured on a forthcoming Who recording for release in 2010. Floss will be heard in concert for the first time in 2011, at a venue and date yet to be established. I am already having talks with producers in New York.”
There is still no date set for Floss’ stage premiere.

That same year Townshend and his wife of 40 years, Karen Astley, were granted a preliminary divorce in London’s High Court. The couple had been separated since 1994. Townshend has been romantically linked with musician Rachel Fuller since 1996.

In 2006, after a 24-year-wait, Townshend wrote and produced the Who’s comeback album Endless Wire. Despite the album hitting Number Seven in the U.S. charts, Townshend has stated that he felt the album fell short of his commercial expectations, and complained that none of the songs garnered the level of airplay he had come to expect with previous Who projects.

Awhile ago, Townshend was asked why he needs grand concepts such as Tommy, Quadrophenia, and the recent Wire And Glass mini-opera, behind most of his work: “I just write. I’m just a songwriter, y’know that’s what I do. Which is why it’s very important for me to have some kind of concept to hold me down, some kind of concept to give my work shape, focus, and direction. Because I don’t feel that the Who ever had a clear brief (on what to write for them), ever, ever, ever, ever.”

Pete Townshend says that he realized very early on that the Who’s relationship with their fans differed greatly from the traditional showbiz precedents: “What we suddenly realized is that we weren’t speaking for our audience, our audience were telling us what to say. Now, that’s a very, very, different process. And it’s one that I discovered when I was very, very young, it’s one that I continue to honor today. So what I’m trying to do is, when people say to me, ‘Hey Pete, your songs are very personal. How do you think that Roger can feel about singing them?’ Roger can sing them ’cause they’re not personal at all. My songs are your songs.”

He says that he makes no apologies for veering away from rock music to dabble in theater, films and novels: “Y’know, some of those people that still to this day regard me as being pretentious because I aspire to live my life as an artist rather than a ‘cash is king’ rock n’ roll performer. If that’s pretentious, so be it.”

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