Who is he? 5 things to know about The Who’s Pete Townshend on his 75th birthday

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The Who - What you need to know

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

“I hope I die before I get old,” Pete Townshend wrote in The Who’s 1965 hit, “My Generation.” Tuesday, the band’s co-founder and guitarist turned 75.

However, Townsend always insisted his lyrics in “My Generation” were not about age, but about an attitude.

Pete Townshend wrote some of rock 'n' roll's greatest anthems.
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Pete Townshend wrote some of rock 'n' roll's greatest anthems.

Credit: Jack Kay/Daily Express/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

Credit: Jack Kay/Daily Express/Hulton Archives/Getty Images

"'My Generation'" was a complete dismissal of everything that had gone before," Townshend told Paul Holdengräber in a 2012 interview that was recorded at the New York Public Library. "It's all (expletive) and never, never, never will we have anything to do with you, or your values. In fact, what you call life is death. What you call death is life.

“'I hope I die before I get old,’ meaning I hope I die before I get old the way you are already old, even though you are young.”

Townshend has written some of rock 'n' roll's greatest anthems, including "My Generation," which was ranked No. 11 in Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all time. Townshend also penned "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Baba O'Reilly" and "I Can See for Miles."

Here are some things to know about The Who’s windmilling, instrument-bashing guitarist.

Rock operas: Townshend practically invented the concept of a rock opera with "Tommy" -- that deaf, dumb and blind kid, who sure plays a mean pinball -- and "Quadrophenia," the story of Jimmy, a young working-class mod who lived in London during the mid-1960s. Both albums were turned into films, and "Quadrophenia" played on stage in an orchestrated form in Boston, New York and Los Angeles in 2017, Variety reported. "Tommy" is scheduled to come back to Broadway in 2021, according to The New York Times.

Arts and letters: Townshend was a student at London's Ealing Art College in the early 1960s. A prolific writer, Townshend published a collection of short stories, "Horse's Neck," in 1985, which was reissued in paperback in 1998. He published an autobiography, "Who I Am," in 2012, and released his first novel, "The Age of Anxiety," in 2019.

Pete Townshend is noted for his wild, windmilling style of guitar playing.
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Pete Townshend is noted for his wild, windmilling style of guitar playing.

Credit: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Credit: Ebet Roberts/Redferns

Social distancing: Townshend and Roger Daltrey, The Who's lead singer, have known each other for 60 years. They tolerate each other, Rolling Stone reported. Daltrey and Townshend released an album in 2019, titled "Who." It's only the second album from the band in 37 years. Daltrey and Townshend recorded it in London and Los Angeles without ever being in the same room, the magazine reported. Interestingly, Townshend and Daltrey grew up in the same west London area. Their homes were about 300 yards apart, according to Rolling Stone.

Legal matter: Townshend was arrested in 2003 on suspicion of possessing images that contained indecent images of children, The New York Times reported. Townshend admitted he had accessed an internet site that advertised child pornography but claimed he did it because he was researching an autobiography that addressed his abuse as a child, the newspaper reported. In 1976, The Who founded Double O, a charity that helped people affected by drug and alcohol, domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Townshend took over the charity in 1983.

“I had experienced something creepy as a child, so you imagine: What if I was a girl of nine or 10 and my uncle had raped me every week?” Townshend said in a 2012 interview. “I felt I had an understanding and I could help.”

Townshend admitted, "What I did was insane." He said he never tried to defend himself "because there was no sense of 'truth will out,'" New Musical Express reported.

Proud achievements: Townshend told Jambase.com that musically, he was most proud of his two rock operas, but for different reasons. "'Tommy' because it is so successful and so far-reaching and is probably deeper in meaning than most critics allow," he said. "'Quadrophenia' because it is pure music, nothing more, and yet so many people have told me it reflects something they felt changed the way they felt about their early years."

Pete Townshend and The Who were noted for their onstage theatrics.
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Pete Townshend and The Who were noted for their onstage theatrics.

Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images