It's a well-documented fact that the Who were Pete Townshend's band. He wrote the songs. He played their guitar riffs. He supplied their increasingly complex concept albums with twisty narratives. But Townshend wasn't much of a singer. And Keith Moon was a way better drummer. So while the Who may have been his band, he needed the other members. Without Moon, John Entwistle and, especially, Roger Daltrey, they weren't the Who.
Daltrey was the band's voice, the powerhouse frontman who helped define what swaggering rock gods looked and sounded like. It's no coincidence that our list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Songs looks a lot like a rundown of the band's all-time best.
"I Can't Explain"Single (1965)
The Who's debut single is powered by Townshend's raging guitar riff. But Daltrey doesn't just settle into the background for the two-plus minutes. His voice would get bigger and bolder over the next few years (just look at the rest of our list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Songs for proof), but this scrappy start is filled with shades of confidence. He rides the riff like an expert surfer.
"Behind Blue Eyes"From: 'Who's Next' (1971)
This ballad from Who's Next is somewhat misleading. At first, Daltrey tunes down his rock-god vocal as he gets all reflective over pretty acoustic guitar chords. Then at about the two-minute mark, everyone plugs in and amps up their performance, including Daltrey, who breaks out of his haze just long enough to deliver his lines with characteristic thunder.
"Long Live Rock"From: 'Odds & Sods' (1974)
This leftover from Townshend's abandoned Lifehouse project (which evolved into Who's Next) features the guitarist singing the verses. Daltrey shows up to spar on the choruses and bridge, pulling the song to its rightful place among rock's great tributes to itself. "Long Live Rock" eventually ended up on the 1974 rarities set Odds & Sods as its centerpiece.
"The Real Me"From: 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
By the time the Who made their second rock opera Quadrophenia in 1973, Daltrey's voice had become rock 'n' roll legend. But he didn't just kick back and bask in the golden glory: This double-record epic features some of his greatest performances (see Nos. 4 and 2 on our list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Songs). "The Real Me" serves as a musical and thematic link to the album's 17 songs. Thanks to Daltrey's monumental vocal, there's no missing its significance.
"Baba O'Riley"From: 'Who's Next' (1971)
"Baba O'Riley" is one of rock's all-time great album openers and one of the Who's best songs. The looped opening synthesizer riff, violin solo and Townshend's "teenage wasteland" bridge play a huge part in its greatness; otherwise, it would be higher on our list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Songs. Still, the singer drives one of this group's most popular tracks with his soaring vocal turn.
"Who Are You"From: 'Who Are You' (1978)
The final album by the original lineup is spotty, but the title track is one of the band's best songs, a throwback rocker with a few musical nods to the late '70s. The entire band is on, from Townshend's mid-song detour to Moon's typically stumbling drumming. But Daltrey steals "Who Are You" with one of his finest he-man vocals -- the last great one of his career.
"5.15"From: 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
Like "The Real Me" (see No. 7 on our list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Songs), '5.15''s musical motif plays a big part in Quadrophenia's concept. Daltrey was in total rock-god pose during this era, and almost every word he sang came out turbocharged. "5.15" features one of his fiercest performances; even the riffing horns get out of his way for this one.
"My Generation"From: 'My Generation' (1965)
Daltrey had no idea he'd be singing the Who's youth anthem long after he got old. Maybe he wouldn't have been so cocky had he known he'd still be singing Townshend's immortal words so many decades later. And maybe he wouldn't have chosen to sing them in that notable stutter that sounds like an audible middle finger to everything uptight and ancient. But lucky for us Daltrey didn't think about any of that when he was a cocky, stuttering 21-year-old punk.
"Love Reign O'er Me"From: 'Quadrophenia' (1973)
The last song on the Who's 1973 concept album is also the record's centerpiece, a showcase for Daltrey's powerful pipes. He belts out the choruses with rock-god aplomb but saves the throat-shredding majesty for the song's final minute or so, cartwheeling through a series of vocal acrobatics that cement his rep as one of rock's all-time greatest singers.
"Won't Get Fooled Again"From: 'Who's Next' (1971)
Like "Baba O'Riley" (see No. 6 on our list of the Top 10 Roger Daltrey Who Songs), "Won't Get Fooled Again" includes plenty of band highlights: Townshend's rolling synth loop, Moon's wild-man drumming, etc. But it's Daltrey's commanding vocal throughout the song that dominates almost the entire eight minutes. His scream near the end of the song ranks as rock's all-time greatest, a cathartic howl that sums up the primal rage at the core of the Who's best music.