The musician Pete Townshend called “a genius at the highest level”

Pete Townshend

The frontman is the focal point of many rock bands. Yet, with his windmill rhythm, destructive on-stage antics, and groundbreaking album concepts. Guitarist and creative lead Pete Townshend most closely embodies the band’s spiritual outlook when it comes to The Who. He revolutionized rock music in the 1960s and 1970s, working with some of the best rhythm sections and rock vocalists in Britain.

Despite being overshadowed by bands such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in the 1960s. The Who made a name for themselves with their rock operas and energetic live shows. A new wave of songwriters was influenced by Townshend’s 1969 hit opera Tommy. Punk and metal were pioneered by the band’s high-energy live performances.

Well-known songs like “My Generation,” “Pinball Wizard,” and “Baba O’Riley” were progressive and approachable at the same time. These songs, with Townshend’s thrashing rhythm guitar and Keith Moon’s crashing percussion, shaped the heavier, more experimental edges of rock and roll. Their mass appeal also educated a new generation of pop musicians.

Elton John, who gained enormous popularity in the early 1970s after his self-titled breakthrough album, was one of the enlightened. The Rocketman is most known for his rendition of “Pinball Wizard” in Ken Russell’s Tommy film from 1975. At this juncture, Elton had developed a close friendship with Townshend.

Townshend disclosed that Elton “appears on Facetime every other morning, often when I’m in bed” in a 2023 interview with Far Out. The guitarist went on to call Elton “very smart” and sympathetic. He’s an excellent musicologist as well. He truly stays current with developments,” Townshend continued. “You see, he is sincere when he attaches himself to someone.” Even now, I catch myself acting like I like people I’m not sure I like just because they seem so damn cool.

During the interview, Townshend expressed a strong interest in any artist who has a thirst for fresh ideas and musical knowledge. He particularly focused on the recently published graphic novel adaptation of the abandoned Life House rock opera. Prince was one such performer that Townshend thought was “unbelievably cool.”

Townshend penned a succinct but heartfelt eulogy for the 57-year-old “Purple Rain” singer upon his passing in 2016: “Goodbye sweet Prince.” Superb, accredited genius at the pinnacle of ability. Far too soon.

Though their Venn diagrams did not overlap, Prince and The Who shared a lot of ground. Townshend and Prince were infatuated with elaborate performances, progressive compositions, cinematic ideas, and memorable hooks above all else. The latter trailed a bit more glitter, but from a distance, Townshend could tell he was walking with a kindred spirit.

In a 1990 interview with Guitarist magazine, Townshend stated that “intuitive players and composers” should first have an “armory” of varied talent. Before relying solely on intuition to make “quantum jumps” in the music business. “Observe someone resembling Prince. He’s got that armor,” Townshend opined. “He can compose an orchestral score, read a passage at the piano, perform a passable rendition of the Moonlight Sonata, or, if he so chooses, study Gershwin.” Then there’s this reckless, impish character that grafts on this naturally occurring waif-like feel. You create that sort of enchanted element.

Prince was a master of all trades. Townshend seems to agree with many of his peers when he describes the Purple One as “genius.” In addition to being a brilliant composer and guitarist. His recording catalog credits him with playing an astounding 27 instruments.

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