From the voice of a generation:
…smashed his first guitar onstage, in 1964, by accident.
…heard the voice of God on a vibrating bed in rural Illinois.
…invented the Marshall stack, feedback, and the concept album.
…stole his windmill guitar-playing from Keith Richards.
…detached from his body in an airplane, on LSD, and nearly died.
…has some explaining to do.
…is the most literary and literate musician of the last fifty years.
…planned to write his memoir when he was 21.
…published this book at 67.
One of rock music’s most intelligent and literary performers, Pete Townshend—guitarist, songwriter, editor—tells his closest-held stories about the origins of the preeminent twentieth-century band The Who, his own career as an artist and performer, and his restless life in and out of the public eye in this candid autobiography, Who I Am.
With eloquence, fierce intelligence, and brutal honesty, Pete Townshend has written a deeply personal book that also stands as a primary source for popular music’s greatest epoch. Readers will be confronted by a man laying bare who he is, an artist who has asked for nearly sixty years: Who are you?
I entered Who I Am with trepidation. Autobiographies can be dangerously self-centered, filled with rationale for bad behavior. Often, they can be poorly written. Neither is true with Townshend’s book.
At times it reads as a recitation of events from a calendar. But what struck me most about Townshend was his honesty about the triumvirate of a rock god’s life, and his struggles with hidden memories of child abuse, his spiritual practice, and his love and devotion to making and writing music.
Process is one of those nebulous words which gets thrown around. Reading about others’ processes helps me understand mine. Townshend proudly discusses how much work went into his process, and how much joy it brought him.
He is also deeply honest about what an absolute horror he was. And his struggles to come to grips with any of it while living the privileged life his music afforded him. It’s also clear that without his music, Townshend’s life would have been one of complete and utter misery, with little hope for even a moment of joy.
Where would our world of music be without the influence of Pete Townshend and The Who? I’m glad we’ll never have to know.
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