Study Guide

My Generation

My Generation Introduction

In a Nutshell

Pete Townshend was only 20 years old when he wrote "My Generation." Decades later, the song and its most famous line—"I hope I die before I get old"—is still played and still covered. It's easy to understand why: The song is as simple, musically and lyrically, as it is powerful.

But there's something a bit strange about a song that celebrates the young and denounces the old surviving this long—almost half a century. And there's more than a little irony in young musicians paying tribute to the song's writer, Pete Townshend, by repeating his most famous line.

"My Generation" is a great song by a great band. But its message and its legacy are worth thinking about.

About the Song

ArtistWho, The
Year1965
LabelDecca (U.S.), Brunswick (UK)
Writer(s)Pete Townshend
Producer(s)Shel Talmy
Musician(s)Roger Daltrey (lead vocals), Pete Townshend (guitar, back-up vocals), John Entwistle (bass, back-up vocals), Keith Moon (drums)
Learn to play
AlbumMy Generation

Music Video

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Influences on Who, The

John Lee Hooker
Bo Diddley
Hank Marvin
Link Wray
Mose Allison
Ray Charles
Jimmy Smith
Henry Purcell

Influenced by Who, The

Led Zeppelin
Green Day
Aerosmith
Black Sabbath
Queen
Van Halen
AC/DC
Deep Purple
Lynyrd Skynyrd
Nirvana
The Clash
The Ramones
The Sex Pistols
Pearl Jam

My Generation Resources

Books

Dave Marsh, Before I Get Old: The Story of the Who (1983)
First published in 1983 (and never revised), this book leaves more recent ground uncovered. But music critic Dave Marsh's book still provides the best coverage of the band's origins and early years.

Mark Wilkerson, Who Are You: The Life of Pete Townshend (2008)
Wilkerson adds new material in this latest edition of his biography of Townshend. Detailed, and in places even dense, the book explores events through 2007. Although focused on Townshend, it provides a nice companion to Marsh's treatment of the Who's earlier years.

Albums

My Generation (1965)
The critics liked the Who's debut album more than they did. Rushed into production after their chart success with the singles "I Can't Explain," "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere," and "My Generation," the album includes the much-covered "The Kids Are Alright."

A Quick One (1966)
This album is perhaps most important as a sign of things to come. It includes less R&B and more pop/rock, a ten-minute mini-opera, and a hit-single ("Happy Jack") that anticipated some of the themes of Tommy.

Tommy (1969)
The first real rock opera, the album, written almost entirely by Townshend, is an epic contribution to rock and roll. Several songs became singles hits—"Pinball Wizard," "I'm Free," "See Me, Feel Me/Listening to You."

Live at Leeds (1970)
Considered by many to be the greatest rock and roll live album ever recorded. The original vinyl contained a 14-minute version of "My Generation." Re-released as a CD in 1995, the expanded recording offers an exhausting set of high-octane performances.

Images

The Album
The Who, My Generation, 1965.

The Who at Woodstock
John Entwistle, Roger Daltrey, Keith Moon, and Pete Townshend.

And Another Guitar Bites the Dust
Pete Townshend finishes up a performance.

Movies & TV

The Who: Tommy and Quadrophenia Live with Special Guests (1989)
Elton John, Phil Collins, Billy Idol, Patti LaBelle, and Steve Winwood join the Who for this 1989 performance of Tommy at Los Angeles' Universal Amphitheatre. The performance of Quadrophenia was filmed during the 1996 to '97 tour.

The Who: Live at the Isle of Wight Festival (1970)
There are a half dozen Who concert films to draw from, but this is the earliest and the best.

Websites

"Official" Site
A bit below average as far as "official" websites" go. But it does include a detailed timeline as well as usable biographies of band members.

The Hypertext Who
This unofficial site is loaded with information—biographies, a year-by-year history of the band, and access to a long list of articles and interviews.

Video & Audio

"My Generation"
Here's our song of the hour in all its Who glory.

The Who Interviewed (1989)
Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, and John Entwistle interviewed on Good Morning America in 1989.