CLEVELAND (AP) — Roger Daltrey’s voice may not soar as it once did. But even after 50 years of touring he hasn’t lost his teenage spirit.
The Hall of Fame rocker, who has been an advocate for teen cancer patients for nearly three decades, visited with children, young adults and their families at Rainbow Babies Hospital on Monday. The Who’s front man toured the Angie Fowler Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Institute, which was founded in 2012 to better serve young patients while they undergo cancer treatments and following their release.
“Teenagers for so long have been overlooked,” said the 73-year-old, still on the road with longtime bandmate Pete Townshend. “Not nearly enough has been done for them.”
For years, teenage cancer patients were hospitalized on pediatric floors or placed with older patients. After consulting with doctors researching treatments and recovery, Daltrey understood the need for teens to have a place of their own, where they could recover in surroundings more suited to their interests and maturity level.
“The light went on in my head with this one,” said Daltrey, who first got involved with the Teenage Cancer Trust in 1989. “I was in the Who when I was 18 years old and without the support of this age group — adolescents and young adults — our business wouldn’t be there. The music business is built mostly with this age group. It’s an easy way for me to say, ‘Thank you.’”
During his visit, Daltrey, whose iconic voice helped make Who songs such as “My Generation,” ″Behind Blue Eyes” and “Won’t Get Fooled Again” anthems for generations of fans, spent time with young cancer patients who have benefited from their time in facilities like the one at Rainbow Babies Hospital.
Daltrey quickly connected with several of the teens, who eagerly shared stories of being diagnosed and lengthy hospital stays. He had a warm word, hug or handshake for each of them and was happy to pose for photos.
For Adam Kirk, Daltrey’s visit was a chance to meet a rock hero. The 40-year-old’s daughter, Sawyer, has been fighting leukemia for months and Daltrey’s face lit up when he saw the 1½-year-old being carried toward him. Kirk came prepared for his meeting, getting Daltrey to sign a well-worn copy of “Who’s Next,” regarded as the band’s signature album.
As he made his way around an outdoor, rooftop garden, Daltrey was approached by another dad who wanted to show his appreciation for the singer’s charitable work.
Tyson Stiles presented Daltrey with a musical gift.
While his son, Ryver, spent nearly 300 days in the hospital after being born prematurely, Stiles recorded a short album that included songs he wrote about his son’s ordeal.
“I wanted you to have a copy,” Stiles said.
“Is it any good?” Daltrey asked.
“No, it’s terrible,” Stiles quipped as both men laughed.
Later, Daltrey donated a guitar signed by him and Townshend that will be permanently displayed in the Fowler Institute’s in-patient unit.
Daltrey also shared memories of his previous visits to Cleveland. He and the Who first came to town in 1967.
“It’s a lot different than it used to be,” he said. “It was the dirtiest place I’d ever been to in my life. Everything was covered in soot. But Cleveland audiences were some of the best we ever played for.”