Best Roger Daltrey Songs: 20 Career-Defining Cuts From The Pinball Wizard
Our tribute to arguably the greatest rock singer, from Who classics and live favorites to more recent solo projects.
In May 1971, The Who were in London’s Olympic Studios recording “Join Together,” which came out a year later as a single in both the UK and America. Pete Townshend’s lyrics include the line, “It’s the singer not the song that makes the music move along.” And that is so true of the way that Roger Daltrey, born on March 1, 1944, has propelled the Who from his position out front of the band. He’s arguably the greatest rock singer that has fronted any group in that same half-century and this is our tribute to best Roger Daltrey songs.
Listen to the best Roger Daltrey songs on Apple Music and Spotify.
Where else could we start than with “My Generation,” steered by Roger’s unique stuttering vocal that is one of the greatest singles to be released in the 1960s. Not far behind it is “Pinball Wizard” from Tommy, which also has Daltrey in imperious form. Our third Who single to open this playlist is “I Can See For Miles,” another great driving vocal.
“Behind Blue Eyes” comes from the Who’s fifth album, Who’s Next and it demonstrates the maturing of Roger’s voice; in fact, it is one of his finest ever rock-god vocals. The same can be said of “Love Reign O’er Me” from Quadrophenia. “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is another from the god-like rock locker. You can just see Roger marching as he sings this powerful vocal, and the scream towards the end is one of the finest moments in all rock. Here we see the band in all their glory, performing the song in Texas in 1975.
One of Daltrey’s great gifts is that he seems able to reproduce his powerful recorded vocals on stage, making it seem effortless in the process. “Summertime Blues” from Live At Leeds is just perfection. His rendition of “See Me, Feel Me/Listening To You” from a Canadian concert is among the best versions of these moments from Tommy that the band has released.
“Baba O’Reilly” was a standout from the landmark Who’s Next and the version from a concert at Shepperton, London in May 1978 is another outstanding example of the brilliance behind the best Roger Daltrey songs. Another non-Townshend song we’ve included is Bo Diddley’s “I’m A Man,” which harks back to the band’s early blues influences and has Roger giving it his all, on one of the greatest covers of this blues classic.
According to the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne, “You don’t realize how great a singer Roger Daltrey is until you try to do it yourself.” That compliment could apply especially to “The Real Me” from Quadrophenia. In a similar voice, “Who Are You,” the hit single from the album of the same name, bears out Coyne’s assertion. It’s also one of those songs that converted many a non-believer that The Who are the greatest rock band in the world.
“We’re Not Going To Take It” became one of the highlights of the group’s Woodstock Festival appearance in 1969, but we’ve chosen the Tommy original, which spotlights both sides of Daltrey’s voice, from bombast to beauty. “Slip Kid” comes from the 1976 album The Who By Numbers and might not be the most obvious song to include, but it features Daltrey showing how controlled his vocals can be.
“I Can’t Explain” is 20-year-old Roger, and while it may not match the power of our other selections, just listen to it in context. Try hearing it alongside other 1965 pop singles and you hear the vocal brilliance when compared to the kind of dull material that was being churned out by most groups of the time.
Quadrophenia’s “5.15” is another of Roger’s turbocharged rock-god vocals, and the same can be said of the aforementioned “Join Together,” where the absolute pinnacle is just after the final verse. Roger hits a high note while singing, “well everybody come on” that seems otherwordly.
Then come two tracks from Roger’s outstanding collaboration with British guitar hero Wilko Johnson, 2014’s Going Back Home, which became the highest-charting album either of them had had in decades. We feature the title song, written by Roger and Mick Green, and the frontman’s intuitive interpretation of Bob Dylan‘s “Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window.”
From 2018, and the new solo album that took Daltrey into the UK top ten, we have the title song “As Long As I Have You.” It was a glorious and uplifting reminder of his R&B roots and his ability to combine rock and soul, this time on a cover of the Garnet Mimms song from 1964.
Perhaps there’s only one song that could end a list of the best Roger Daltrey songs and it is “The Song Is Over” from Who’s Next. It’s majestic, at times gentle, at others unbelievably tough and it has everything that makes Roger Daltrey brilliant. His voice is every bit as powerful as Pete’s guitar sound and his gift is to be whatever Pete has written for him to sing. He becomes Townshend’s characters and as Roger says, “That’s why I shut my eyes when I sing — I’m in another space, and the characters are living in me.”
Looking for more? Discover “Pinball Wizard”: The Magic Moment Behind The Who’s “Tommy”
March 1, 2015 at 9:17 pm
I love you Rog. You’re my sweet babboo. 🙂 Big hugs & nose kisses on your special day!
March 1, 2015 at 9:24 pm
Great list, but Pete sings Eminence Front…
March 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm
We had a brain fade! We know that, what were we thinking of!
March 1, 2015 at 9:26 pm
Eminence Front is *not* Roger singing – it’s Pete on the vocals. I would include “Water” and “Naked Eye” and of course “Summertime Blues” from Live at Leeds.
March 1, 2015 at 9:37 pm
As we said, a moment of madness… Summertime Blues was on our original short list!
March 27, 2015 at 7:13 am
Absolutely, I Was going to say three same thing!
March 1, 2015 at 9:53 pm
His vocals on his second solo album, Ride a Rock Horse, are exemplary, whether you’re a fan of the album or not!
March 1, 2015 at 10:22 pm
Laura, we agree, it was not on Spotify, so we couldn’t include it.
March 6, 2015 at 1:59 am
actually, ride a rock horse IS on spotify! listening to it now.
March 1, 2015 at 10:20 pm
I saw you guys n 75 82 an all through the years u r band rocks just love babaoreily,bad ass song thanks and happy birthday!!!
March 1, 2015 at 10:24 pm
Tea And Theatre from Endless Wire shows how well his voice has aged. Class! And I have to agree with Laura Z’s reference to Ride A Rock Horse. Try giving ‘Proud’ a listen. In spite of being self deprecating at times I think it’s fair to say that no one has sung any song better than he sings Behind Blue Eyes, though. That would have to be my choice from your list.
March 1, 2015 at 11:19 pm
Agreed. Also, listen to Bitter and Twisted from the McVicar soundtrack.
March 1, 2015 at 10:29 pm
Rog & Pete must have been rather disappointed that “Won’t Get Fooled again” failed to ‘spark the revolution’ at the time of it’s release.
Given our current socio-political climate, and the forthcoming general election…Now is undoubtedly the appropriate time to re-release that record … in the hope that it will encourage the electorate to actually ‘think for themselves’ ! (Along with The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s “Anthem”…The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” is one of the greatest songs ever recorded…Fact ! )
March 1, 2015 at 11:20 pm
Real good looking boy
March 1, 2015 at 11:55 pm
I would have included You Better, You Bet & Pure and Easy in the top 20. I think Roger’s vocals are superb here.
March 2, 2015 at 12:16 am
I much prefer the “real” Who albums, ending with “Who Are You,” but his singing on “Man in a Purple Dress” is special.
March 2, 2015 at 2:20 am
” Put the Money Down “
March 2, 2015 at 6:02 am
Roger is up there with the voices of Jackson Browne, Jon Anderson, and David Gilmore!
March 2, 2015 at 4:20 pm
” The song is over” is almost totally sang by Pete. I’d include, instead, “Imagine a man” and “How many friends have i really got”( they say Keith broke into tears listening it) from The Who by Numbers, but how could we forget “Naked eye” and above all “Water” from Who’s Next?
March 2, 2015 at 7:09 pm
Magig Bus from Live at Leeds is my favorite.
March 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm
I love the Live at Leeds album and all that it presents; there are some stand outs but the whole is just on another level and it was live.
March 4, 2015 at 2:50 am
The Naked Eye Live from Toronto 1982 is my favorite, check it out. P.S. anything live by THE WHO is awesome
March 12, 2015 at 12:01 pm
When it comes to Roger’s vocals, we shouldn’t forget songs like Tea and Theatre which show just how well his voice still retains its emotional power (well, as at 2006 though, having seen The Who in December I can confirm he’s still got it, and very much so).
March 26, 2015 at 3:33 pm
EITHER “THINKING” OR “GIVING IT ALL AWAY” FROM THE FIRST SOLO ALBUM!
OR, “SAY IT AIN’T SO, JOE” FROM HIS SECOND SOLO ALBUM. ALL POWERFUL SONGS WHICH SHOWCASE HIS RANGES VERY NICELY WITHOUT GETTING LOST BEHIND THE INSTRUMENTS!
March 28, 2015 at 12:08 am
“Waiting For A Feiend”,…AWESOME
March 28, 2015 at 12:10 am
That should have been “Waiting For A Friend”
March 2, 2018 at 5:05 am
That’s a Rolling Stones song.
June 22, 2015 at 10:23 pm
not that a year later anyone will see this, however, id like to bring up that Paul Rodgers of Bad Company’s voice still sounds as it did when he was younger, ,so why is not on lists like this? he is a good singer, it seems only the ones that can hit a certain high note, when they were young, they cant now, make these lists, Roger here is about the only other singer who doesnt that has a list.. please make one for Paul, you can use all of his bands.. I think in 2015 his voice is better than Rogers.. This has nothing to do with the lyrics that Pete wrote btw.. voice only!! oh should I put FACT..lol.. like some here do.. its not its an opinion, just as Mickie says his choice of best song ever is a FACT ..[lease.. music is subjective to the listener.. FACT that is a fACT!! all the rest is just my opinion..
June 26, 2015 at 10:34 pm
Young Man Blues is top 5 Roger. Listen to it
November 19, 2016 at 1:58 am
Daltrey is just simply THE BEST Rock singer. One song missing from the list though…Dr. Jimmy from Quad.
March 2, 2018 at 4:08 am
Avenging Annie from his solo work from One of the Boys