“My Generation” (1965) is a song by the English rock band The Who, which became a hit and one of their most recognisable songs. It was a famous statements of youthful rebellion in rock history which “encapsulated the angst of being a teenager”.
Pete Townshend said he jotted it down on a train ride from London to Southampton on May 19, 1965 – his 20th birthday. He said it dealt with trying to find a place in society and was written to recognize the Mod counterculture, those rebellious British youths who thought that older people didn’t understand them
When he got older, he was asked to explain the meaning of the famous line, “I hope I die before I get old”, and he maintained he did not want to talk about physical age, but about an attitude, and that “old” meant “very rich.”
He also said he had been ‘inspired’ by the Queen Mother who was offended by the sight of his 1935 Packard Hearse parked in a street in Belgravia. Since she didn’t what to see it again during her daily drive through the neighbourhood, she ordered to have it towed
Roger Daltrey sang the lead vocals with a stutter, which was very unusual. Various stories exist as to the reason for this distinct delivery. One is that the song began as a slow talking blues number without the stutter but after being inspired by John Lee Hooker’s “Stuttering Blues,” Townshend reworked the song into its present form.
Another reason is that the singer was asked to do so in order to sound like a British kid on speed, frustrated because misunderstood, or to capture the anger and emotion of his troubled generation
According to Daltrey, though, the real reason is much simpler. He stuttered in the studio on early takes because he had not rehearsed the song prior to the recording, therefore he felt nervous. He was having trouble with the lyrics, and the stammering came about as he tried to fit the text to the music as best he could.
The BBC initially refused to play “My Generation” because they did not want to offend people with stutters, but when it became a huge hit, they reversed their decision
Parents considered the song full of contempt for traditional values, disregard for life, and mockery of the experience and wisdom that come with age. In addition, the performance always ended with the smashing of a guitar.
But while parents hated it, young people went crazy for the song, which became enormously influential and expressed their alienation and their demand for a voice, It grew into an anthem of generational contempt and rebellion, a declaration of disgust for age and everything that came with it.
But isn’t there something a bit strange about a song that celebrates the young and denounces the old and then survives more than half a century?
When The Who re-recorded their hit for “Ready Steady Who”, unlike earlier versions, they ended the song with a chaotic rendition of Edward Elgar’s “Land of Hope and Glory”, the hymn that usually accompanies high school graduates towards adulthood.
As regards the line “I hope I die before I get old”, if it is considered in that context, it does mean that aging deadens people, leaving them cold and incapable of understanding young people, who are more vital, an idea which was compatible with England’s “mod” youth culture of the late 1950s to mid-1960s.
However researchers on aging have reached a stunning conclusion: contrary to widespread belief, people tend to grow happier as they age. A 2006 University of Michigan study revealed that we exaggerate the joy of youth—even our own—and we are wrong to believe that we grow unhappier as we approach old age. Happiness has little to do with age and, as time goes on, people seem to get better at managing life’s ups and downs, and the result is that we become happier, even though our objective circumstances, such as our health, decline.