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A conversation with The Who’s Roger Daltrey: 7 life lessons

Posted by Sarah Cohen on May 24, 2017 3:25:05 PM

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Our team at Shine magazine was blown away by the chance to interview international rock star and lead singer of The Who, Roger Daltrey. Two years ago, he came to Methodist Dallas Medical Center struggling with a raspy voice and found the solutions he needed from Rajiv Pandit, MD, otolaryngologist/head and neck surgeon on the hospital’s medical staff.

The day of my interview with Roger, family and friends asked me how the interview went. As I tried to share with everyone my takeaways from that 30-minute across-the-pond phone call, I realized my responses had less to do with the throat and vocal cords and more to do with life in general — finding balance, prioritizing wellness, doing what you love.

Beyond the chat about hoarseness and high notes, I had gotten caught up in Roger’s passion for music, life, and performing. I thought you might appreciate his enthusiasm and wisdom as well. Here are seven life lessons pulled from our conversation.

  1. Remember that you are human.

“Singers tend to push too hard and work too hard just from the sheer joy of music and trying to put the attitude it needs into the music,” Roger says. “You tend to forget that you’re human.”

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in things, both good and bad. It could be our careers, our families, a hobby, even a fitness routine. But sometimes we push ourselves too much and put stresses on our bodies, minds, and emotions that are more than we can handle. At some point, you have to have a reckoning and reevaluate what is healthy, safe, and possible — and if it’s not, have a positive attitude as you move on from one thing and on to the next.

  1. Worry less.

When Roger first started experiencing voice problems eight years ago, he was 64 and began to wonder what his future might look like.

“I had to think, ‘How long could I go on for anyway? What can I do about it? If they can solve it, great. If not, I’ll have to go back to being a painter and a decorator,’” he quipped. But more seriously, he continued: “I never really worried about it; worrying doesn’t help anything. What will be will be.”

  1. Listen to your body.

From Roger’s perspective, this includes seeking help when something is wrong. He was disheartened by how many people suffer from health issues, especially when it comes to the voice,  because they never sought help while they could.

“Like everything else in medicine, if a patient is aware of any kind of problem in the speaking voice, go and have your cords checked,” he says. “So much can be done early, and if it’s not corrected then, it can become a big problem.”

When you are sick, do what it takes to get well. He’s learned this lesson from the times he’s tried to sing with a cold.

“I’ve learned that when you get a cold, just shut up and be quiet for a few weeks,” he says.

  1. Warm up and cool down.

For Roger this applied to his singing voice, but it applies to working out any muscle.

“Dr. Pandit advised me to keep my voice warm before I used it and cool it down when I’m finished — a bit like an athlete,” he says. “Singers have to think like athletes with their voices.”

  1. Do what you were meant to do the way you were meant to do it.

Roger says singing had been his life since childhood, when he sang in the church choir.

“The impact of getting my voice out was one of the most natural things in the world,” he says. “There was never of choice I would be a singer; it was whether or not I would be a successful singer. To do that, you have to hang on to yourself and create your own style. You have to create a voice that has character, that can be identified as you.”

  1. Judge your success by how you affect others.

Roger says the key to singing is not what you’re singing, but how you’re singing it.

“The whole thing about singing is the expression — not just singing notes — and expression of the word,” he says. “However you get that out, if you can move people with that, then you’re succeeding.”

The same could be said of other areas of our lives. We can say and do the right things, but people really know we care by the way we say and do them. As Maya Angelou said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

  1. Look out for others.

In our busy world, people don’t always realize when someone else is in need. Roger’s own health experiences have prompted him to speak up for others.

“Whenever I’m in the company of someone with a raspy voice, I always ask if they’ve had their vocal cords checked,” he says.

You might notice a health issue in a friend, family member, or spouse far more easily than they will. It’s important to not let that slide.

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