The Who’s Pete Townshend: Philosemite And Israel Supporter

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The Forward has more in an article entitled The Secret Jewish History of The Who:

pete townshendWho, the English rock group, recently launched their 50th anniversary world tour, saying that it will be their last — a claim they have been making since at least 1982. On this tour, the Who are mostly performing their best-known hits and fan favorites, including songs like “Pinball Wizard” from their rock opera, “Tommy.”

If the group’s visionary songwriter and guitarist Pete Townshend had had his way, “Tommy” — an allegory about a traumatized messiah — would not have been the band’s first rock opera. Following a visit to Caesarea, Israel in 1966 with his first wife, Karen Astley, and the subsequent outbreak of the Six-Day War, Townshend began work on “Rael,” a song cycle loosely based on Israel’s struggle to survive despite being massively outnumbered by its enemies. “Rael” — short for “Israel” — got sidetracked, partly due to the demands of the Who’s record company for faster delivery of more hit singles, and “Rael” was consigned to the shelf. The only song that has surfaced from that project is called “Rael” and appears on the late 1967 album, “The Who Sell Out.”

A deeper examination of who Pete Townshend is, which he provides in his aptly titled autobiography, “Who I Am,” reveals a man who, while not Jewish himself, has great empathy for the Jewish people and who sees the world very much through the eyes of a Jewish-influenced character.

The son of musicians with a tempestuous marriage, Townshend in his early years was shuffled around among relatives, friends and neighbors while his parents came and went, carrying on relationships outside of their marriage. In his autobiography, Townshend waxes nostalgic not for the comfort of his family, but for the Jewish world that protected him: “We shared our house with the Cass family, who lived upstairs and, like many of my parents’ closest friends, were Jewish. I remember noisy, joyous Passovers with a lot of Gefilte fish, chopped liver and the aroma of slow-roasting brisket.”

After a stint being raised by his grandmother, a period during which he was abused by her and the parade of boyfriends tramping in and out of her flat, he returned home to his parents. Again, his surroundings gave him the most security and happiness: “I was seven, and happy to be home again, back in the noisy flat with a toilet in the back yard and the delicious aroma of Jewish cooking from upstairs. It was all very reassuring.”

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Unlike other fellow British rockers, most notably Roger Waters and Elvis Costello, who are vocal supporters of a cultural boycott of Israel, Townshend holds a pro-Israel stance, as he told the same Rolling Stone interviewer regarding the Who’s album, “Endless Wire,” a 10-song “mini-opera” about kids forming a rock band in the post-9/11 world.

And where are we today? We’re in the same anti-Semitic apologetic denial — it’s a dishrag of a policy. Trying to blame Israel for defending a country we created. And I’m not even Jewish! Jesus f—king Christ. And let’s start with him! Sweet Jesus. This album absolutely had to have several songs about Jesus the man, Muhammad the man, but not modern Christianity or Islam. They are both potentially anti-Semitic today. And I think the fact is that, when I was working on this album I just thought, ‘It’s f—king about time that I completed my story.’ At this time in my life, with nuclear threats coming from Iran and Korea, I am becoming so impatient with the ex-hippies all around me. I am suddenly thinking like an extreme reactionary, right-wing, warmongering… F—king hell, come inside my brain! The incredible numbers of dead in the last war make it clear that we can’t afford to wait to be hit again. That’s my opinion. That’s my story. Peace is something that has to be made. It doesn’t come from passivity.

Then there’s this from 2012:

Pete Townshend admits, during an interview with ABC’s Jonathan Karl, that “I’m a bit of a neocon.”

The Who’s top guy also says he believed Mitt Romney was going to win the last presidential election. “I thought he was throwing the money in such buckets,” Townshend says. “And I thought Obama looked tired–because the hurricane must have come like a sock in the chops. I mean, the actual detail of having to deal with all of that stuff in the middle of a campaign.”

“I try to stay away from American politics, I’m a bit of a neocon,” Townshend admits, going on to praise America for being the world’s police force.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Roger Waters!



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