Who Fans and Heroest

Editorial Director Hobart Rowland mulls the motivation behind senior writer J.F. Pirro’s May article on Teen Cancer America.

As a longtime fan of legendary British rock band the Who, I could relate to senior writer J.F. Pirro’s enthusiasm for his subject matter. But I also realized that many of our readers wouldn’t get it.

By “it,” I’m referring to the first draft of “Roger, Can You Hear Me?”, which was filled with insights on the Who and its lead singer, Teen Cancer America cofounder Roger Daltrey, and quotes from some of the group’s lesser-known songs. So I asked Pirro to go lighter on the Who-centric stuff in the final version, though the title of the story was my doing. It’s a thinly veiled reference to “Tommy, Can You Hear Me?”—one of the best-known tracks from the Who’s groundbreaking 1969 rock opera, Tommy. (Readers will just have to tolerate that one.)

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Beyond that, even nonfans should find the story of Bala Cynwyd-based Who devotee Howard Jaffe quite compelling. His efforts as a teen-cancer crusader are as impressive as his knowledge of his favorite band.

As for Pirro, he turns 50 on May 14, and he’ll celebrate three nights later when “The Who Hits 50!” tour arrives at the Wells Fargo Center. Two days after that, Who guitarist and primary songwriter Pete Townshend will turn 70. 

“I’ve worn my Who pride as an emblem, just as Howard Jaffe has,” says Pirro. “Fortunately, my teen years were never challenged with a cancer diagnosis, though the disease took my godmother. Townshend’s music—and the band’s persona—helped me defeat my demons in some angst-filled years. Armed with Who songs and the stories they told, I discovered independence and confidence—the very things cancer strips from teen patients.”

In telling Jaffe’s story, Pirro was really telling his own. “It’s a unique experience for a writer,” he admits. “Our journeys with the band are identical.”

ALSO IN THIS ISSUE: On a related note, associate editor Melissa Jacobs profiles our latest batch of Healthcare Heroes. This year, the assignment carried emotional weight for Jacobs. “I’d been dealing with an orthopedic injury, and I had major surgery in April,” she says. “It made me realize how lucky I am to live in an area where I can get such excellent medical care, which makes me mindful of those who are less fortunate.”

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Join us on May 7, when we honor our 2015 Healthcare Heroes at a special luncheon at Neumann University. For tickets and more information, click here

Have a safe and healthy spring.

Hobart Rowland


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