"Baba O'Riley" is a song by the English rock band The Who, written by Pete Townshend. Roger Daltrey sings most of the song, with Pete Townshend singing the middle eight: "Don't cry/don't raise your eye/it's only teenage wasteland". The title of the song is derived from this combination of the song's philosophical and musical influences: Meher Baba and Terry Riley.
Drummer Keith Moon had the idea of inserting a violin solo at the coda of the song, during which the style of the song shifts from crashing rock to an Irish folk-style beat. Dave Arbus, of East of Eden, plays the violin in one of the most recognizable solos in popular music. In concert, lead singer Roger Daltrey replaces the violin solo with a harmonica solo. The Who have produced a live version of the song with a violin, provided by Nigel Kennedy, during their 27 November 2000 concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
Noted for its innovative fusion of the Who's hard rock sound and early electronic music experimentation by Townshend inspired by minimalist composer Terry Riley, and for its crashing chorus coupled with repeating F-C-Bb power chords, the song has been a perennial favorite on classic rock radio stations as well as a concert staple for the band.
The song's iconic backing track was derived from deep within the Lifehouse concept. Townshend wanted to input the life information of Meher Baba into a synthesizer, which would then generate music based on that information. That music would have been the backing track for "Baba O'Riley," but in the end, the frenetic sequence was played by Townshend on a Lowrey Berkshire Deluxe TBO-1 organ using its marimba repeat feature.
Although they never actually did it in concert, The Who considered pulling a person from the audience and programming their vital statistics into a synthesizer that would, in effect, translate that person into a musical theme around which a song could be built (an idea recently resurrected as the Lifehouse Method).
"Baba O'Riley" has often been mistakenly called "Teenage Wasteland" after the phrase repeated throughout the song's chorus. "Teenage Wasteland" was in fact a working title for the song in its early incarnations as part of the Lifehouse project, but eventually became the title for a different but related song by Townshend, which is slower and features more lyrics. A version of "Teenage Wasteland" is featured on The Lifehouse Chronicles, a six disc set of music related to the Lifehouse project, and on several Townshend compilations and videos.
Used in a montage on an episode of My Name is Earl