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I'm A Boy


The Who

Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This is about a boy whose mother wants him to be a girl, while the boy longs to assert his real sexual identity. The controversial subject of cross-dressing was probably the reason why this failed to reach the American Top 100.
Pete Townshend wrote this for a Rock Opera he was composing called "Quads," which was about a future where parents could choose the sex of their children. That opera never happened. It is possible that Townshend had his old title in mind when a few years later he came up with the title for "Quadrophenia." (thanks, Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for above 2)
Roger Daltrey in Q magazine March 2008: "I always thought The Who went through a weird period after 'My Generation' (November 1965) that lasted until we did 'Magic Bus' (October 1968). I thought it all went a bit sloppy. But 'I'm A Boy' and 'Pictures Of Lily' were from that period when I'd been allowed back into the band (Daltrey had been asked to leave after beating up Keith Moon over his heavy use of amphetamines). My ego had been crushed. I was insecure and it showed in my voice. When I first heard those songs, I was like, 'Oi, what's this all about?' I didn't think I could find the right voice for them. You can hear it when you listen to them now, but my insecurity made those songs sound better. It was a happy accident."
Daltrey told Uncut magazine: "On 'I'm A Boy', I tried to sing it like a really, really young kid, like an eight-year-old. Not the voice of an eight-year-old but the sentiment – and I think that came across."
The Who
The Who Artistfacts
More The Who songs
More songs about being young and confused

Comments (12):

Chris, it's a French Horn. That was John's first instrument and he plays it on various who songs such as My Wife.
- Scott, New York, NY
This is a great song! I grew up one boy with four sisters, so I could always relate to it. I didn't have the extreme issues portrayed in the song, but it always cracked me up and I felt like it was one of my theme songs. It pays to have a sense of humour. Pete Townshend wrote about real psychology like no other rocker!!
- Guy, Woodinville, WA
This lyric is surprisingly touching. Especially to an adult who might've had "gender identity issues" as a kid, which I understand Townshend did.
- david, Boerne, TX
Reply to Zack:
I think that this means that if the poor kid tries to assert himself, his parents whack the living tar out of him.
- TomCat, Richmond, VA
The description of "Quads" in the above mensioned songfacts sounda little like what happens in the movie "Gattica". has anyone else noticed that?
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
One of the few rock songs I am aware of that uses a tuba. At least I'm pretty sure it's a tuba, at the end of the song.
- Chris, Elk River, MN
Can anyone else here a voiceover on "...but if I say I am I *get it*"?
- zack, Burnley, England
The family in "Quads" had ordered four girls but had instead gotten three girls and one boy.
- Fintan, Cheltenham, England
this song rocks. the lyrics rock and so does the actual song. god bless the who and pete townshend for coming out with such a great song
- eddie, Petaluma, CA
Wow pete Townshend was definitely ahead of his time. I mien, I dould the song was about a boy whose mother wanted him to be a girl, but noone else would have written about that in the '60's. Would they have?!
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
i thought this song was kind of the a girl who acts like she's a boy or something..oh well
- Ryan, Albion, NY
haha this song is starts to rock out a bit into it and I think they should have stuck with that for the rest of the song, or at least made it into a chorus type thing...
- Shana, Detroit Rock City, Canada
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