“I hope I die before I get too old…and become a drain on the NHS.”
Roger Daltrey, the Who frontman, has called for a halt to medical advances which could extend mortality well beyond the age of 100 and urged society to face up to the inevitability of death.
Daltrey, 69, unveiled the first set of acts who will perform at the annual Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT) gigs, which he curates, at the Royal Albert Hall in March.
The concerts have raised over £17 million for young people with cancer and this year will feature artists including Ed Sheeran, The Cure and Suede.
Daltrey, patron of the Trust, said that the specialist children's hospitals that the charity has funded have made the UK a world leader in cancer treatment for teenagers.
But he warned that there is no "bottomless pit of money" for the expensive drugs needed to treat cancer and said people need to curb expectations that modern medicine will help them cheat death.
"We are never going to cure every cancer and you can spend an awful lot of money on drugs that might only give someone an extra three months of life," Daltrey said. "We should all start to be a bit more aware of our mortality and start debating that fact that we're all going to die one day.
"It could be a heart attack, liver failure or cancer. Only 5% of us die in our sleep and they are the lucky ones. We all really need to wake up. We’ve been living in denial for too long in our society. We'd be better off if we really tried not to live forever. It (death) doesn't frighten me at all."
The star, who famously sang "Hope I die before I get old" in the 1965 hit My Generation, told The Independent/i: "The general public demand too much from the NHS. Expectations are far too great. There will be drugs that we can't afford. The costs are frightening.
"There are drugs that might cure someone, albeit after a long time but they then require other drugs because of the side-effects. Then you're looking at a bottomless pit of money that we simply can't afford and someone has to draw the line."
Daltrey added: "I read in the papers about people's life expectancy being extended beyond 100 to 120 even. Has anybody ever thought what that world would be like? It would be a bloody nightmare. Our children and grandchildren would tell us we were getting in the way."
The Who were notorious for their wild lifestyles, but their singer is now a herbal tea-drinking advocate for healthy living. "The biggest issue for the NHS is to get patients to take a bit more responsibility for themselves," Daltrey said. "They need to take a bit more care of themselves before they get into a mess - by stopping smoking for example."
The TCT, by contrast, is an effective use of resources. "For what the charity puts in every year, we get enormous results and we're leading the world in this field."
Daltrey has recorded a new album with Wilko Johnson, the R&B guitarist who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer last year but has continued to perform after rejecting chemotherapy.
"If Wilko had had the chemotherapy he would be dead by now in all honesty," said Daltrey, who hopes to perform with the guitarist at the Royal Albert Hall, his collaborator’s health permitting. "This thing inside of him is as big as a grapefruit and it’s getting bigger every day."
Daltrey confirmed that he will reunite with Pete Townshend for a 50th anniversary Who tour, which would be their "last tour".
Suede will play their 1994 classic album Dog Man Star in full at the shows. Singer Brett Anderson, who reunited the band to play one of the charity's gigs four years ago, said: "I'm really proud, last time we played I came off stage and said 'How was it?' and he said 'Great, but it's just a bit loud though'. I thought for Roger Daltrey to say a show was loud, that's quite an achievement, right?"
Ed Sheeran is making good on a promise to play after prior commitments meant that he could not accept a request from Noel Gallagher to perform last year.
Tickets for the Teenage Cancer Trust shows, which take place March 24-30, go on sale this Friday.