Pink Floyd's Roger Waters deserves all the praise he's gotten for his contributions to rock music. As the man who wrote most of The Wall (1979), and all the lyrics to Wish You Were Here (1975), he's left his mark on record collections throughout the Western world. But press releases issued ahead of his 2006 North American tour, which hailed him as "the creative genius behind Pink Floyd," were unfair. Suggesting the band had just one master-musician and exemplary songwriter is a grave injustice to David Gilmour, Richard Wright (1943-2008) and Nick Mason. And as a huge Pink Floyd fan, I also consider it an insult to my intelligence.
Keyboardist Wright and drummer Mason's influences on Pink Floyd's sound can be appreciated when listening to The Dark Side of the Moon (1973). The former composed the immortal lyricless masterpiece which ends Side 1, The Great Gig in the Sky; the latter's subtle percussion skills are most evident on Time. But it's David Gilmour, guitarist and vocalist, who's most maligned by any attempt to portray Roger Waters as the band's leading light.
Gilmour (some pressings of the 1971 Credit: Creative Commonsalbum Meddle misspell his surname "Gilmore") was born in Cambridge, England on March 6, 1946. His father was a zoology lecturer at the University of Cambridge; his mother was a teacher who later worked as a film editor. When Gilmour was ten, the family moved to Grantchester Meadows (the Floyd song of the same name was written and performed by Roger Waters). Within a couple of years he'd met both Waters and Syd Barrett (1946-2006), the eccentric who founded Pink Floyd in 1965. A big fan of 1950s rock'n'roll, Gilmour (pictured here in 2005) was already playing the guitar regularly by then.
Gilmour was a late addition to Floyd, being invited on board in December 1967. Barrett had become infuriatingly erratic, and the band's managers hoped Gilmour would fill the gap. Within a few months, Barrett had left the band altogether. From then on, as well as providing sublime guitar work, Gilmour sang on the majority of Floyd recordings. That lasted until the late 1970s when Waters began insisting on singing his own lyrics for Animals (1977), The Wall and The Final Cut (1983). Waters wrote the greater part of the first two of those albums, and all of the third, but Gilmour's fans often point out that the guitarist was responsible for one of The Wall's two best-known numbers, Comfortably Numb. Credit: Creative Commons
Ranked no. 321 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (published in 2004), and voted no. 5 by listeners to the BBC Radio show Desert Island Discs (in 2011), the album version of Comfortably Numb (lyrics by Waters) clocks in at 6 minutes 23 seconds, with guitar solos at 2:04 and 4:32. During live performances, Gilmour has used the closing solo as an opportunity to improvise. A superb example can be seen and heard on the Live in Gdansk DVD, recorded with a full orchestra in 2006.
That Gilmour's skills haven't diminished as he's grown older is obvious from concert footage, such as his performances (on acoustic and sometimes lap steel guitar) of High Hopes, a song that originally appeared on the final Pink Floyd studio album, The Division Bell (1994). His third and most recent solo album, 2006's On an Island (cover shown above) reached no. 1 in the UK and no. 6 in the United States.
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