10 Greatest David Gilmour Songs to Celebrate his 75th Birthday
From ‘Fat Old Sun’ to ‘High Hopes’ and everything in between, the Pink Floyd ace added much magic with his guitar work and vocals
After the lockdown began last year, Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist David Gilmour’s family has been using social media to post some remarkable videos of spending quality time together. It all began as a build-up to the release of his wife Polly Samson’s fictional book A Theatre For Dreamers. In some videos, Gilmour played songs, with daughter Romany accompanying him on harp.
One of the videos shows a magpie sitting innocently on Gilmour’s head, and everyone having a laugh. He’s unshaven, munching something, looking totally relaxed and having fun. This clip was shot before the release of his son Charlie’s memoir Featherhood.
One doesn’t yet know the Gilmour family’s plan for March 6th, when the legend celebrates his 75th birthday. Hopefully, one will get to see another interesting film, and hear him play some of his favorite tunes. To do our bit in celebrating the occasion, we choose 10 Pink Floyd songs where he sings the lead vocals.
One often associates Gilmour with amazing guitar solos – “Comfortably Numb,” “Money” and “Dogs” being three examples. Here, we don’t get into that territory, or even choose songs like “Dogs,” “Mother” and “Another Brick In The Wall Part 2,” where bandmate Roger Waters and he have shared the main vocals. We also stick to Pink Floyd songs – Gilmour’s solo career isn’t included here.
Though Waters and keyboardist Richard Wright have also done a lot of singing for Floyd, Gilmour had a unique style and some great songs. This was specially true till the 1975 album Wish You Were Here, after which Waters did most of the vocals himself. After Waters quit following The Final Cut album, Gilmour took over lead vocals. Having said that, here’s the Gilmour Birthday Special.
1. “Fat Old Sun”/ Atom Heart Mother (1970)
Written and sung by Gilmour, this song is often described by fans as “pastoral psychedelic folk.” In the studio, it was recorded only by Gilmour with Richard Wright on organs. The lyrics begin, “When that fat old sun in the sky is falling, summer evenin’ birds are calling.” The song was played in later concerts, including Live At Gdansk in 2008 and the 2016 Gilmour Live At Pompeii, with an extended guitar solo.
2. “A Pillow Of Winds”/ Meddle (1971)
The album Meddle is best known for the 23-minute-plus “Echoes,” where Gilmour and Wright share lead vocals. “A Pillow Of Winds” is a very haunting number which became a fan favorite thanks to lines like “Sleepy time, and I lie, with my love by my side, and she’s breathing low.” Gilmour’s voice drips with emotion, and he plays the acoustic, electric, slide and pedal steel guitars, with Waters playing fretless bass.
3. “Wot’s… Uh The Deal?”/ Obscured By Clouds (1972)
Written by Waters with multi-tracked lead vocals by Gilmour, this is one of the highlights of the underrated album Obscured By Clouds. It talks of taking advantage of opportunities and has the lines, “Flash the readies, wot’s… uh the deal?, got to make to the next meal, try to keep up with the turning of the wheel.” Besides his vocals, Gilmour impresses on the lap steel guitar in the studio version.
4. “Breathe”/ Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
Almost every rock fan is familiar with the lines, “Breathe, breathe in the air, don’t be afraid to care, leave but don’t leave me, look around, but choose your own ground.” Co-written by Waters, Wright and Gilmour, it has multi-tracked vocals by Gilmour, who also plays the electric and pedal steel guitars. The song segues into the brilliant and atmospheric “On The Run.”
5. “Money”/ The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)
One of Floyd’s biggest hits, this is known for its unusual sounds of ringing cash registers, Dick Parry’s saxophone, Nick Mason’s controlled drumming and Gilmour’s lead guitar solo. The clever and hard-hitting lines go, “Money, so they say, is the root of all evil today; but if you ask for a raise, it’s no surprise, that they’re giving none away.” Two other hit songs from the album, “Time” and “Us And Them,” had vocal contributions by both Gilmour and Wright.
6. “Welcome To The Machine”/ Wish You Were Here (1975)
The song, which is about money-grabbing executives in the music industry, had music and lyrics by Waters. In the studio version, Gilmour had double-tracked lead vocals, but in live shows, he sang the main lines with Waters doing back-up. A highlight is Wright’s heavily processed synthesizers. The opening lines are, “Welcome my son, welcome to the machine, where have you been, it’s alright we know where you’ve been.”
7. “Wish You Were Here”/ Wish You Were Here (1975)
A rare case where Waters and Gilmour collaborated on the songwriting, this was said to be dedicated to Pink Floyd founding member Syd Barrett, with a reference to his mental illness. Gilmour sings the lead vocals and also does a scat (wordless) singing part, besides playing both six-string and 12-string acoustic guitar and pedal steel guitar. There’s a radio recording at the start, taken from Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, and a violin part played by an uncredited Stephane Grappelli.
8. “Goodbye Blue Sky”/ The Wall (1979)
This was one of those songs in The Wall where Gilmour sang lead and harmony vocals himself, though it begins with Waters’ son Harry crying out a young boy’s line. The song, which talks of the horrors of war, has the lines, “Did, did, did you see the frightened ones? Did, did, did you see the falling bombs? The flames are all gone but the pain lingers on.” Clearly, this was one of Floyd’s most melodic compositions.
9. “On The Turning Away”/ A Momentary Lapse Of Reason (1987)
A masterpiece from the post-Waters era, this was co-written by Gilmour and British guest composer Anthony Moore. A powerful protest song, it has a strong Celtic influence. Gilmour shines through, with Wright appearing on back-up in a tiny part. Lines like, “On the wings of the night, as the daytime is stirring, and the speechless unite in a silent accord” make this a lyrical beauty. Gilmour produces one of his best solos.
10. “High Hopes”/ The Division Bell (1994)
Composed by Gilmour, the popular “High Hopes” was written by him and his wife Polly Samson. The lines “The grass was greener, the light was brighter, when friends surrounded, the night of wonder” became so popular that fans sang along at concerts. The church bells by drummer Nick Mason and orchestrations by Michael Kamen give this song a distinct flavor, as Gilmour’s singing moves you.
All these songs mentioned have the Gilmour vocal stamp. While he’s undoubtedly one of the greatest guitarists in rock music, his singing added to the magic in many cases. Many Happy Returns, once again.