Gilmour, David

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David Gilmour

Guitar player, singer, songwriter

One of the most-recognized guitarists of the rock era for his distinctive blues-rock phrasings with the progressive British band Pink Floyd, David Gilmour consistently appears on magazine readers' polls of influential rock musicians. His turbulent relationship with Pink Floyd's bassist and chief lyricist, Roger Waters, however, led him to establish a solo career during the period of the band's peak success in the late 1970s. When the band went on hiatus in 1984 after the release of The Final Cut, Gilmour released his second solo album with help from the Who's principal songwriter, Pete Townshend. A subsequent solo tour failed to generate widespread excitement, due to the general public's failure to recognize Gilmour as one of the architects of Pink Floyd's distinctive sound, which resulted in his re-forming the band without Waters. The subsequent studio and live albums and tours proved that a Gilmour-led Floyd could be a financial if not a critical success in the same vein as the Waters-era group. Gilmour spent the next several years playing as a guest guitarist on albums by other artists, and recording tracks for his third solo album. Prior to the album's release, however, Gilmour and Waters put aside their longstanding differences long enough to reunite Pink Floyd with original members Nick Mason and Richard Wright for a one-off charity performance at Live 8 in 2005. Gilmour released On an Island on his sixtieth birthday in 2006.

Gilmour was one of four children born to Doug Gilmour, a professor of genetics, and his wife, Sylvia, a schoolteacher and film editor. The first recording the youngster purchased was Bill Haley and the Comets' "Rock Around the Clock" in 1954. He got his first guitar when he was 13, and taught himself to play using Pete Seeger instructional books and records. In 1962 he entered Cambridge Technical College, where he studied modern languages. While enrolled at Cambridge, he met Roger "Syd" Barrett. The pair became close friends, and Gilmour taught Barrett several guitar progressions from Rolling Stones records. The two attended performances by the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, listened to Beatles records, and performed together. While Barrett leaned more toward blues in his bands Those Without and The Hollerin' Blues, Gilmour focused more on pop music in his groups The Newcomers and The Ramblers. In 1965 the pair traveled as itinerant musicians through the south of France.

The two friends parted ways when Barrett was accepted at Camberwell College of Arts in London. Gilmour, in the meantime, stayed at Cambridge, where he formed the band Jokers Wild with drummer Clive Welham. Jokers Wild played U.S. military bases and established a residency at the Victoria Ballroom, where they opened for such internationally successful acts as the Animals. The steady income served him well, as his parents moved to New York City and left their son to fend for himself.

In October of 1965, Jokers Wild played a bill with Barrett's new band, Pink Floyd, and Paul Simon. Pink Floyd, under Barrett's leadership, went on to become the darlings of London's psychedelic drug-fueled underground. They released their critically acclaimed debut album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in 1967. Gilmour spent 1967 in France with bassist Rick Wills and drummer John "Willie" Wilson. Billing themselves as Flowers and, later, Bullitt, the group endured such hardships as the theft of all their equipment before a concert in Paris. The trio returned to England penniless, the rhythm section returning to Cambridge while Gilmour went to London, where he attended a Pink Floyd concert. By this time Barrett had become a victim of mental illness, most likely exacerbated by ingesting copious amounts of the drug LSD. Barrett's bandmates asked Gilmour to join as a fifth member, and shortly thereafter they fired Barrett.

The next ten years was a rollercoaster of artistic struggles and successes, including the 1973 release of the group's masterpiece, Dark Side of the Moon,1975's Wish You Were Here, and 1977's Animals. Personality clashes within the band resulted from Waters's reputed autocratic drive to create the concepts and lyrics for the group's albums subsequent to Wish You Were Here. By the time Pink Floyd recorded Animals, Waters had assumed nearly total creative control of the band. Gilmour's trademark guitar and plaintive vocals were still very much part of the album's song cycle, but his participation in the project's creation was minimal. He later disparaged the album, and refused to play any Animals material in either solo or latter day Pink Floyd concerts. During the 1970s he focused on producing such bands as Unicorn, Sutherland Brothers and Quiver, worked with vocalist Roy Harper, and helped launch the musical career of Kate Bush, introducing her to EMI Records.

Following the release of Animals and its subsequent tour, Gilmour recorded his first solo album, David Gilmour. He enlisted help from his old bandmates from Bullitt, Rick Wills and Willie Wilson, for the effort, which consisted mainly of atmospheric guitar-based instrumentals composed by Gilmour. Gilmour returned to the Pink Floyd fold to record The Wall (1979) and The Final Cut (1983). By the time these albums were recorded, Waters had been instrumental in firing keyboardist Richard Wright from the band, and had become increasingly estranged from Gilmour and Nick Mason.

Following the release of The Final Cut, Gilmour recorded his second solo effort. In About Face (1984), Pete Townshend contributed lyrics to two of the album's songs, but the remainder were written by Gilmour. The funky "Blue Light" was released as a single and video, with modest success. Gilmour became the first Floyd member to mount a solo tour, with help from Mott the Hoople and Bad Company lead guitarist Mick Ralphs. The shows from that tour featured songs from both David Gilmour and About Face, as well as a healthy sampling of Floyd classics, including "Money" and "Comfortably Numb." Ticket sales were far below the level of Pink Floyd concerts, however, and Gilmour spent the next two years working as a hired gun for such artists as Townshend and Roxy Music's Bryan Ferry.

Gilmour's relationship with Waters grew into a fullblown feud in the mid-1980s, when Gilmour announced his plans to record his next album as a Pink Floyd project without Waters's help. From 1987 to 1994, Gilmour led the remaining members of Pink Floyd and a cadre of hired musicians and backup singers through two studio albums, two massively successful concert tours, and two live albums. He also recorded and performed with former Beatle Paul McCartney. Then, perhaps with nothing left to prove to his arch-rival Waters, he reunited with Waters, Mason, and Wright for a one-off performance at Live 8 in 2005. The performers seemed cordial with one another, and the old Pink Floyd magic from the mid-1970s was recaptured for a brief moment before the four members once again went their separate ways.

For the Record …

Born David Gilmour on March 6, 1946, in Grantchester Meadows, England; son of Doug (a professor) and Sylvia (a teacher and film editor) Gilmour; married Ginger (divorced); married journalist Polly Samson, 1994.

Guitarist with group Jokers Wild, 1960s; joined Pink Floyd, 1968; recorded first solo album, David Gilmour, 1978; released second solo effort, About Face, 1984; re-formed band Pink Floyd with Nick Mason, 1986; reunited with all three members of post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd for an appearance at Live 8, 2005; released third solo album, On an Island, 2006.

Addresses: Record company—Sony BMG Entertainment, 550 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10022-3211.

Gilmour turned 60 years old on March 6, 2006, the same day he released his third solo album, On an Island. The album marked a more organically relaxed approach to creating music for Gilmour, who had seemingly come to terms with his strained relationship with Waters, found domestic happiness with his second wife, journalist and lyricist Polly Samson, and gained purpose in political and social activism. Guest musicians on the album included Robert Wyatt, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera, Gerogie Fame, Richard Wright, and vocalists David Crosby and Graham Nash. In between sporadic live appearances to support the critically lauded release, Gilmour donated the proceeds from the sale of his house to a homeless charity, and participated in protests intended to raise political awareness of global climate change.

Selected discography

With Pink Floyd

Saucerful of Secrets, Columbia, 1968.
More, Columbia, 1969.
Ummagumma, Columbia, 1969.
Atom Heart Mother, Columbia, 1970.
Meddle, Columbia, 1971.
Obscured by Clouds, Columbia, 1972.
Dark Side of the Moon, Columbia, 1973.
Wish You Were Here, Columbia, 1975.
Animals, Columbia, 1977.
The Wall, Columbia, 1979.
The Final Cut, Columbia, 1983.
A Momentary Lapse of Reason, Columbia, 1987.
Delicate Sound of Thunder, Columbia, 1988.
The Division Bell, Columbia, 1994.
Pulse, Columbia, 1995.

Solo albums

David Gilmour, Harvest, 1978.
About Face, Harvest, 1984.
On an Island, EMI, 2006.



Manning, Toby, The Rough Guide to Pink Floyd, Rough Guides, Ltd., London, 2006.

Mason, Nick, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2003.


All Music Guide, (Nov. 12, 2006).

David Gilmour Official Website, (June 28, 2006).