David Jon Gilmour, CBE (born March 6, 1946) is an English guitarist and vocalist with British rock band Pink Floyd
. Following the departure of Roger Waters in the mid-1980s, Gilmour effectively assumed control of the band.
Gilmour was born and grew up in Cambridge. His father was a senior lecturer in zoology. Gilmour met Syd Barrett while attending the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology where they spent their lunchtimes learning the guitar. They were not, however, bandmates, and Gilmour started playing in the band Joker's Wild
in 1963. Gilmour left Joker's Wild
in 1966 and formed a new band with some of its members. This band, firstly named Bullitt
, later changing their name to Flowers
, spent the rest of 1966 and most of 1967 playing in Spain and France, before disbanding later that year.
Gilmour was asked to join Pink Floyd
in January of the following year. Barrett "left" the group only months later and Gilmour assumed the role of the band's lead guitarist and shared lead vocal duties with Roger Waters and Richard Wright. Gilmour's guitar playing and song writing became major factors of Pink Floyd's
world-wide success during the 1970s. However, at the turn of the decade, Waters took more and more control over the band. The relationship between the two grew ever worse.
Gilmour released his first solo album, David Gilmour
, in the spring of 1978. One of the tunes he wrote at the time, but did not use, was developed to become the Pink Floyd
classic "Comfortably Numb". Gilmour released his second solo album, About Face
, in 1984.
In 1985, Waters declared that Pink Floyd was defunct. However, Gilmour assumed full control and created A Momentary Lapse of Reason
. Gilmour explained:
"I had a number of problems with the direction of the band in our recent past, before Roger left. I thought the songs were very wordy and that, because the specific meanings of those words were so important, the music became a mere vehicle for lyrics, and not a very inspiring one . . . "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Wish You Were Here" were so successful not just because of Roger's contributions, but also because there was a better balance between the music and the lyrics than there has been in more recent albums. That's what I'm trying to do with A Momentary Lapse of Reason
- more focus on the music, restore the balance."
During Pink Floyd's
quiet spells, he has amused himself as a session musician, producer and even concert sound engineer, for a wide variety of acts including some pseudonymous novelty releases, Roy Harper, Kate Bush (whose career Gilmour was instrumental in launching), The Dream Academy
(another artist whose early history Gilmour was pivotal in), Grace Jones, Tom Jones, Elton John, Arcadia, Bryan Ferry, Berlin, Robert Wyatt, Hawkwind
, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Sam Brown, Jools Holland, Propaganda
, Pete Townshend, The Who
, Warren Zevon, Alan Parsons, various charity "supergroups" and many more.
Gilmour is especially renowned for a very precise, "bendy" kind of soloing, as well as various "violin-type" sounds. His solos are noted for being well-composed and constructed, with very little waste of notes. In interviews, Gilmour has explained that what he sees as his lack of technique led him to concentrate on melody over virtuosity, and the enduring appeal of his solos is that that they are usually expressive tunes rather than technical exercises. To this end, he has also been an innovator in the use of guitar sound effects.
Although mainly known for his guitar work, Gilmour can also play bass guitar (which he did on numerous Floyd
tracks, including "One of These Days", "Sheep" and "Hey You"), drums, keyboards, and lately, the saxophone. In fact, on the compilation album,
A Collection of Great Dance Songs, Gilmour had to re-record the song "Money" due to licensing problems, and played all instruments himself (except for saxophone).
In 1996 Gilmour was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
as a member of Pink Floyd
In 2002, he held a small number of acoustic solo concerts in London and Paris, along with a small band and choir, which has been documented on the In Concert
In May 2003, Gilmour sold one of his London houses and contributed the $5.9 million he made to a housing project for the homeless.
In November 2003, he was made a CBE, for philanthropy and for services to music.
On July 2, 2005, Gilmour played with Pink Floyd
- including Roger Waters - at Live 8
. The performance caused a temporary 1,343 percent sales increase of Pink Floyd's
album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.
As a result, Gilmour vowed to donate all his resulting profits to charities that reflect the goals of Live 8
"Though the main objective has been to raise consciousness and put pressure on the G8 leaders, I will not profit from the concert. This is money that should be used to save lives."
Shortly after, he also called upon all artists experiencing a surge in sales from Live 8 performances to donate the extra revenue to Live 8
On February 6, 2006, he announced in an interview with the magazine La República that Pink Floyd
would never play live again. He said:
"I think enough is enough. I am 60 years old. I don’t have the will to work as much anymore. Pink Floyd
was an important part in my life, I have had a wonderful time, but it’s over. For me it’s much less complicated to work alone."
He said that by agreeing to Live 8
, he had ensured the story of Floyd
would not end on a sour note.
"There was more than one reason, firstly to support the cause. The second one is the energy consuming an uncomfortable relationship between Roger and me that I was carrying along in my heart. That is why we wanted to perform and to leave the trash behind. Thirdly, I might have regretted it if I declined".
On February 20, 2006, Gilmour slightly changed his stance on Pink Floyd's
future when interviewed by Billboard.com
stating "Who knows? I have no plans at all to do that. My plans are to do my concerts and put my (solo) record out". The tone of that is he hasn't ruled out anymore one-off gigs.
He recorded a contribution to an "all-star" version of the Buzzcocks'
Ever Fallen in Love with Someone You Shouldn't Have?, in memory of John Peel, released in November 2005. Also in November 2005, he spoke at the inauguration of Pink Floyd
into the UK Music Hall of Fame
His third solo album, On An Island
, was released on March 6, 2006. Produced by Gilmour with Phil Manzanera and Chris Thomas, the album features orchestrations by renowned Polish composer Zbigniew Preisner. The album features David Crosby and Graham Nash on harmonies, Robert Wyatt on cornet and percussion and Richard Wright on Hammond organ and vocals. Other contributors include Jools Holland, Phil Manzanera, Georgie Fame, Robert Wyatt, Andy Newmark, B. J. Cole, Chris Stainton, Willie Wilson, Rado ‘Bob’ Klose on guitar and Leszek Mo¿d¿er on piano. The album also features Gilmour's debut on saxophone.
Of the album’s ten tracks, all music is written by Gilmour, with lyrics by wife Polly Samson (they collaborated on lyrics on two songs), while three tracks are purely instrumental.
David Gilmour was ranked the 82nd greatest guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone
magazine. However, his solo in "Comfortably Numb" is often cited by those in the music industry as one of the greatest ever.