Top 10 David Gilmour Pink Floyd Songs
Although Roger Waters will forever be the group’s lyrical genius and thematic mastermind, Gilmour brought a stronger (and more versatile) voice, a knack for memorable melodies and guitar skills that place him among the greatest players of all time. In tribute to Gilmour’s many talents, below are the top 10 Pink Floyd tracks that feature David’s singing, songwriting and guitar playing.
‘Fat Old Sun’
When the band members were putting together the track list for ‘Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd,’ Gilmour suggested this folksy ditty unfamiliar to a great number of Floyd fans. The pastoral tune would have been a worthy inclusion. However, the live version that Gilmour plays in his solo shows is even better, concluding with a scintillating, bluesy guitar solo.
‘Not Now John’
Just about the only thing that prevented ‘The Final Cut’ from being a Waters solo album was this blazing rocker, co-written and co-sung by Gilmour. David’s booming vocals lead the charge on the verses, some of which feature a certain four-letter word. The driving rhythm and Gilmour’s squealing guitar break make ‘Not Now John’ the most exciting song on the album. It’s a shame that, with Waters’s departure, Floyd never played it live. It’s the kind of tune that could level an arena.
The softer side of Pink Floyd found in the middle of ‘Meddle’ is often overshadowed by the instrumental powerhouse ‘One of These Days’ and the epic closer, ‘Echoes.’ But ‘Fearless’ holds its own in that company, with its steadily building guitar lines and velvety vocal from Gilmour. The sound of the chorus can be perceived to the greatness Floyd would achieve on ‘Dark Side.’ (And, yes, those are Liverpool soccer fans chanting at the end.)
This hard-rocking standout on ‘The Wall’ features an absolutely blistering vocal from Gilmour, who inhabits some of the darker recesses of the main character, Pink. The turbo-charged guitar solo only underlines Pink’s desire for a “dirty girl.” Gilmour even plays the propulsive bass. This song proves that although Waters was the architect of ‘The Wall,’ he couldn’t have built it without Gilmour.
‘Learning to Fly’
Pink Floyd’s biggest success of the post-Waters era was also a song that delved into Gilmour’s feeling about becoming the main creative force behind the band. Between the robotic buzzsaw riff and liquefied breaks, the guitarist positively soared on this single. His vapor trail vocals are almost devoid of emotion, which only enhances the dreamlike feel of the song.
Nothing epitomizes the hazy cool of mid-period Pink Floyd than Gilmour’s sighing lap steel guitar set against Richard Wright’s mellow keyboards on ‘Breathe.’ The song is all about mood and, as such, it perfectly sets the table for the greatness that awaits on the rest of ‘Dark Side.’ ‘Breathe’ is another great example of Gilmour’s feathery voice; he exhales the words like smoke rings that just hang in the air forever.
‘Dogs’ began life as a collaboration between David and Roger that was originally called ‘You’ve Got to Be Crazy.’ They later changed the key, some lyrics and the title to suit the overarching concept of ‘Animals.’ It’s the only song on the album that features writing or vocals from anyone aside from Waters – and Gilmour only sings part of it. But he makes the most of his turn in the singing spotlight, bringing a mournful tone to his delivery, as compared to Waters’s maniacal sneering. Of course, the 17-minute run time offers Gilmour plenty of room to stretch on guitar, including on razor sharp passages that practically bark and gorgeously arching harmonized solos.
The only ‘Dark Side’ track credited to all four members of the band, ‘Time’ has a funk-like feel dissimilar from anything Pink Floyd had attempted until that point. Gilmour, who sings the verses, lets some grit into his voice, turning it into a roar in parts. It’s one of his strongest vocal performances. And we can’t go any further without praising ‘Time’s’ centerpiece guitar solo – a bluesy, mind-altering masterpiece that ranks among Gilmour’s (or anyone’s) best. Listening to ‘Time,’ you understand why Gilmour’s guitar work has been called the missing link between Hendrix and Van Halen.
Speaking of great guitar solos, ‘Comfortably Numb’ has two such cathartic explosions from Gilmour. The song-ending second one is so good, you don’t want the track to fade out. Unlike most of ‘The Wall,’ this song originated with Gilmour, who had recorded an early, wordless version for his debut solo album. Waters added the words and sang the verses, while Gilmour took on the apologetic yet buoyant choruses. According to the bandmates, they fought like crazy over how the final version should sound – it’s hard to argue with the results.
‘Wish You Were Here’
As great as ‘Wish You Were Here’ can sound live, a performance can never really do it justice because it’s impossible for there to be enough David Gilmours on stage. He plays the 12-sting acoustic intro, the acoustic solo that joins in, the strummed acoustic that carries the song and the pedal steel guitar that weeps in the background. He sings the lead vocal – with enough wistful emotion to make you think he wrote the words – and also overdubbed his own backing vocals. Waters penned the beautiful lyrics, but it was Gilmour who made ‘Wish You Were Here’ a song for the ages.