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Top 10 Roger Waters Songs

Roger Waters
Richard McCaffrey, Getty Images

Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s middle-period creative mastermind, has been the band’s most prolific solo artist since departing in 1983. Still, as with former bandmate David Gilmour, Waters’ solo efforts tend to get overlooked in a world where the group’s The Dark Side of the Moon stays on the charts for almost a generation. Waters perhaps encourages this nostalgia with his seemingly never-ending tour of Floyd-era triumphs like The Wall. He’s released nine solo albums since leaving Pink Floyd, but he hasn’t been all that productive lately: Waters’ most recent studio rock project dates back to 1992. Nevertheless, there are plenty of great moments across our list of the Top 10 Roger Waters Songs.


“4.50 AM (Go Fishing)”

From: ‘Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking’ (1984)



Arriving just after Waters’ exit from Pink Floyd, Pros and Cons directly referenced his time in that famous band — from the album cover’s Wall-like font to this track’s overt connections to “The Fletcher Memorial Home” and “Your Possible Pasts” from his Floyd finale, 1983’s The Final Cut. Still, new collaborators Eric Clapton and David Sanborn add some fresh perspective, and Waters’ lyrics are as memorably novel as ever.



“Folded Flags”

From: ‘When the Wind Blows’ (1986)



This acoustic rumination serves as the closing track by Waters and the Bleeding Heart Band on a largely forgotten soundtrack for an animated movie based on Raymond Briggs’ graphic novel When the Wind Blows. In one of just two vocal performances on the record, Waters is at his most nakedly emotional.



“The Bravery of Being Out of Range”

From: ‘Amused to Death’ (1992)



A trenchant — and quite prescient — condemnation of those who act as puppeteers for conflict while safely back at home and away from the front lines, “The Bravery of Being Out of Range” — with its thumping groove and nasty guitar riff provided by Jeff Beck — cannily predicts the outrage felt over the modern-day trend of remote-control warfare.



“Each Small Candle”

From: ‘In the Flesh: Live’ (2000)



Arriving at the end of a tour document stuffed with Pink Floyd favorites from The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall was this new song: one of the few Waters has issued since his most recent solo album, 1992’s Amused to Death. It was worth the wait — Waters returns to his classic narrative form, constructing a striking story of redemption within the song’s dark-hued atmosphere.



“The Powers That Be”

From: ‘Radio K.A.O.S.’ (1987)



Commercial flourishes like sequenced drums and programmed keyboards all but sink “The Powers That Be” on first listen. But sort through those aural missteps, and you’ll find a smart update of Waters’ patented call to arms against bloated bureaucracy and war-mongers — “They like fear and loathing / They like sheep’s clothing” — amid a deeply funky horn signature.



“What God Wants, Part 1″

From: ‘Amused to Death’ (1992)



Maybe Waters’ best take on the conflicts of organized religion (and that’s saying something), “What God Wants, Pt. 1″ is also a showcase for the molten contributions Jeff Beck makes to Amused to Death. Like the best Pink Floyd albums released so many years before it, Waters finds some of his greatest success as a solo artist through a collaborative bond with a forceful and equally artful guitarist.



“5:06 AM: Every Strangers’ Eyes”

From: ‘Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking’ (1984)



It’s easy to get lost in the concept here, as Waters traces the downward trajectory of a man in a midlife crisis while traveling aimlessly down a dark highway between 4:30 and 5:12AM. But Waters’ best efforts — from Floyd to this list of the Top 10 Roger Waters Songs — have always been capable of standing apart from their source material. This tale of stark lonesomeness certainly does.



“Watching TV”

From: ‘Amused to Death’ (1992)



This remarkable song arrives within a broader concept —Amused to Death decries the influence of mass media — but like “5:06 AM: Every Strangers’ Eyes” (see No. 4 on our list of the Top 10 Roger Waters Songs), it works as a separate statement. Waters, who duets with the Eagles’ Don Henley on a devastating chorus, uses the death of a single student as a prism to discuss the 1989 Chinese youth movement against Communism, and ends up with maybe the most sadly beautiful thing he’s ever attempted.




From: ‘Radio K.A.O.S.’ (1987)



Despite being part of a plasticine, synth-laden bid for MTV acceptance, Waters’ message rings true as he challenges us all to stand up to the creeping indignities that eventually coalesce into true injustice. Waters hits a riff, talking about any number of unexpected personalities who might one day provide the greatest danger to our everyday lives — neatly presupposing the sweeping fear that eventually gripped the U.S. in the wake of 9/11.



‘Three Wishes’

From: ‘Amused to Death’ (1992)



In a smart twist, this guy finds a genie in a bottle, and makes his wishes — only to realize that he’d included notions like peace in the Middle East, but not something far more personally relevant, like fixing a broken relationship. Sound familiar? The thrice-divorced Waters didn’t just construct one of his best narrative arcs with this introspective triumph, he’d grown comfortable enough in his own skin to skewer even himself.


Next: Top 10 Pink Floyd Roger Waters Songs

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