David Jon Gilmour CBE (born 6 March 1946) is an English musician, best known as the guitarist, lead singer, and one of the songwriters in the rock band Pink Floyd. In addition to his work with Pink Floyd, Gilmour has worked as a record producer for a variety of artists, and performed on Arcadia's So Red the Rose album.
Gilmour was born in Cambridge, England. His father, Douglas Gilmour, was a senior lecturer in zoology at the University of Cambridge and his mother, Sylvia, was a teacher and film editor. In Live at Pompeii, David describes his family, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as nouveau riche.
Gilmour attended The Perse School on Hills Road, Cambridge, and met future Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett, along with bassist and vocalist Roger Waters who attended Cambridgeshire High School for Boys, also situated on Hills Road. He studied modern languages to A-Level, and along with Syd, spent his lunchtime learning to play the guitar. They were not yet bandmates however, and Gilmour started playing in the band Joker's Wild in 1962. Gilmour left Joker's Wild in 1966 and busked around Spain and France with some friends. However, they were not very successful, living virtually a hand-to-mouth existence. In July 1992, Gilmour stated in an interview with Nicky Horne on BBC radio that he ended up being treated for malnutrition in a hospital. In 1967, they returned to England, driving a van with fuel stolen from a building site in France.
Gilmour was approached in late December 1967 by drummer Nick Mason, who asked if he would be interested in joining Pink Floyd, which he did in January 1968, making Pink Floyd briefly a five-piece band. He was used to fill in for Syd Barrett's guitar parts when the front man was unable to take a consistent part in Floyd's live performances. When Syd Barrett "left" the group (due to his erratic behaviour, the band chose not to pick Barrett up one night for a gig ), Gilmour by default assumed the role of the band's lead guitarist and shared lead vocal duties with bassist Roger Waters and keyboard player Richard Wright in Barrett's stead. However, after the back-to-back successes of The Dark Side of the Moon and then Wish You Were Here, Waters took more control over the band, writing most of Animals and The Wall by himself. Wright was fired during The Wall sessions and the relationship between Gilmour and Waters would further deteriorate during the making of The Wall film and the 1983 Pink Floyd album The Final Cut.
After recording "Animals", Gilmour thought that his musical influence had been underused, and channelled his ideas into his self-titled first solo album (1978), which showcases his signature guitar style, as well as underscoring his songwriting skills. A tune written during the finishing stages of this album, but too late to be used, became "Comfortably Numb" on The Wall.The negative atmosphere surrounding the creation of The Wall album and film, compounded by The Final Cuts virtually being a Roger Waters solo album, led Gilmour to produce his second solo album About Face in 1984. He used it to express his feelings about a range of topics, from the murder of John Lennon, to his relationship with Waters. He has since admitted that he also used the album to distance himself from Pink Floyd. He toured Europe and the US along with support act The Television Personalities, who later disappeared from the line-up after revealing Syd Barrett's address on stage. Mason and Wright also played on the UK leg of the tour, which despite some cancellations eventually turned a profit. When he returned from touring, Gilmour played guitar with a range of artists, and also produced The Dream Academy, who had a top ten hit with "Life in a Northern Town".
In 1985, Waters declared that Pink Floyd was "a spent force creatively". However, in 1986, Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason issued a press release stating that Waters had quit the band and they intended to continue without him. Gilmour assumed full control of the group and produced A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987 with some contributions from Mason and Richard Wright. Wright officially rejoined the band after the release of the album for a lengthy world tour and helped create 1994's The Division Bell as well. 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. In 1986, Gilmour purchased the houseboat Astoria which is moored on the River Thames near Hampton Court, and transformed it into a recording studio. The majority of the two most recent Pink Floyd albums, as well as Gilmour's 2006 solo release On an Island, were recorded there.
On 2 July 2005, Gilmour played with Pink Floyd — including Roger Waters — at Live 8. The performance caused a temporary 1343% sales increase of Pink Floyd's album Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd. Gilmour donated all of his resulting profits to charities that reflect the goals of Live 8 saying "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 called upon all artists experiencing a surge in sales from Live 8 performances to donate the extra revenue to Live 8 fund-raising. After the Live 8 concert, Pink Floyd were offered £150 million to tour the United States, but the band turned down the offer.
In December 2006, Gilmour released a tribute to Syd Barrett, who had died in July that year, in the form of his own version of Pink Floyd's first single "Arnold Layne". Recorded live at London's Royal Albert Hall, the CD single featured versions of the song performed by Pink Floyd's keyboard player (and Gilmour's band member) Richard Wright and special guest artist David Bowie. The single entered the UK Top 75 charts at number nineteen and remained steady for three weeks.
Since their Live 8 appearance in 2005, Gilmour has repeatedly said that there will be no Pink Floyd reunion. However, in a 2007 interview with Phil Manzanera, he stated that he's "not done with yet" and that he plans on doing "something" in the future. With the death of Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright in September 2008, another reunion of the core group members became impossible. Gilmour said of Wright: "In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten. He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound. Like Rick, I don't find it easy to express my feelings in words, but I loved him and will miss him enormously. I have never played with anyone quite like him."
Time off from Pink Floyd
Taking time off from Pink Floyd's schedule, Gilmour also took up various roles as a producer, sideman and even concert sound engineer for a wide variety of acts which included former bandmate Syd Barrett, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Grace Jones, Tom Jones, Elton John, B. B. King, Seal, Sam Brown, Jools Holland, Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, The Who, Supertramp, Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Alan Parsons, and various charity groups among others.
In 1985, Gilmour was member of Bryan Ferry's band. He played on Ferry's album Boys and Girls, as well as the song "Is Your Love Strong Enough" for the U.S. release of the Ridley Scott-Tom Cruise film Legend. A music video for the latter was created, incorporating Ferry and Gilmour into footage from the film (released as a bonus on the 2002 "Ultimate Edition" DVD release). Later that year, Gilmour played with Ferry at the London Live Aid concert; his first meeting with Ferry's keyboard player Jon Carin, later to tour with Pink Floyd.
David Gilmour also took part in a comedy skit titled "The Easy Guitar Book Sketch" with comedian Rowland Rivron and fellow British musicians Mark Knopfler, Lemmy from Motorhead, Mark King from Level 42, and Gary Moore. Guitar tech Phil Taylor explained in an interview that Knopfler used Gilmour's guitar rig and managed to sound like himself when performing in the skit.
He has also recorded four solo albums, all four of which charted in the U.S. Top 40 (2006's On an Island peaked at #6 in 2006, 2008's Live in Gdansk peaked at #26, his 1978 self-titled solo debut peaked at #29 in 1978 and 1984's About Face peaked at #32 in 1984) thus making him the only member of Pink Floyd to have a commercially successful solo career.
In 2001 and 2002, he held a small number of acoustic solo concerts in London and Paris, along with a small band and choir, which was documented on the In Concert release. In 2003, Rolling Stone included Gilmour in the list of hundred greatest guitarists of all time.
On 6 March 2006, his 60 birthday, he released his third solo album, On an Island, and a day later it was released in the US; it debuted at #1 in the UK charts. The album reached the top five in Germany and Sweden, and the top six in Billboard 200. Produced by Gilmour along 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 on the title track, Robert Wyatt on cornet and percussion and Richard Wright on Hammond organ and vocals. Other contributors include Jools Holland, Phil Manzanera, Georgie Fame, Andy Newmark, B. J. Cole, Chris Stainton, Willie Wilson, Rado ‘Bob’ Klose on guitar and Leszek Możdżer on piano. The album also features Gilmour's debut with the saxophone.
Gilmour toured Europe, US and Canada from 10 March to 31 May to promote On an Island. There were 10 shows in the US and Canadian leg of the tour. Pink Floyd alumnus Richard Wright, and frequent Floyd collaborators Dick Parry, Guy Pratt and Jon Carin also accompanied him on the tour. More shows were held in Europe during from July through August in 2006.
A video recording of a show from Gilmour's solo tour, entitled Remember That Night - Live At The Royal Albert Hall was released on 17 September 2007. The double DVD, directed by David Mallet, contains over five hours of footage, including an on-the-road documentary and guest appearances by David Bowie and Robert Wyatt. The two and a half hour concert features band members Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, Phil Manzanera of Roxy Music, Steve DiStanislao on drums, and various Pink Floyd regulars such as Dick Parry, Guy Pratt and Jon Carin. The 20-page booklet accompanying the DVD, features over 80 photos selected from studio recording and touring. The album is now available on Hi-Definition Blu-ray Disc with Dolby TrueHD surround sound. As TrueHD is not a mandatory format for Blu-ray players, and the disc carries no other surround channel, some players will only play it in stereo.
The final show of David Gilmour's On an Island tour was held at the Gdańsk Shipyard on 26 August 2006. The concert was held before a huge crowd of 50,000, and marked the twenty-sixth anniversary of Poland's 1980 revolution. The concert was notable for the inclusion of "A Great Day For Freedom" as part of the encore.
The show was recorded resulting in a live album and DVD release; Live in Gdańsk. The concert was the only occasion on which Gilmour performed the tour material with an orchestra, using the 40-strong string section of the Polish Baltic Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Zbigniew Preisner, who was responsible for On An Island's orchestral arrangements.
On 25 May 2009, he participated in a concert held at Union Chapel in Islington, London. The concert was of part of the 'Hidden Gigs' campaign against hidden homelessness that is organized by the Crisis, a UK-based national charity for people homelessness. There he appeared in a collaboration with the Malian musicians Amadou and Mariam.
On 4 July 2009, he joined his friend Jeff Beck onstage at the Royal Albert Hall. David and Jeff traded solos on Jerusalem and closed the show with Hi Ho Silver Lining.