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Grantchester Meadows, Cambridge
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Prog-Rock, Art Rock, Album Rock
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David Jon Gilmour, CBE (born 6 March 1946) is an English singer, songwriter, composer, multi-instrumentalist, and record producer. He joined the progressive rock band Pink Floyd as guitarist and co-lead vocalist in 1968, effectively as a replacement for founder Syd Barrett, who left the band shortly afterwards.
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David Jon Gilmour CBE was born in Cambridge, England on March 6, 1946. His father, Douglas Gilmour, was a senior lecturer in zoology at the University of Cambridge and his mother, Sylvia (nee Wilson), was a teacher and film editor.
Gilmour attended The Perse School on Hills Road, Cambridge, and met future Pink Floyd guitarist and vocalist Syd Barrett 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 1963. 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 December 1967 by drummer Nick Mason, who asked Gilmour 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 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 (the band chose not to pick him up one night for a gig due to his erratic behaviour), Gilmour by default assumed the role of the band’s lead guitarist and shared lead vocal duties with Roger Waters and Richard Wright in Barrett’s stead. However, after the back-to-back successes of 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 underutilized, and channeled 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 Cut’s virtually being a Roger Waters solo album,” led Gilmour to produce a second solo album, About Face (1984) to lukewarm praise. The “About Face” tour suffered from weak ticket sales; a similar dilemma confronted by Waters, whose The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking (1984) lifted in critical opinion only by the presence of Eric Clapton on the record and the subsequent tour, though it was frequently noted that Clapton’s sound was distinctly Gilmour.
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 on without Waters. Gilmour assumed full control of the group and produced A Momentary Lapse of Reason in 1987 with some contributions from Mason and Rick Wright. Wright officially rejoined the band 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 July 2, 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. As a result, Gilmour vowed to donate 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 GBP150 million to tour the states, but the band turned down the lucrative offer.
On February 3, 2006, he announced in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that Pink Floyd would most likely never tour or write material together 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 commented again on Pink Floyd’s future when he was 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.”
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.
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, Kate Bush, Grace Jones, Tom Jones, Elton John, B.B. King, Paul McCartney, 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 performed with Bryan Ferry at the Wembley Live Aid concert.
He has also recorded three solo albums, of which David Gilmour (1978) and About Face (1984), charted at the U.S. Top 40 and went Gold.
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 his 60th birthday, he released his third solo album, On An Island, on March 6, 2006 and a day later it was released in the US; it debuted at #1 in the UK charts. The album reached Top five in Germany and Sweden, and 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 March 10 to May 31 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.
In a press release to promote the tour, David Gilmour stated:
“ “I’m rather hoping that with this tour announcement, people will believe me when I say, honestly, this is the only band I plan to tour with!”. ”
On An Island peaked the UK charts by reaching number one. On April 10, 2006, the album was certified platinum in Canada, with sales of over 100,000 copies. The album also gave Gilmour his first US Top 10 album as a solo artist.
A video recording of a show from Gilmour’s solo tour, entitled Remember That Night - Live At The Royal Albert Hall was released on September 17, 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 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 Gdánsk Shipyard on August 26, 2006. The concert was held before a huge crowd of 100,000, 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.
Gilmour is to release a live album marking the Gdańsk show, which is currently set for release in mid-September 2008 and will be called Live in Gdańsk.
Although mainly known for his guitar work, Gilmour is also a proficient multi-instrumentalist. He also plays bass guitar (which he did on some Pink Floyd tracks), keyboards, harmonica, drums (as heard on the Syd Barrett solo track “Dominoes”, and other songs where he opted to play all the instruments) and lately, the saxophone.
In his early career with Pink Floyd Gilmour played a multitude of Fender Stratocasters. One of his popular guitar solos (”Another Brick in the Wall Part 2″) was played on a Gibson Les Paul guitar. In 1996, Gilmour was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pink Floyd. In August 2006, Gilmour’s solo on “Comfortably Numb” was voted the greatest guitar solo of all time in a poll by listeners of the digital radio station Planet Rock.
Gilmour’s first marriage was with Ginger and he had five children from this union, Alice (born 1976), Clare (born 1979), Sara (born 1981), Steven (born 1984) and Matthew (born 1985). They originally attended a Waldorf School, but Gilmour called their education there “horrific”. He has four children from his second marriage to Polly Samson - Charlie (Samson’s son with Heathcote Williams) whom Gilmour adopted and Joe, Gabriel and Romany. Charlie’s voice can be heard on the telephone to Steve O’Rourke, at the end of “High Hopes” (The Division Bell).
Gilmour has been associated with various charity organisations. In May 2003, Gilmour sold his house in Little Venice to the ninth Earl Spencer and donated the proceeds worth £3.6 million to Crisis to help fund a housing project for the homeless. Apart from Crisis, other Charities to which Gilmour has lent support include Oxfam, the European Union Mental Health and Illness Association, Greenpeace, Amnesty International, The Lung Foundation, and Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy.
Apart from music, Gilmour is also an experienced pilot. Under the aegis of his company, Intrepid Aviation, he had amassed an impressive collection of historical aircraft. He later decided to sell the company, as his venture, which had started as a hobby was becoming too commercial for him to handle. In an interview to BBC, he stated:
“ Intrepid Aviation was a way for me to make my hobby pay for itself a little bit, but gradually over a few years Intrepid Aviation became a business because you have to be businesslike about it. Suddenly I found instead of it being a hobby and me enjoying myself, it was a business and so I sold it. I don’t have Intrepid Aviation any more. I just have a nice old biplane that I pop up, wander around the skies in sometimes...”
On 22 May 2008, Gilmour won the 2008 Ivor Novello Lifetime Contribution Award.
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The Perse School, Hills Road (Cambridge)
Cambridge College of Arts and Technology
Full Name at Birth
David Jon Gilmour
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Progressive rock, Psychedelic Rock, Art Rock
Musician, singer, songwriter, producer, music programmer
Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards, Saxophone
EMI Columbia, Harvest, Capitol, Columbia, Sony, Emi
Jokers Wild, Pink Floyd, Kate Bush, the Orb, Paul McCartney, Bryan Ferry