George Roger Waters (born 6
September 1943 in Great
Bookham, Surrey) is an English rock musician.
He is best known as the
player and the main songwriter and
lead singer in the English rock band Pink
from 1964 to 1985. Roger outsang David Gilmour nearly 2
to 1 during the quintessential Floyd years 1971-1983. Following his
split with Pink Floyd in 1985, Waters began a solo career,
releasing three studio albums, one soundtrack, and staging one of
the largest concerts ever, The Wall Concert in Berlin
in 1990. In 2005 he released an opera, Ça Ira
, and joined Pink Floyd at the
concert in London for their first
public performance with Waters in 24 years.
Early years (1943–65)
Bookham, near Leatherhead, Surrey, Waters grew
up in Cambridge.
His father Eric Fletcher Waters
fought in World
War II and died in combat at Anzio
in 1944, when Waters was only five months old. Waters referred or
alluded to the loss of his father throughout his work, from
"Corporal Clegg" (A Saucerful
, 1968) and "Free Four" (Obscured By Clouds
, 1972) to the
sombre "When the Tigers Broke
", first used in the movie version of The Wall
(1982), and "The
Fletcher Memorial Home" (The
Syd Barrett attended the Morley Memorial
Junior School on Blinco Grove, Cambridge, and later both attended
the Cambridgeshire High School for
Boys (now Hills Road Sixth Form College), while fellow band member David Gilmour attended The Perse
School in the same road. He met Nick Mason and Richard Wright while attending the
Polytechnic school of architecture. He was a keen
sportsman and was fond of swimming in the River Cam at Grantchester
At 15 he was chair of YCND
Pink Floyd years (1965–83)
In 1965, Roger Waters co-founded Pink Floyd along with Syd Barrett
, Richard Wright
and Nick Mason
. Although Barrett initially did most
of the songwriting for the band, Waters wrote the song "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and
" on their debut LP, The Piper at the Gates of
. The album was a critical success and positioned the
band for stardom. Barrett's deteriorating mental health led to
increasingly erratic behaviour, rendering him unable to continue in
his capacity as Pink Floyd's lead singer and guitarist. Waters
attempted to coerce his friend into psychiatric treatment; this
proved unhelpful, and the band approached David Gilmour
to replace Barrett at the end of
1967. Even the band's former managers felt that Pink Floyd would
not be able to sustain its initial success without Barrett. Filling
the void left by Barrett's departure, Waters began to chart Pink
Floyd's new artistic direction. The lineup with Gilmour and Waters
eventually brought Pink Floyd to prominence, producing a series of
albums in the 1970s that remain among the most critically acclaimed
and best-selling records of all time.
In 1970, Waters collaborated with British composer Ron Geesin
, who co-wrote Pink Floyd's title suite
from Atom Heart Mother
on a soundtrack album, Music from "The
, which consisted mostly of instrumentals
interspersed with songs composed by Waters. Within Pink Floyd,
Waters became the main lyrical contributor, exerting progressively
more creative control over the band: he produced thematic ideas
that became the impetus for concept albums such as The Dark Side of the Moon
Wish You Were
, for which he wrote all of the lyrics and some of the
music. After this, Waters became the primary songwriter, composing
and The Wall
largely by himself (though continuing
to collaborate with Gilmour on a few tracks).
Initially, Waters' bandmates were happy to allow him to write the
band's lyrics and guide its conceptual direction while they shared
the opportunity to contribute musical ideas. However, this
give-and-take relationship began to dissolve: a consequence of the
band's collective ennui
, according to Waters.
Songwriting credits were a source of contention in these years;
Gilmour has noted that his contributions to tracks like "Another
Brick in the Wall, Part II", with its guitar
, were not always noted in the album credits. Nick Mason
addresses the band infighting in his memoir, Inside Out: A
Personal History of Pink Floyd
, characterizing Waters as
egomaniacal at times. While recording The Wall
decided to fire Wright, after Wright's personal problems began to
affect the album production. Wright stayed with the band as a paid
session musician while Waters led the band through a complete
performance of the album on every night of the brief tour that
followed, for which Gilmour acted as musical director. Oddly,
Wright's firing and position as a paid session musician meant he
was the only one of the band to realize a profit from the tour -
since all bills for the expensive tour were paid by the three
In 1983, the last Waters–Gilmour–Mason collaboration, The Final Cut
, was released. The
sleeve notes describe it as being a piece "by Roger Waters" that
was "performed by Pink Floyd". Gilmour unsuccessfully tried to
delay production on the album until he could author more material;
Waters refused, and in 1985, he proclaimed that the band had
dissolved due to irreconcilable differences. The ensuing battle
between Waters and Gilmour over the latter's intention to continue
to use the name Pink Floyd
descended into threatened
lawsuits and public bickering in the press. Waters claimed that, as
the original band consisted of himself, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason and
Richard Wright, Gilmour could not reasonably use the name Pink
Floyd now that it was without three of its founding members.
Another of Waters' arguments was that he had written almost all of
the band's lyrics and a great part of the music after Barrett's
Early solo years (1984–2005)
Following the release of The Final Cut
, Waters embarked on
a solo career producing three concept albums, and a movie
soundtrack which did not garner impressive sales. His solo work has
managed critical acclaim and even some comparison to previous work
with Pink Floyd. His first solo album, 1984's The Pros and Cons of Hitch
, was a project about a man's dreams across one
night. The list of musicians helping Waters during recording
included guitarist Eric Clapton
jazz saxophonist David Sanborn
Conceived around the same time as The Wall
, the concept
was shown and demos played to the Pink Floyd members, but they
chose to proceed with The Wall
over The Pros and Cons
of Hitch Hiking
, rejecting the latter as "too personal".
Gilmour was later to claim that this was not as obvious a task as
might first seem, as, in his opinion, both demos were
"unlistenable" and "sounded exactly alike." Longtime Pink Floyd
engineer Nick Griffiths, however, says otherwise: "They were
seriously rough, but the songs were there." The album, accompanied
by Gerald Scarfe artwork that some claimed was sexist, received
mixed reviews, with Kurt Loder
Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking
in Rolling Stone
a "strangely static, faintly hideous record." On the other end of
the spectrum, Mike DeGagne of Allmusic
praised the album for its "ingenious symbolism and his brilliant
use of stream of consciousness within a subconscious realm", rating
it four out of five stars.
He began touring the new album, aided by guitarist Eric Clapton
, and featuring a set design by
of Fisher Park
and lighting design by Mark Brickman
With a new
band, new material, and a selection of Pink Floyd favourites,
Waters débuted his tour in
Stockholm on 16 June 1984.
The lure of a somewhat
anonymous rock star however was no match for that of Pink Floyd.
Some venues were cancelled, and Waters was irritated by the
audiences, who would often react more positively to Clapton than he
wished. The Clapton collaboration cost Waters an estimated
$400,000, but despite the lukewarm reception to his new album
Waters went to the US in 1985 with the Pros and Cons Plus Some
Old Pink Floyd Stuff — North America Tour 1985
In 1986, Waters contributed songs and a score to the soundtrack of
the movie When the Wind
, based on the Raymond
book of the same name. His backing band, featuring
, was credited as The
Bleeding Heart Band
. Waters' then legal wranglings with
Gilmour over the Pink Floyd brand are alluded to on the soundtrack
album's "Towers of Faith", where the vocal transforms from
"This land is my land
"This sand is my sand", to "This band is my band". The following
year he released another album, Radio
, a concept album based around a mute man named
Billy who can hear radio waves in his head. Billy learns to
communicate with a radio DJ, and angry at the state of the world
simulates a fake nuclear attack. Waters followed the release with a
supporting tour, also in 1987. The album did not garner the sales
he had achieved in Pink Floyd. Years later, Waters himself would
express dissatisfaction at the album, expressing distaste for the
production, and particularly regretting his decision to trim the
album from a double to a single.
9 November 1989 the Berlin Wall fell, and on 21 July 1990 Waters staged
The Wall - Live in
Berlin, a benefit concert at Potsdamer Platz.
An invited group of musicians included
, Van Morrison
, and Sinead O'Connor
also used an East German symphony orchestra and choir, a Soviet marching
band, and a pair of helicopters from the US 7th Airborne Command
and Control Squadron.
Designed by Mark Fisher
of Fisher Park, an wall
was built across the set and Scarfe's inflatable puppets were
recreated on an enlarged scale. Gilmour, Mason, and Wright, were
not invited. The concert was intended to raise funds for a recently
formed UK-registered charity founded by the late Leonard Cheshire
, the Memorial Fund for
Disaster Relief. (The charity's name was changed to the World
Memorial Fund for Disaster Relief in 1992, before it ceased
operating in 1995).
In 1990 Waters appointed Mark Fenwick as his new manager, and left
EMI, signing instead a worldwide deal with Columbia. He divorced
his second wife, Carolyne Christie, and also released Amused to Death
. Although some of the
ideas on the album date back to the late 1980s, Amused to
Death is heavily influenced by events such as the Tiananmen
Square protests of 1989, and the Gulf War.
The album is mostly a critique of the notion of war becoming a
subject of entertainment, particularly on television. Pat Leonard
, who had also worked on A
co-produced the album. Ezrin was also
referenced, with the line "Each man has his price, Bob, and yours
was pretty low" on "Too Much Rope".
The title was derived from the book Amusing Ourselves to Death
by Neil Postman
. It is Waters' most
critically acclaimed solo recording, with music critics comparing
it to later Pink Floyd work, such as The Wall
himself describes the record as the third in a thematically-linked
trilogy, after Dark Side Of The Moon
. The album had one hit, "What
, Pt. 1" which hit #4 on Mainstream Rock charts.
played lead guitar on many of
the album's tracks, which were recorded with a rotating cast of
backup musicians. There was no tour in support of this record,
although Waters would later perform several songs from this record
nearly eight years later on his In the Flesh
In 1999 Waters embarked on the In the Flesh
tour which saw
him performing some of his most famous work, both solo and Pink
Floyd material. The tour was a success in the US, and after Waters
had booked mostly smaller venues (after the let-down in attendance
from his 1987 tour), tickets sold so well that most of the concerts
had to be upgraded to larger venues. With Gilmour's Pink Floyd
retiring after 1994, and many Floyd albums selling at the pace of
records, Waters was in great
demand. The tour eventually stretched across the world. Tickets
were at such high demand, that the tour had to be spanned over
three years. Almost every show was sold out with some venues
garnering more sales than Pink Floyd shows of early touring years.
One concert was released on CD and DVD, named In the Flesh Live
, after the tour.
During this tour he played two new songs from his next solo album,
"Flickering Flame" and "Each Small Candle", as the final encore to
the show. In June 2002 Waters played the Glastonbury
Festival performing many classic Pink Floyd
Waters performing live in 2006
Waters left the UK shortly after the passing of the Hunting Act 2004
, denouncing it as "one of
the most divisive pieces of legislation we've ever had in Great
Britain". He moved to Long Island in New
York with his new girlfriend Laurie Durning.
Miramax announced in mid-2004 that a production of
The Wall was to appear on Broadway with Waters playing a prominent part in its
Reports stated that the musical contained not
only the original tracks from "The Wall", but also songs from
Dark Side of the Moon
, Wish You Were Here
other Pink Floyd albums, as well as new material. On the night of 1 May
2004, the overture for Ça Ira was pre-premièred on occasion of the
Europe celebrations in the accession country of Malta, performed
over Grand Harbour in Valletta and illuminated by light artist Gert
In September 2004, Waters released two new tracks on the Internet,
"To Kill The Child" and "Leaving Beirut." Both of these tracks were
inspired by the 2003 invasion of
. Waters, who currently resides in the U.S., has said that
the songs were written immediately after the start of the war, but
he delayed releasing them until just before the 2004 presidential election
The lyrics to "Leaving Beirut" contain strong attacks on U.S.
President George W. Bush
and British Prime Minister Tony Blair
. After the 2004 Indian
Ocean Earthquake and subsequent tsunami
disaster, Waters performed "Wish You Were Here"
with Eric Clapton during a benefit
concert on the American network NBC.
Later solo years (since 2005)
In February 2005, it was announced on Roger Waters' website that
his opera, Ça Ira
, had been
completed after 16 years of work. It was released as a CD/DVD set
by Sony Classical
on 27 September
2005 with Baritone Bryn Terfel
Ying Huang and tenor Paul Groves
was written in French by
the late Étienne Roda-Gil
set the opera during the early French
. From 1997 Waters rewrote the libretto in
went to the top of the classical music charts, and
Waters appeared on television to discuss the album, but the
interviews were mostly taken up by conversation about his
relationship with Pink Floyd. Waters however was nonplussed about
this, a sign that Mark Blake
believes to be "a testament to his mellower old age or twenty years
of dedicated psychotherapy." In 2003 Waters had hinted at another
solo album, but as of 2009 this has not yet appeared. He did
however release a download-only single in March 2007, titled
", from the soundtrack to
the film The Last Mimzy
about the same time, the New
York Daily News
printed a story claiming that the band
would reunite at one of the planned Live
concerts that year. Gilmour denied that Pink Floyd would appear,
but Waters agreed to perform at the US concert in New Jersey.
On 2 July 2005 Waters and Pink Floyd reunited for a performance at
concert. They played a four-song, 23-minute set, including
"Speak to Me
", "Wish You Were Here
and "Comfortably Numb
remarked shortly after Live 8 to the Associated Press
that, while the experience
of playing as Pink Floyd again was positive, the chances of a bona
fide reunion would be "slight", considering his and Gilmour's
continuing musical and ideological differences. During an interview
with Rolling Stone
, Waters further denied the possibility
of a future Pink Floyd tour, saying "I didn't mind rolling over for
one day, but I couldn't roll over for a whole fucking tour." He has
since stated on a radio interview that he would be interested in
the possibility of recording a new album with the rest of Pink
Floyd as long as he had creative control. However, Gilmour has said
on several occasions that he is retired from extensive touring,
shedding more doubt on the possibility of a Pink Floyd reunion
However, more recently, Waters has become more open to the idea of
a Pink Floyd reunion tour, stating during the BBC documentary
"Which One's Pink", "It was really cool, I'd like to do more of
it", and at the end of the program, stated "I don't think it will
happen but I'd like ... well, you can ask David when you speak to
Waters is known to be working on two new solo albums; one has the
working title of Heartland
. Two new songs that might
appear on this album have been released on Flickering Flame: The
Solo Years Vol. 1
: "Each Small Candle
" and "Flickering Flame".
The other of the two albums deals with the theme of love, much in
the vein of Pros and Cons
. A work-in-progress, which may
appear on this album and was dubbed "Woman" by bootleggers, was
heard during the sound checks for the In the Flesh tour. However,
in a recent telephone interview, he confirmed that the release of
his next project has been delayed due to not having a concept to
draw all the individual songs together into one piece.
Solid state laser system designed by
Marc Brickman that depicted Dark Side of the Moon album art, used
on Waters' latest tour
Roger Waters toured Europe and North America during 2006 for his
Side of the Moon Live Tour
. As part of his performance he
played a complete run-through of the 1973 Pink Floyd classic,
The Dark Side of the Moon
, as the second half of the show.
The first half was a mix of Floyd classics and Waters' solo
material. Elaborate staging designed by Marc Brickman, complete
with projections, and a full, 360 degree quadrophonic sound system
were used. This new Waters' solo tour is expected to be as
successful as his previous In the Flesh
tour. His former
Pink Floyd bandmate, Nick Mason, joined Waters on some of the tour
dates. Richard Wright was invited to participate on the tour as
well but he declined the offer to work on solo projects. There was
also a 2007 leg of the Tour, starting in January in Australia,
followed by New Zealand and going through Asia, Europe, South
America, and finally North America in June.
Syd Barrett, who died on 7 July 2006, remained an emotional subject
for most of his friends and former colleagues. Waters said in
interviews before Barrett's death that it would be difficult and
inappropriate for him to try to insert himself back into his old
Mason began patching their relationship in 2002. After speaking to
Mason and Bob Geldof
about a possible
Pink Floyd reunion at Live 8, Waters contacted Gilmour by phone and
e-mail, and it appears that they have buried the hatchet since the
concert and now communicate on a friendly basis. Waters had made
overtures to Wright, as well, before Wright's death on 15 September
2008. Following this Waters stated on his website: "Rick's ear for
harmonic progression was our bedrock. I am very grateful for the
opportunity that Live 8 afforded me to engage with him, and David
and Nick that one last time. I wish there had been more."
In March 2007 the science fiction film The Last Mimzy
was released featuring a
new exclusive song, "Hello (I love you)", which played over the end
credits.Waters described it as "a song that captures the themes of
the movie, the clash between humanity's best and worst instincts,
and how a child's innocence can win the day."
On 7 July
2007, Waters played at the American leg of the Live Earth concert, an
international multi-venue concert aimed to raise awareness about
global climate change, featuring the Trenton Youth Choir and his trademark inflatable
Waters has also recently become a spokesperson for
, a non-profit
organisation that helps fight extreme poverty and malaria
, and wrote a commentary for CNN
's website on 11 June 2007 about the topic.
wrapping up a performance at the Coachella
Festival in April, Waters continued his The Dark Side of the Moon
Live tour in 2008.
Waters was to be among the headlining artists performing at
Live Earth 2008
India on 7 December 2008. This concert was cancelled in light of
the terrorist attacks in
throughout November 2008.
It has recently been confirmed by Roger's manager, Mark Fenwick,
that Roger is "considering" touring The
in 2010 and 2011, though there is yet to be a concrete
answer on the matter.
Views and advocacy
Waters is a supporter of the Countryside Alliance
and has played
concerts to raise funds for the organisation.
A strong supporter of fox hunting
Waters claimed he left Britain due to the Hunting Act 2004
“I’ve become disenchanted with the political and
philosophical atmosphere in England.
It’s so mealy-mouthed.
I’m lucky enough to have the freedom to live where I
want because I’ve made a few quid.
The anti-hunting bill was enough for me to leave
I did what I could, I did a concert and one or two
articles, but it made me feel ashamed to be English.
I was in Hyde Park for both the Countryside Alliance
There were hundreds of thousands of us
Good, honest English people.
That’s one of the most divisive pieces of legislation
we’ve ever had in Great Britain.
It was disgusting.”
Hits and awards
Waters' solo singles have seen little chart activity; "What God Wants, Pt. 1
" reached #35 in the UK in September 1992.
His first major solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch
, has been certified Gold by the RIAA
, and his opera Ça Ira
reached #1 on both
the UK and U.S. Classical Charts. Waters has also been inducted
into the U.S. and UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pink
Floyd, and received a "Media Event of the Year" award for mounting
The Wall Live in Berlin
. In February 2009 he received a
"Cinema for Peace
" award for
Equipment and instruments
Though Waters does not talk a lot about the musical equipment he
uses in his tours and during his recordings, it is known that when
he first started playing with Pink Floyd he used a Höfner
bass, quickly replacing that with a
4001S bass guitar. In the
early 1970s, he switched to a Fender Precision Bass
. He often plays with a
, but is also known to play fingerstyle
occasionally. He also uses
Jazz Bass 77 bass guitar
strings. Throughout his career, he has used WEM, Hiwatt and Ashdown
amplifiers. He is known to use delay
effects in his music.
While usually credited only as a bass guitarist and vocalist,
Waters is also known to play electric guitar (as he did on Wish
You Were Here
, where he played rhythm guitar
on tracks "Shine On You Crazy Diamond
9 and "Sheep
") as well as add synthesizer
, both to Pink Floyd and his solo works. He also plays
acoustic guitar frequently during his live tours, mostly on tracks
from The Final Cut
and on the track "Mother".
The following is a list of equipment Waters either has used on his
solo or Pink Floyd recordings, as well as on tours.
- Höfner bass guitar. His first
- Rickenbacker RM-1999 (also known as
4001S). Fireglo with rosewood fretboard. Used between 1966-1969.
Lost in 1970 after equipment van was stolen in New Orleans, and
everything was subsequently recovered except the guitars and
- Fender Precision Bass.
Waters was first seen in 1968 with a Precision. After 1970 he has
rarely used any other bass guitars.
- Sunburst with rosewood fretboard and brown tortoise pickguard.
First seen in September 1968. Also used in the early 70's. Pickup
cover and thumbrest (below pickups) attached.
- White with brown tortoise pickguard and rosewood fretboard.
Appears on back cover of Ummagumma 1969. Seen used at the KQED TV
recording April 1970 as well as several photographs from 1969.
Stolen along with Rickenbacker after equipment van heist in
- Multi-coloured jazz bass with rosewood fretboard. Actual
colours of bass are unknown since only black and white
footage/photos exist. This is a WWII German camouflage pattern.
Used extremely rarely in 1969.
- Black with rosewood fretboard. Seen in some early
- Black with white pickguard, maple fretboard. First seen at a
concert in Hyde park in July 1970, this guitar was used on very few
occasions before April 1972 when it became his de facto
only guitar on stage. Circa 1976 Phil Taylor (David Gilmour's
guitar technician) replaced the white pickguard with a black,
something clearly visible on In the Flesh and The Wall tours.
During the Wall sessions and tour Waters had three of them.
- Sunburst with maple fretboard and gold anodized pickguard. Used
during the Dark Side of the Moon recordings.
- Black with maple fretboard and black pickguard. His main bass
guitars during the 1980s solo album and tours.
Waters currently uses Samson wireless systems with his basses.
- Black with maple fretboard "Charvel" Precision style -
currently used on Live 8, The Dark Side Of The Moon Live
- CBS Fender Stratocaster.
Black with white pickguard, maple fretboard.
- CBS Fender Stratocaster.
Black with maple fretboard. Used on the 1977 tour.
- Fender Stratocaster. Black with white pickguard and maple
fretboard. Used on The Wall recording sessions.
- Ovation Legend acoustic/electric guitar. Used on the 1977
- Ovation Legend 1619-4 acoustic guitar. Used on The Wall
recording sessions and tour. Also used on The Pros & Cons of
Hitch Hiking Tour.
- Ovation Classical 1613 acoustic guitar. Used on The Wall
- Washburn electric-acoustic guitar. Blue. Used on Radio K.A.O.S.
tour. and The Wall Live in Berlin.
- Gibson Les Paul guitar. Black.
Used on Radio K.A.O.S. tour.
- Unknown Fender Telecaster
copy. Black, with three control knobs. Used exclusively at The Wall
Live in Berlin, on "Hey
- Martin 000-28EC
acoustic guitar. Used on In the Flesh tour.
- Martin 000-28ECHF
Bellezza Nera acoustic guitar. Used on Dark Side of the Moon Live
- Washburn RR300 electric guitar (hi-strung). Sunburst. Used on
In the Flesh tour.
- Fender Eric Clapton
Signature Stratocaster. Torino Red with white pickguard. Used
on In the Flesh tour.
- Fender Stratocaster. All
black. Used on 2002 In the Flesh tour.
For his work with Pink Floyd, see Pink Floyd discography between 1967
- Glenn Povey and Richard Ashton interview with Gilmour,
Brain Damage, February 1988
- Schaffner, Nicholas, A Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd
Odyssey, First Edition, 1991, p.224
- Rock Sets: the astonishing art of rock concert design: the
works of Fisher Park / Sutherland Lyall. London: Thames and Hudson,
- Scaggs, Austin (11 August 2005). "Q&A", Rolling
Stone issue 980
- Waters: Something can be done about extreme poverty
- Portishead, Johnson, Waters To Headline
- Paul Sexton Sunday Times, 4 September 2005.
- Pulse & Spirit, February 2009
- Fitch, Vernon: The Pink Floyd Encyclopedia (3rd
- Mason, Nick: Inside Out - A Personal History of Pink
- Fitch, Vernon and Mahon, Richard: Comfortably Numb - The
Wall 1978-1981 2006