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George Roger Waters (born September 6, 1943) is a rock musician, songwriter, and composer.
He is best known for his illustrious 1965-1985 career with the band Pink Floyd as their main songwriter from 1968, one of their chief singers (along with David Gilmour), bass player and main sonic wizard.
Following this, he began a moderately successful solo career releasing three studio albums and staging one of the largest concerts ever, The Wall Concert in Berlin in 1990. In 2005, he released an opera, Ça Ira and rejoined Pink Floyd for a performance at the Live 8 concert in London, on July 2, 2005.
(Pre 1965) Early years
Waters was born as George Roger Waters in Great Bookham, Surrey near Leatherhead, and grew up in Cambridge.
Although his father Eric Fletcher Waters had been a Communist and ardent pacifist, he fought in World War II and died in action at Anzio in 1944, when Roger was only five months old. Waters would refer or allude to the loss of his father throughout his work, especially on The Final Cut album from 1983 (which is dedicated to his father) and the song named "When the Tigers Broke Free" from the movie version of The Wall. However, he has said that the mother character from the latter album was nothing like his own. Distrust of authority, particularly government, educational, and military institutions, is a recurring theme in Waters' writing. This theme is clearly expressed in "When the Tigers Broke Free" as Waters expresses what he felt was a hollow and patronizing response to his father's sacrifice at Anzio:
"And kind old King George sent Mother a note when he heard that Father was gone. It was, as I recall, in a form of a scroll, with gold leaf and all. And I found it one day in a drawer of old photographs, hidden away. And my eyes still grow damp to remember, His Majesty signed with his own rubber stamp."
He and Syd Barrett attended the Morley Memorial Junior School on Hills Road, Cambridge, and later both attended the Cambridge County School for Boys (now Hills Road Sixth Form College), while fellow band member David Gilmour attended The Perse School on the same road). He met Nick Mason and Rick Wright while attending the Regent Street Polytechnic school of architecture. He was a keen sportsman and was fond of swimming in the River Cam at Grantchester Meadows. At 15 he was chair of YCND in Cambridge.
(1965-1985) Pink Floyd years
In 1965, Roger Waters was a founding member of Pink Floyd, with then lead singer, guitarist, and principal songwriter Syd Barrett as well as Rick Wright and Nick Mason. Although Barrett initially did most of the songwriting for the band, Roger wrote "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" on their 1967 debut LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The album was a critical success and positioned the band for stardom.
In 1968, Barrett's erratic behaviour and deteriorating mental health led to his eventual departure from the band. There was talk that without the talented lead singer and songwriter, the band would not be able to sustain its initial success. To fill the void, Waters began to chart the band's artistic direction. Along with co-writer, guitarist, and singer David Gilmour, who had joined the band to augment, and later replace Barrett, Waters brought Pink Floyd back into prominence as their main composer, producing a series of albums in the 1970s that remain among the most critically acclaimed and best-selling records of all time.
Within Pink Floyd, Waters, the main lyrical contributor, exerted more and more creative control over the band. Waters steered Floyd into recording increasingly personalised concept albums such as The Dark Side Of The Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals, and The Wall in which he wrote all the lyrics. He is the sole writer of many of Pink Floyd's better known hits such as "Money" and "Another Brick in the Wall Pt. 2" In total, Waters has songwriting credit (solo or shared) on over 70% of Pink Floyd's entire music catalogue.
Waters' bandmates were happy to allow him to write the band's lyrics and guide the band's conceptual direction while they shared the opportunity to contribute musical ideas (Floyd guitarist David Gilmour described Waters as "a very good motivator and obviously a great lyricist," even at the height of the acrimony between Waters and Gilmour in 1995). Some of the band's most popular and beloved songs, including "Echoes", "Time", "Us And Them", "Wish You Were Here" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond", feature the strong synergy of Waters' sharp lyrical instincts with the melodic talents of Gilmour, the soft, precise drumming of Nick Mason, and atmospheric patterns of keyboardist Richard Wright ("Us And Them", for instance, began as a sweetly melodic Wright keyboard instrumental and gained poignancy when Waters added plaintive antiwar lyrics). Unfortunately, this give-and-take relationship began to give way after 1975's Wish You Were Here; 1977's Animals lacked significant contributions from Mason or Wright and Gilmour only received credit for co-writing the track "Dogs" which comprised most of the album's first side (the song had previously been performed live under the title "You Gotta Be Crazy"). The double-album The Wall featured only four co-credited tracks, "Young Lust", "Run Like Hell" and "Comfortably Numb" (co-written with Gilmour), and "The Trial" (co-written by album producer Bob Ezrin). Songwriting credits were a source of contention in these difficult years: Gilmour has noted that his contributions to tracks like "Another Brick In The Wall Pt. 2" (with its blistering solo) were not always noted in the album credits. Nick Mason also addresses the band in-fighting over credits much more dispassionately in his memoir, Inside Out: A Personal History of Pink Floyd. It was while recording The Wall that Waters made the decision to fire keyboardist and founding member Rick Wright, although Wright remained on the album tour as a paid session musician. Ironically, because he was now on a fixed salary, Wright was the only member of the band to make a profit out of this extremely expensive but very short tour.
For many fans and casual listeners, the collaborative years of 1971-1975 remain the "classic" Pink Floyd years; a 1987 end-of-year review in Rolling Stone noted that Waters' solo Radio K.A.O.S. and the Waters-less Pink Floyd's A Momentary Lapse Of Reason, taken together, might have made a nice The Dark Side Of The Moon.
Waters is also known to play electric guitar as he did on Animals, where he played rhythm guitar on tracks "Pigs (Three Different Ones)" and "Sheep", to play synthesizers and add tape effects since earlier works. He is also known for his acoustic guitar work, which he plays frequently live on his tours, mostly on tracks from The Final Cut.
In 1983, the last Waters-Gilmour-Mason collaboration, The Final Cut, was released, though it was largely considered more like a Roger Waters solo album "performed by Pink Floyd" than an actual Pink Floyd collaborative album (Gilmour tried unsuccessfully to delay production until he could author more material; given the personal nature of the subject matter, Waters refused).
In 1985, Waters proclaimed that, due to irreconcilable differences, the band had dissolved. The ensuing disagreement between Waters and Gilmour over the latter's intention to continue to use the name "Pink Floyd" descended into lawsuits and public bickering in the press. Waters claimed that as the original band consisted of himself, Syd Barrett, Nick Mason and Richard Wright, that this band could not reasonably call itself "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 departure. However, Gilmour and Mason won the right to use the name and a majority of the band's songs, though Waters did retain the rights to the albums The Wall and all of its songs (save for the three Gilmour co-wrote) and The Final Cut, and to the famous Pink Floyd pigs.
In 2005, he agreed to rejoin Pink Floyd on stage for Live 8, and performed on July 2, 2005 with his former bandmates David Gilmour, Nick Mason, and Rick Wright. It was the first time the four men had been onstage together since the June 1981 concerts at Earl's Court in London.
(1985-) Solo years
Waters embarked on a solo career after Pink Floyd, producing three concept albums and a movie soundtrack which did not garner impressive sales. Solo works have managed critical acclaim and even some comparison to previous work with Pink Floyd.
His first truly solo album, 1984's The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, was a project about a man's dreams in a night. The list of musicians helping Waters during recording included legendary guitarist Eric Clapton and jazz saxophonist David Sanborn. Conceived around the same time as The Wall, the concept was shown to the Pink Floyd members, but they preferred The Wall over The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking. The album had been demoed by Waters at the same time as The Wall, but the band had voted it too personal. Waters decided to shelve it until he could do it as a solo project. The album received mixed reviews, with Kurt Loder describing Pros And Cons Of Hitch Hiking in Rolling Stone as a "strangely static, faintly hideous record," adding that "Waters sounds like the kind of guy who'd bring Hershey bars and nylons along on a first date." (Loder gave the album one star out of five, though user ratings have averaged four out of five )
In 1986 Waters contributed songs to the soundtrack of the movie When the Wind Blows.
In 1987 Waters released another concept album, Radio K.A.O.S., about a boy named Billy who can hear radio waves in his head. Waters followed the release with a supporting tour, also in 1987. His album did not garner the impressive sales he had achieved in Pink Floyd. One possible reason was that he was now competing with a reformed Pink Floyd who were touring to support their latest release, A Momentary Lapse Of Reason.
After the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, Waters staged a gigantic charity concert of The Wall in Berlin on July 21, 1990 to commemorate the end of the division between East and West Germany. The concert took place on Potsdamer Platz (a location which was part of the former "no-man's land" of the Berlin Wall), featured many guest superstars, and, at the time, was the biggest concert ever staged with an attendance of over 300,000 and watched live by over 5 million people worldwide.
1992's Amused to Death, about the corrupting, desensitizing nature of television, is perhaps Waters' most critically acclaimed solo recording, with music critics comparing it to later Pink Floyd work, such as The Wall. The album had one hit which was What God Wants, Pt. 1 which hit #4 on Mainstream Rock charts. Jeff Beck, another legendary guitarist, saw action on Waters' album as he played lead guitar.
In 1999 Waters embarked on the In the Flesh tour which saw Waters performing some of his most famous work, both solo and Pink Floyd material. The tour was a success, and 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.
In 2002 Waters performed at a concert organised by the Countryside Alliance in support of fox hunting. Waters has never publicly expressed any Tory allegiances and has, in fact, criticised the Thatcher Conservative government for their handling of the Falklands War on The Final Cut. In June of 2002 Waters played the Glastonbury Festival performing many classic Pink Floyd songs. This was the first time a special speaker system had been set up among the audience to enable sound effects to appear to be moving around amongst the crowd.
Miramax Films announced in mid-2004 that a production of The Wall is to appear on Broadway with Waters playing a prominent part in its production. Reports say the musical will contain not only the original tracks from The Wall, but also songs from Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and 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 Welcome Europe celebrations in the accession country of Malta, performed over Grand Harbour in Valletta and illuminated by light artist Gert Hof. The event was broadcast over all EBU television stations.
In September 2004, Waters released two new tracks, "To Kill The Child" and "Leaving Beirut". These were released only on the Internet. Both of these tracks were inspired by the U.S./UK 2003 invasion of Iraq. 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, hoping to derail George W. Bush's re-election. The lyrics were quite rash such as: "Oh George! Oh George! That Texas education must have fucked you up when you were very small" (from "Leaving Beirut"). Although the songs' criticism was primarily aimed at the American government, Tony Blair is also referenced: "Not in my name, Tony, you great war leader".
After the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and subsequent tsunami disaster that occurred on December 26th 2004 (at 00:58 UTC), Waters performed "Wish You Were Here" with Eric Clapton on an NBC benefit concert.
Waters and Pink Floyd reunited for a performance at the Live 8 concert. They played a four-song, 23-minute set. Before going into "Wish You Were Here", Waters said:
"It's actually quite emotional standing up here with these three guys after all these years. Standing to be counted with the rest of you. Anyway, we're doing this for everyone who's not here, but particularly, of course, for Syd."
Waters 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. Gilmour commented that the experience was like "sleeping with my ex-wife again".
Waters is also known to be working on two new solo albums, which (as remarked to Jim Ladd, with whom he worked on Radio K.A.O.S.) one has the working title of Heartland, and that it might be released in 2006 or 2007. Two possible tracks from this album have appeared on In the Flesh Live ("Each Small Candle") and the compilation Flickering Flame: The Solo Years Vol. 1 ("Flickering Flame"). The other of the two albums deals with the theme of Love like his first solo album. A possible track is a song dubbed "Woman" which was heard during the sound checks for the "In the Flesh" tour.
In February of 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 September 27, 2005 with Baritone Bryn Terfel, soprano Ying Huang and tenor Paul Groves. The original libretto was written in French by the late Étienne Roda-Gil, who set the opera during the optimistic days of the early French Revolution. From 1997 Roger Waters rewrote the libretto in English.
Roger Waters has announced that he will be touring Europe Summer 2006 and North America in the fall for his The Dark Side Of The Moon Live Tour. As part of his performance he will be playing the Pink Floyd masterpiece, The Dark Side of the Moon. The tour promises 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 is a mix of Floyd classics and Roger's solo material. Elaborate staging is promised, designed by Mark Fisher, complete with projections, and a full, 360 degree quadrophonic sound system. This new Waters' solo tour is expected to be as successful as his previous In the Flesh tour. It has been announced that his former Pink Floyd bandmate, Nick Mason will be joining Roger on some of the tour dates. It was also reported that Rick Wright had been invited to participate on the tour as well but he declined the offer to work on solo projects.
On May 20th, 2006 he performed with a set band consisting of Roger Taylor and Eric Clapton and band-mate Nick Mason performing two songs, "Wish You Were Here" and "Comfortably Numb".
On June 2nd, 2006 Roger Waters launched his world tour at the Rock in Rio Lisboa. Apart being the first time he fully performed The Dark Side of the Moon since 1975, the great surprise for fans was "Sheep" first time played live since the 1977 "Animals tour".
Waters' former bandmate Nick 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 hatchets since the historic concert and apparently now communicate on a friendly basis. Waters has made overtures to Richard Wright, as well. Syd Barrett, who died on Friday 7th of 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 friend's life.
Hits And Awards
Roger Waters had exposure to hit singles in his solo period. His three major solo albums have been acclaimed Gold by the RIAA, and his opera Ça Ira had reached #1 on both the UK and U.S. Classical Charts. His work also consisted of a few hit singles, his most popular was "What God Wants, Pt. 1" on his Amused to Death album, which reached #4. His tours have been very successful. Roger has also been inducted into the U.S. and UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Pink Floyd.
A passionate football fan, Waters supports London club Arsenal F.C.
Roger also enjoys fishing, and has been fly fishing for 20 years.
Waters is a lifelong supporter of the Labour Party, often describing himself as a socialist, but he's lately been heavily disagreeing with Tony Blair's New Labour policies.
Waters also went to the West Bank in Palestine on June 22, 2006. He spray painted Israeli West Bank barrier which he has openly stood against labeling it an "apartheid wall".
- (1970) Music from "The Body" - movie soundtrack; collaboration with Ron Geesin; features all of Pink Floyd on one track.
- (1984) The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking - concept album U.S.#31 UK#13
- (1986) When the Wind Blows - movie soundtrack; includes tracks by others
- (1987) Radio K.A.O.S. - concept album U.S.#50 UK#25
- (1990) The Wall Live in Berlin - pre-played U.S.#56 UK#24
- (1992) Amused to Death - concept album U.S.#21 UK#8
- (2000) In the Flesh Live - live U.S.#136 UK#122
- (2003) Flickering Flame: The Solo Years Vol. 1 - compilation
- (2005) Ça Ira- a three act opera U.S.#1 UK (Classical Charts)
- (2005) Ca Ira (French Version) Roger Waters
- (2005) To Kill The Child / Leaving Beirut Roger Waters