George Roger Waters (born 6 September 1943) is an English songwriter, singer, bassist, and composer. In 1965, he co-founded the progressive rock band Pink Floyd. Waters initially served solely as the bassist, but following the departure of singer-songwriter Syd Barrett in 1968, he also became their lyricist, co-lead vocalist, and conceptual leader.
Waters performing live at the O2 Arena on 18 May 2008
|Birth name||George Roger Waters|
|Born||6 September 1943|
Great Bookham, Surrey, England
Pink Floyd achieved international success with the concept albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977), and The Wall (1979). By the early 1980s, they had become one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful groups in popular music; by 2013, they had sold more than 250 million albums worldwide. Amid creative differences, Waters left in 1985 and began a legal dispute over the use of the band's name and material. They settled out of court in 1987.
Waters' solo work includes the studio albums The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking (1984), Radio K.A.O.S. (1987), Amused to Death (1992), and Is This the Life We Really Want? (2017). In 2005, he released Ça Ira, an opera translated from Étienne and Nadine Roda-Gils' libretto about the French Revolution.
In 1990, Waters staged one of the largest rock concerts in history, The Wall – Live in Berlin, with an attendance of 450,000. As a member of Pink Floyd, he was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Later that year, he reunited with Pink Floyd bandmates Nick Mason, Richard Wright and David Gilmour for the Live 8 global awareness event, the group's first appearance with Waters since 1981. He has toured extensively as a solo act since 1999; he performed The Dark Side of the Moon in its entirety for his world tour of 2006–2008, and the Wall Live tour of 2010–13 was the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist at the time.
Waters was born on 6 September 1943, the younger of two boys, to Mary (née Whyte; 1913–2009) and Eric Fletcher Waters (1914–1944), in Great Bookham, Surrey. His father, the son of a coal miner and Labour Party activist, was a schoolteacher, a devout Christian, and a Communist Party member. In the early years of the Second World War, Waters' father was a conscientious objector who drove an ambulance during the Blitz.
Waters' father later changed his stance on pacifism, joined the Territorial Army and was commissioned into the 8th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers as a Second Lieutenant on 11 September 1943. He was killed five months later on 18 February 1944 at Aprilia, during the Battle of Anzio, when Roger was five months old. He is commemorated in Aprilia and at the Cassino War Cemetery. On 18 February 2014, Waters unveiled a monument to his father and other war casualties in Aprilia, and was made an honorary citizen of Anzio. Following her husband's death, Mary Waters, also a teacher, moved with her two sons to Cambridge and raised them there. Waters' earliest memory is of the V-J Day celebrations.
Waters attended Morley Memorial Junior School in Cambridge and then the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys (now Hills Road Sixth Form College) with Syd Barrett, while future Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour lived nearby on Mill Road and attended the Perse School. At 15, Waters was chairman of the Cambridge Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (YCND), having designed its publicity poster and participated in its organisation. He was a keen sportsman and a highly regarded member of the high school's cricket and rugby teams. Waters was unhappy at school, saying: "I hated every second of it, apart from games. The regime at school was a very oppressive one ... the same kids who are susceptible to bullying by other kids are also susceptible to bullying by the teachers."
Whereas Waters knew Barrett and Gilmour from his childhood in Cambridge, he met future Pink Floyd founder members Nick Mason and Richard Wright in London at the Regent Street Polytechnic (later the University of Westminster) school of architecture. Waters enrolled there in 1962, after a series of aptitude tests indicated he was well suited to that field. He had initially considered a career in mechanical engineering.
1965–1985: Pink Floyd
Formation and Barrett-led period
By September 1963, Waters and Mason had lost interest in their studies and moved into the lower flat of Stanhope Gardens, owned by Mike Leonard, a part-time tutor at the Regent Street Polytechnic. Waters, Mason and Wright first played music together in late 1963, in a band formed by vocalist Keith Noble and bassist Clive Metcalfe. They usually called themselves Sigma 6, but also used the name the Meggadeaths. Waters played rhythm guitar and Mason played drums, Wright played any keyboard he could arrange to use, and Noble's sister Sheilagh provided occasional vocals. In the early years the band performed during private functions and rehearsed in a tearoom in the basement of Regent Street Polytechnic.
When Metcalfe and Noble left to form their own group in September 1963, the remaining members asked Barrett and guitarist Bob Klose to join. Waters switched to the bass and by January 1964, the group became known as the Abdabs, or the Screaming Abdabs. During late 1964, the band used the names Leonard's Lodgers, Spectrum Five, and eventually, the Tea Set. In late 1965, the Tea Set had changed their name to the Pink Floyd Sound, later the Pink Floyd Blues Band and, by early 1966, Pink Floyd.
By early 1966, Barrett was Pink Floyd's frontman, guitarist, and songwriter. He wrote or co-wrote all but one track of their debut LP The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, released in August 1967. Waters contributed the song "Take Up Thy Stethoscope and Walk" (his first sole writing credit) to the album. By late 1967, Barrett's deteriorating mental health and increasingly erratic behaviour, rendered him "unable or unwilling" to continue in his capacity as Pink Floyd's singer-songwriter and lead guitarist. In early March 1968, to discuss the band's future, Barrett, Mason, Waters, and Wright met with the band's managers, Peter Jenner and Andrew King of the rock music management company they had all founded: Blackhill Enterprises. Barrett agreed to leave Pink Floyd, and the band "agreed to Blackhill's entitlement in perpetuity" regarding "past activities". The band's new manager Steve O'Rourke made a formal announcement about the departure of Barrett and the arrival of David Gilmour in April 1968.
Filling the void left by Barrett's departure in March 1968, Waters began to chart Pink Floyd's artistic direction. He became a dominant songwriter and the band's principal lyricist, sharing lead vocals with Gilmour and sometimes Wright, and throughout the latter half of the 1970s, would become the band's dominant creative figure until his departure in 1985. He wrote most of the lyrics to the five Pink Floyd albums preceding his departure, starting with The Dark Side of the Moon (1973) and ending with The Final Cut (1983), while exerting progressively more creative control over the band and its music. Every Waters studio album from The Dark Side of the Moon onwards has been a concept album. With lyrics written entirely by Waters, The Dark Side of the Moon was one of the most commercially successful rock albums ever. It spent 736 straight weeks on the Billboard 200 chart—until July 1988—and sold over 40 million copies worldwide. It was continuing to sell over 8,000 units every week as of 2005. According to Pink Floyd biographer Glen Povey, Dark Side of the Moon is the world's second best-selling album and the United States' 21st-bestselling album. In 1970 Waters composed Music from The Body in collaboration with Ron Geesin, a soundtrack album to Roy Battersby's documentary film The Body.
Waters produced thematic ideas that became the impetus for the Pink Floyd concept albums The Dark Side of the Moon (1973), Wish You Were Here (1975), Animals (1977) and The Wall (1979)—written largely by Waters—and The Final Cut (1983)—written entirely by Waters. He referred or alluded to the cost of war and the loss of his father throughout his work, from "Corporal Clegg" (A Saucerful of Secrets, 1968) and "Free Four" (Obscured by Clouds, 1972) to "Us and Them" from The Dark Side of the Moon, "When the Tigers Broke Free", first used in the feature film, The Wall (1982), later included with "The Fletcher Memorial Home" on The Final Cut, an album dedicated to his father. The theme and composition of The Wall was influenced by his upbringing in an English society depleted of men after the Second World War.
The double album The Wall was written almost entirely by Waters and is largely based on his life story. Having sold over 23 million RIAA certified units in the US as of 2013, is one of the top three best-selling albums of all time in America, according to RIAA. Pink Floyd hired Bob Ezrin to co-produce the album and cartoonist Gerald Scarfe to illustrate the sleeve art. The band embarked on The Wall Tour of Los Angeles, New York, London, and Dortmund. The last band performance of The Wall was on 16 June 1981, at Earls Court London, and this was Pink Floyd's last appearance with Waters until the band's brief reunion at 2 July 2005 Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park, 24 years later.
In March 1983, the last Waters–Gilmour–Mason collaboration, The Final Cut, was released. The album was subtitled: "A requiem for the post-war dream by Roger Waters, performed by Pink Floyd". Waters wrote all the album's lyrics and music. His lyrics were critical of the Conservative Party government of the day and mention Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher by name. At the time Gilmour did not have any new material, so he asked Waters to delay the recording until he could write some songs, but Waters refused. According to Mason, after power struggles within the band and creative arguments about the album, Gilmour's name "disappeared" from the production credits, though he retained his pay. Rolling Stone magazine gave the album five stars, with Kurt Loder describing it as "a superlative achievement" and "art rock's crowning masterpiece". Loder viewed the work as "essentially a Roger Waters solo album".
Departure and lawsuit
Amidst creative differences, Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985 and began a legal battle with the band regarding their continued use of the name and material. In December 1985, Waters issued a statement to EMI and CBS invoking the "Leaving Member" clause in his contract. In October 1986, he initiated High Court proceedings to formally dissolve the Pink Floyd partnership. In his submission to the High Court he called Pink Floyd a "spent force creatively". Gilmour and Mason opposed the application and announced their intention to continue as Pink Floyd. Waters claims to have been forced to resign like Wright had been years earlier, and decided to leave Pink Floyd based on legal considerations, saying: "If I hadn't, the financial repercussions would have wiped me out completely."
In December 1987, Waters and Pink Floyd reached an agreement. Waters was released from his contractual obligation with O'Rourke, and he retained the copyrights to the Wall concept and the inflatable Animals pig. Pink Floyd released three studio albums without him: A Momentary Lapse of Reason (1987), The Division Bell (1994) and The Endless River (2014). In 2005, Waters said of their almost 20 years of animosity: "I don't think any of us came out of the years from 1985 with any credit ... It was a bad, negative time, and I regret my part in that negativity." In 2013, he said he regretted the lawsuit, saying:
I was wrong. Of course I was ... It's one of the few times that the legal profession has taught me something. Because when I went to these chaps and said, "Listen, we're broke, this isn't Pink Floyd anymore," they went, "What do you mean? That's irrelevant, it is a label and it has commercial value. You can't say it's going to cease to exist ... you obviously don't understand English jurisprudence."
1984–present: solo career
1984–1989: The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking and Radio K.A.O.S.
In 1984, Waters released his first solo album, The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking, which dealt with Waters' feelings about monogamy and family life versus "the call of the wild". The protagonist, Reg, finally chooses love and matrimony over promiscuity. The album featured guitarist Eric Clapton, jazz saxophonist David Sanborn, and artwork by Gerald Scarfe. Kurt Loder described The Pros And Cons of Hitch Hiking as a "strangely static, faintly hideous record". Rolling Stone rated the album a "rock bottom one star". Years later, Mike DeGagne of AllMusic praised its "ingenious symbolism" and "brilliant use of stream of consciousness within a subconscious realm", rating it four out of five stars.
Waters toured the album with Clapton, a new band, and new material; the shows included a selection of Pink Floyd songs. Waters débuted his tour in Stockholm on 16 June 1984. The tour drew poor ticket sales and some performances at larger venues were cancelled; Waters estimated that he lost £400,000 on the tour. In March 1985, Waters went to North America to play smaller venues with the Pros and Cons Plus Some Old Pink Floyd Stuff—North America Tour 1985. The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking has been certified Gold by the RIAA.
In 1986, Waters contributed songs and a score to the soundtrack of the animated film When the Wind Blows, based on the Raymond Briggs book of the same name. His backing band featuring Paul Carrack was credited as The Bleeding Heart Band. In 1987, Waters released Radio K.A.O.S., a concept album based on a mute man named Billy from an impoverished Welsh mining town who has the ability to physically tune into radio waves in his head. Billy learns to communicate with a radio DJ, and eventually to control the world's computers. Angry at the state of the world in which he lives, he simulates a nuclear attack. Waters followed the release with a supporting tour also in 1987.
1989–1999: The Wall – Live in Berlin and Amused to Death
In November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell, and in July 1990 Waters staged one of the largest and most elaborate rock concerts in history, The Wall – Live in Berlin, on the vacant terrain between Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburg Gate. The show reported an official attendance of 200,000, though some estimates are as much as twice that, with approximately one billion television viewers. Leonard Cheshire asked him to do the concert to raise funds for charity. Waters' group of musicians included Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Cyndi Lauper, Bryan Adams, Scorpions, and Sinéad O'Connor. Waters 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, the Wall was 25 metres tall and 170 metres long and was built across the set. Scarfe's inflatable puppets were recreated on an enlarged scale, and although many rock icons received invitations to the show, Gilmour, Mason, and Wright, did not. Waters released a live double-album of the performance, which has been certified platinum by the RIAA.
In 1990, Waters hired manager Mark Fenwick and left EMI for a worldwide deal with Columbia. He released his third studio album, Amused to Death, in 1992. The record is heavily influenced by the events of the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 and the Gulf War, and a critique of the notion of war becoming the subject of entertainment, particularly on television. The title was derived from the book Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman. Patrick Leonard, who worked on A Momentary Lapse of Reason, co-produced the album. Jeff Beck played lead guitar on many of the album's tracks, which were recorded with a cast of musicians at ten different recording studios. It is Waters' most critically acclaimed solo recording, garnering comparison to his work with Pink Floyd. Waters described the record as, a "stunning piece of work", ranking the album with Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall as one of the best of his career. The album had one hit, the song "What God Wants, Pt. 1", which reached number 35 in the UK in September 1992 and number 5 on Billboard's Mainstream Rock Tracks chart in the US. Amused to Death was certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry. Sales of Amused to Death topped out at around one million and there was no tour in support of the album. Waters would first perform material from it seven years later during his In the Flesh tour. In 1996, Waters was inducted into the US and UK Rock and Roll Halls of Fame as a member of Pink Floyd.
1999–2004: In the Flesh tour and Wall Broadway production
In 1999, after a 12-year hiatus from touring and a seven-year absence from the music industry, Waters embarked on the In the Flesh tour, performing both solo and Pink Floyd material. The tour was a financial success in the US; though Waters had booked mostly smaller venues, tickets sold so well that many of the concerts were upgraded to larger ones. The tour eventually stretched across the world and spanned three years. A concert film was released on CD and DVD, In the Flesh – Live. During the tour, Waters played two new songs "Flickering Flame" and "Each Small Candle" as the final encore to many of the shows. In June 2002, he completed the tour with a performance in front of 70,000 people at the Glastonbury Festival of Performing Arts, playing 15 Pink Floyd songs and five songs from his solo catalogue.
Miramax announced in 2004 that a production of The Wall was to appear on Broadway with Waters playing a prominent role in the creative direction. 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 and other Pink Floyd albums, as well as new material. On the night of 1 May 2004, recorded extracts from the opera, including its overture, were played on the occasion of the Welcome Europe celebrations in the accession country of Malta. Gert Hof mixed recorded excerpts from the opera into a continuous piece of music which was played as an accompaniment to a large light and fireworks display over Grand Harbour in Valletta. In July 2004, Waters released two new tracks online: "To Kill the Child", inspired by the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and "Leaving Beirut", an anti-war song inspired by his travels in the Middle East as a teenager.
2005–2015: Pink Floyd reunion, Ça Ira, and further touring
In July 2005, Waters reunited with Mason, Wright, and Gilmour for their final performance together at the 2005 Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park, Pink Floyd's only appearance with Waters since their final performance of The Wall at Earls Court London 24 years earlier. They played a 23-minute set consisting of "Speak to Me/Breathe"/"Breathe (Reprise)", "Money", "Wish You Were Here", and "Comfortably Numb". Waters told the Associated Press that while the experience of playing with 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. Though Waters had differing ideas about which songs they should play, he "agreed to roll over for one night only". In November 2005, Pink Floyd were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame by Pete Townshend of the Who.
In September 2005, Waters released Ça Ira (pronounced [sa iˈʁa], French for "it will be fine"; Waters added the subtitle, "There is Hope"), an opera in three acts translated from the late Étienne Roda-Gil's French libretto based on the historical subject of the French Revolution. Ça Ira was released as a double CD album, featuring baritone Bryn Terfel, soprano Ying Huang and tenor Paul Groves. Set during the early French Revolution, the original libretto was co-written in French by Roda-Gil and his wife Nadine Delahaye. Waters had begun rewriting the libretto in English in 1989, and said about the composition: "I've always been a big fan of Beethoven's choral music, Berlioz and Borodin ... This is unashamedly romantic and resides in that early 19th-century tradition, because that's where my tastes lie in classical and choral music." Waters appeared on television to discuss the opera, but the interviews often focused instead on his relationship with Pink Floyd, something Waters would "take in stride", a sign Pink Floyd biographer Mark Blake believes is "a testament to his mellower old age or twenty years of dedicated psychotherapy". Ça Ira reached number 5 on the Billboard Classical Music Chart in the United States.
In June 2006, Waters commenced The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour, a two-year, world-spanning effort that began in Europe in June and North America in September. The first half of the show featured both Pink Floyd songs and Waters' solo material, while the second half included a complete live performance of the 1973 Pink Floyd album The Dark Side of the Moon, the first time in over three decades that Waters had performed the album. The shows ended with an encore from the third side of The Wall. He used elaborate staging by concert lighting designer Marc Brickman complete with laser lights, fog machines, pyrotechnics, psychedelic projections, and inflatable floating puppets (Spaceman and Pig) controlled by a "handler" dressed as a butcher, and a full 360-degree quadraphonic sound system was used. Nick Mason joined Waters for The Dark Side of the Moon set and the encores on select 2006 tour dates. Waters continued touring in January 2007 in Australia and New Zealand, then Asia, Europe, South America, and back to North America in June.
In March 2007, the Waters song "Hello (I Love You)" was featured in the science fiction film The Last Mimzy. The song plays over the film's end credits. He released it as a single, on CD and via download, and 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". He performed at California's Coachella Festival in April 2008 and was to be among the headlining artists performing at Live Earth 2008 in Mumbai, India in December 2008, but the concert was cancelled in light of the 26 November terrorist attacks in Mumbai. In April 2008, Waters discussed a possible new album with the tentative name Heartland.
2010–present: The Wall Live and Is This the Life We Really Want?
In June 2010, he released a cover of "We Shall Overcome", a protest song rewritten and arranged by Guy Carawan and Pete Seeger. He performed with Gilmour at the Hoping Foundation Benefit Evening in July 2010. The set comprised a cover of the Phil Spector song "To Know Him Is to Love Him", which was played in early Pink Floyd soundchecks, followed by "Wish You Were Here", "Comfortably Numb", and "Another Brick in the Wall (Part Two)".
In September 2010, Waters commenced the Wall Live tour, an updated version of the original Pink Floyd shows, featuring a complete performance of The Wall. Waters told the Associated Press that the tour would likely be his last, stating: "I'm not as young as I used to be. I'm not like B.B. King, or Muddy Waters. I'm not a great vocalist or a great instrumentalist or whatever, but I still have the fire in my belly, and I have something to say. I have a swan song in me and I think this will probably be it."
At The O2 Arena in London on 12 May 2011, Gilmour and Mason once again appeared with Waters and Gilmour performing "Comfortably Numb", and Gilmour and Mason joining Waters for "Outside the Wall". For the first half of 2012, Waters' tour topped worldwide concert ticket sales having sold more than 1.4 million tickets globally. By 2013, The Wall Live had become the highest-grossing tour by a solo artist up to that date. Waters performed at the Concert for Sandy Relief at Madison Square Garden on 12 December 2012. On 24 July 2015, Waters headlined the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, Rhode Island. Waters was accompanied by the band My Morning Jacket and two singers from the group Lucius.
On 3 May 2016, Waters was announced as one of the headline performers at the Desert Trip music festival and performed twice on 9 and 16 October 2016. In October 2016, Waters announced that he would return to North America in 2017 with a new tour, "Us + Them", a mixture of his Pink Floyd and solo material. The tour title is derived from the track "Us and Them," from The Dark Side of the Moon.
Waters released his first solo album in nearly 25 years, Is This the Life We Really Want?, on 2 June 2017. It was produced by Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich; Godrich was critical of Waters' earlier solo work, and encouraged him to make a concise album showcasing his lyrics. The album was promoted with the Us + Them Tour. In 2018, Waters narrated an adaptation of Igor Stravinsky's theatrical work The Soldier's Tale recorded with the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival. It was released on 26 October via Sony Classical Masterworks. On 18 April 2019, Waters joined Nick Mason's Saucerful of Secrets on stage at the Beacon Theatre to sing the lead vocals on "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun".
In 1969, Waters married his childhood sweetheart Judith Trim, a successful potter; she was featured on the gatefold sleeve of the original release of Ummagumma, but excised from subsequent CD reissues. They had no children and divorced in 1975. Trim died in 2001.
In 1976, Waters married Lady Carolyne Christie, the niece of the 3rd Marquess of Zetland. His marriage to Christie produced a son, Harry Waters, a musician who has played keyboards with his father's touring band since 2002, and a daughter, India Waters, who has worked as a model. Christie and Waters divorced in 1992. In 1993, Waters married Priscilla Phillips; they had one son, Jack Fletcher. Their marriage ended in 2001. In 2004, Waters became engaged to actress and filmmaker Laurie Durning (born 1963); the two married on 14 January 2012 and filed for divorce in September 2015.
Israel and Palestine
Waters first saw the Israeli West Bank barrier in 2006, at the request of Palestinian supporters, when he was scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv. After viewing the barrier, he moved his Tel Aviv concert to Neve Shalom, because he believed his presence in Tel Aviv would "inadvertently legitimise the oppression [he] had seen". He described the barrier as "an appalling edifice to behold" which had turned Gaza into a "virtual prison". This experience convinced him that a cultural boycott of Israel was needed. He has spoken out against the West Bank barrier since then and in 2011 said:
The abhorrent and draconian control that Israel wields over the besieged Palestinians in Gaza and the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), coupled with its denial of the rights of refugees to return to their homes in Israel, demands that fair-minded people around the world support the Palestinians in their civil, nonviolent resistance.
In 2011, he announced that he had joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and called on Israel to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, remove the West Bank barrier, grant full equality and rights to Arab citizens of Israel and allow all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. In a December 2013 interview with CounterPunch, Waters said that he is part of the BDS movement because he believed it was wrong "for an artist to go and play in a country that occupies other people’s land and oppresses them the way Israel does". He said that many people pretended that the oppression of the Jews was not going on in the period 1933 to 1946. "So this is not a new scenario. Except that this time it’s the Palestinian People being murdered". Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, accused Waters of antisemitism for comparing the Palestinian situation with the Holocaust.
In 2013, rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, accused Waters of antisemitism for including a giant pig balloon with a Star of David on its back at one of his concerts. In response, Waters said: "I will continue my non-violent protests as long as the government of Israel continues with these policies. ... It is difficult to make arguments to defend the Israeli government's policies, so would-be defenders often use a diversionary tactic, they routinely drag the critic into a public arena and accuse them of being an antisemite". The Anti-Defamation League initially said that it believed Waters had no antisemitic intent in using the balloon and star as he had a long history of using the symbols. However, the League later concluded that Waters was indeed an anti-Semite after his "relentless attacks against Israel and calls for a boycott of the Jewish State", as said by the League in an open letter to the songwriter. The League's director, Abraham Foxman, told the Times of Israel that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have “seeped into the totality” of the songwriter's views.
On 2 October 2015, Waters published an open letter in Salon criticising Bon Jovi for performing in Tel Aviv, which led radio host Howard Stern to criticise Waters on his show. Waters also joined more than 50 prominent figures urging Radiohead to cancel a 2017 Tel Aviv performance. In October 2017, Waters was one of the signatories to an open letter addressed to Nick Cave asking him to cancel his scheduled concerts in Tel Aviv. Cave refused to cancel the concerts and responded to Waters with an open letter of his own.
In October 2016, Waters lost $4 million in sponsorship after American Express refused to fund his North America tour due to his “anti-Israel rhetoric” at a previous festival. In November 2016, Citibank joined American Express in cutting ties to Waters.
Waters narrated the 2016 documentary The Occupation of the American Mind: Israel’s Public Relations War in the United States about the methods used by Israel to shape American public opinion. In June 2017, an organisation known as We Don't Need No Roger Waters started to boycott Waters for his support of BDS. Waters' concerts in Germany have been boycotted by Germany's organisation of public broadcasters ARD.
Waters took part in a panel discussion entitled "Israel, Free Speech, and the Battle for Palestinian Human Rights" at the University of Massachusetts Amherst on 4 May 2019. A group of students sought to stop the discussion through the courts on the grounds that it was antisemitic and they would "suffer irreparable harm" but a Superior Court judge ruled that the event could go ahead. Waters welcomed the court action as a way of publicising the Palestinian cause and said "criticism of the Israeli government’s flouting of international law and abuses of human rights has nothing to do with the Jewish faith or Jewish people".
In February 2020, following the showing of advertisements for his This Is Not a Drill concert series on some Major League Baseball platforms, Jewish organisation B'nai B'rith criticised the league's decision to show the ads and sponsor the tour. The organisation wrote a letter to commissioner Rob Manfred in which it stated that Waters’ views on Israel "far exceed the boundaries of civil discourse". Following the criticism, the league decided to stop running ads for Water's tour on its platforms.
On 20 June 2020, during an interview with Shehab News Agency, Waters described American business magnate Sheldon Adelson as a "puppet master pulling the strings of Donald Trump, Mike Pompeo, and ... the Ambassador [to Israel]", and called Zionism an "ugly stain" that "needs to be gently removed". He said Israel was indirectly responsible for the killing of George Floyd, an American man killed by a police officer, as the "Israeli Defense Forces invented the restriction technique of kneeling on necks". Waters was accused by several publications of making antisemitic comments. On 25 June, Waters issued an apology, expressing regret for using "words that evoked metaphorical imagery which (...) were 'harmful to Jewish people and to the movement for Palestinian rights'". He said that his claim that Israel had introduced the kneeling-on-neck technique to American police was wrong.
Waters was outspoken against the Hunting Act of 2004, and performed a concert for, and attended marches supporting, the Countryside Alliance. Waters explained that whether he supported hunting or not, it was important to defend it as a right. He left the UK soon afterwards. He clarified in October 2005 that he had not left the country in protest against the hunting legislation but for family reasons, and that he often returned to the UK.
After leaving Britain, Waters moved to Long Island in New York with his fiancé Laurie Durning. In June 2007, he became a spokesman for Millennium Promise, a non-profit organisation fighting poverty and malaria, and wrote an opinion piece for CNN in support of the topic. In July, he participated in the American leg of the Live Earth concert, an international multi-venue concert aimed at raising awareness about global climate change, featuring the Trenton Youth Choir and his trademarked inflatable pig. Waters told David Fricke why he thinks The Wall is still relevant today:
The loss of a father is the central prop on which [The Wall] stands. As the years go by, children lose their fathers again and again, for nothing. You see it now with all these fathers, good men and true, who lost their lives and limbs in Iraq for no reason at all. I've done "Bring The Boys Back Home" in my encore on recent tours. It feels more relevant and poignant to be singing that song now than it did in 1979.
Water is supportive of veterans, which he partly attributes to the death of his father in the second world war. He allocates a block of tickets for veterans at each of his shows. For a few years he performed with a group of wounded veterans that was arranged through the United States National Military Medical Center. In 2012, Waters led a benefit for United States military veterans called Stand Up for Heroes. He invited a music group of combat-wounded veterans called MusiCorps to perform with him.
Waters is an opponent of Brexit (the UK leaving the European Union). Following the June 2016 referendum which saw the British public vote to leave the EU, he said: "If I had voted, I would have voted obviously to stay in the European Union ... I thought we were better than that. I was wrong."
Waters has criticised US president Donald Trump and his policies. In 2017, Waters condemned Trump's plan to build a wall separating the US and Mexico, saying that the Pink Floyd album The Wall was "very relevant now with Mr. Trump and all of this talk of building walls and creating as much enmity as possible between races and religions".
Following the Douma chemical attack in Syria in April 2018, Waters described the White Helmets volunteer group that had first reported the attack as a "fake organisation" that created propaganda for "jihadists and terrorists". Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian wrote: "That claim, which has been repeatedly debunked, was instantly applauded and spread by the same crowd of pro-Russia voices on the far left and far right who have served so dutifully as Assad’s online cheerleaders."
In October 2018, Waters drew praise and criticism when he included Brazilian far-right then-presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro in a list of "neo-fascists" displayed on a big screen at his concert in São Paulo. In a concert in Rio de Janeiro later in October, Waters paid homage to murdered Brazilian councilwoman Marielle Franco and brought her daughter, sister and widow on stage during his performance.
In February 2019, Waters used his Twitter account to publicise an "emergency demonstration" at the US Mission to the United Nations in New York against US interference in Venezuela. He also alleged that the US was trying to destroy Venezuelan democracy so that "the 1% can plunder their oil". Twitter users, including the Venezuelan band La Vida Bohème, criticised him for supporting the Venezuelan government amid the presidential crisis, and claiming that Venezuela enjoyed "true democracy". Waters was critical of Richard Branson for organising the Venezuela Live Aid concert saying "it has nothing to do with the needs of the Venezuelan people, it has nothing to do with democracy, it has nothing to do with freedom, and it has nothing to do with aid".
On 2 September 2019, Waters spoke at a rally outside London's Home Office calling for the release of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and dedicated a performance of "Wish You Were Here" to him. On 22 February 2020, Waters spoke at a rally in support of Assange outside parliament in London. Waters is a supporter of Steven Donziger, an American lawyer embroiled in environmental litigation against Chevron corporation who has been described by 29 Nobel laureates as a victim of judicial harassment.
In November 2019, along with other public figures, Waters signed a letter supporting Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn describing him as "a beacon of hope in the struggle against emergent far-right nationalism, xenophobia and racism in much of the democratic world" and endorsed him in the 2019 UK general election. In December 2019, along with 42 other leading cultural figures, he signed a letter endorsing the Labour Party under Corbyn's leadership in the 2019 general election. The letter stated that "Labour's election manifesto under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership offers a transformative plan that prioritises the needs of people and the planet over private profit and the vested interests of a few."
In February 2020, Waters participated in a protest in London against the extradition of Julian Assange. While introducing the Indian poet and activist Aamir Aziz from the Jamia Milllia Islamia at the rally, Waters referred to the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, describing it as "fascist" and "racist".
Equipment and instruments
Waters' primary instrument in Pink Floyd was the electric bass guitar. He briefly played a Höfner bass but replaced it with a Rickenbacker RM-1999/4001S, until 1970 when it was stolen along with the rest of the band's equipment in New Orleans. He began using Fender Precision Basses in 1968, originally alongside the Rickenbacker 4001, and then exclusively after the Rickenbacker was lost in 1970. First seen at a concert in Hyde Park, London in July 1970, the black P-Bass was rarely used until April 1972 when it became his main stage guitar. On 2 October 2010, it became the basis for a Fender Artist Signature model. Waters endorses RotoSound Jazz Bass 77 flat-wound strings. Throughout his career he has used Selmer, WEM, Hiwatt and Ashdown amplifiers but has used Ampeg for the last few tours. He has employed delay, tremolo, chorus, stereo panning and phaser effects in his bass playing.
Waters experimented with the EMS Synthi A and VCS 3 synthesisers on Pink Floyd pieces such as "On the Run", "Welcome to the Machine", and "In the Flesh?" He played electric and acoustic guitar on Pink Floyd tracks using Fender, Martin, Ovation and Washburn guitars. He played electric guitar on the Pink Floyd song "Sheep", from Animals, and acoustic guitar on several Pink Floyd recordings, such as "Pigs on the Wing 1 & 2", also from Animals, "Southampton Dock" from The Final Cut, and on "Mother" from The Wall. A Binson Echorec 2 echo effect was used on his bass lead track "One of These Days". Waters plays trumpet during concert performances of "Outside the Wall".
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- Official website
- Roger Waters on IMDb
- Roger Waters tour dates at Songkick
- Media related to Roger Waters at Wikimedia Commons
- Quotations related to Roger Waters at Wikiquote