The iconic musicians who helped shape David Gilmour into a rock hero

David Gilmour is undoubtedly one of the most influential musicians of all time. As a guitarist, he is one of the most technically gifted, and when he first broke onto the scene, his playing style was of a kind that nobody had ever heard before. It was emotive, striking and coloured by otherworldly effects, helping Pink Floyd to bring their many expansive ideas to fruition.

There’s a reason the legendary Pink Floyd songwriter and guitarist remains so celebrated today; it was all about substance over style. Regardless of the criticisms that are directed at Gilmour and Pink Floyd’s later work, when he was in his pomp, he was untouchable.

More restrained than the majority of his contemporaries, Gilmour was the guitarist of the 1970s. Whilst he released music with Pink Floyd in the late ’60s, and much of it stellar, it was in the following decade that he really prospered. Not only did he take his guitar-playing to unprecedented levels, but his general musical craft was elevated to epic proportions. A vital cog in Pink Floyd’s machine, without him, you could say goodbye to some of their most scintillating pieces.

If we note just a handful of examples, this point is made apparent. Just as an axeman, whether it be ‘Echoes’, ‘Money’, ‘Wish You Were Here‘ or ‘Dogs’, Gilmour created a distinctive style that combined both the visceral and emotive that left the listener dumbfounded. It’s a testament to his work that it remains capable of doing so, reflecting just how pioneering it was at the time.

The final puzzle for Pink Floyd was Gilmour’s preference for utilising emotion rather than peacocking, imbuing their sound with a universal appeal. Regarded as a prog-rock band, this cannot be said for the other most prominent prog acts such as Genesis, Yes, and King Crimson, whose intellectual work was guilty of being so pretentious that many people were put off. His work on the six-string gave the band their otherworldly essence whilst providing an aural foil to creative director Roger Waters’ often complex themes.

Given that he is so eminent, fans have long wanted to understand Gilmour’s artistry better, and when he sat down with Classic Rock back in 2015, they got a welcome surprise. He listed five of the artists who changed the way he viewed music which ultimately set him on his path to becoming a legend. Unsurprisingly, they are some of the most prominent artists from his greener years, ranging from Bill Haley to Jimi Hendrix.

He recalled: “There were a number of moments that were pivotal. Bill Haley’s ‘Rock Around The Clock’ was a pivotal moment for me. And that was superseded in what seemed like months by ‘Jailhouse Rock’ by Elvis, also pivotal. The Beatles were pivotal. Jimi Hendrix was a pivotal moment. Pete Seeger was a pivotal moment when I was young. I learnt guitar from him. Too many to name.”

The musicians who inspire David Gilmour:

Bill Haley
The Beatles
Jimi Hendrix
Pete Seeger

When discussing music he listens to today, Gilmour added: “I always listen to a new Bob, Neil or Leonard record [Dylan, Young, Cohen], but I don’t listen to much new music. When I have the radio on it all sounds dreadfully formularised to me, but I’m not its audience. When you get to 69 you’re not spending every day seeking out new pop music. Obviously there are whole layers of music away from what we get on the radio and telly. It’s like that thing they say about rats: ‘You’re never more than six feet away from a rat in London’; you’re probably never more than a hundred yards from someone doing a great gig somewhere, but I’m just not aware of it. If a new Pink Floyd came along now I wouldn’t know it had happened”.

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