In 2001 or 2002, guitarist and singer David Gilmour of Pink Floyd recorded a musical interpretation of William Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18” at his home studio aboard the historic, 90-foot houseboat the Astoria. This video of Gilmour singing the sonnet was released as an extra on the 2002 DVD David Gilmour in Concert, but the song itself is connected with When Love Speaks, a 2002 benefit album for London’s Royal Academy for the Dramatic Arts.
The project was organized by the composer and conductor Michael Kamen, who died a little more than a year after the album was released. When Love Speaks features a mixture of dramatic and musical performances of Shakespeare’s Sonnets and other works, with artists ranging from John Gielgud to Ladysmith Black Mambazo.
Kamen wrote much of the music for the project, including the arrangement for Sonnet 18, which is sung on the album by Bryan Ferry. A special benefit concert to celebrate the release of the album was held on February 10, 2002 at the Old Vic Theatre in London, but Ferry did not attend. Gilmour appeared and sang the sonnet in his place. It was apparently around that time that Gilmour recorded his own vocal track for Kamen’s song.
“Sonnet 18” is perhaps the most famous of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets. It was written in about 1595, and most scholars now agree the poem is addressed to a man. The sonnet is composed in iambic pentameter, with three rhymed quatrains followed by a concluding couplet:
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
This post was originally published on Open Culture on April 5, 2013. We’re bringing it back today for Gilmour’s 69th birthday.