David Gilmour, David Crosby & Graham Nash Perform the Pink Floyd Classic, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond” (2006)

Come on you raver, you seer of visions
Come on you painter, you piper, you pris­on­er, and shine

“It’s a gift I sup­pose,” David Gilmour respond­ed humbly when a 2015 inter­view­er asked the ques­tion he’s always asked about his leg­endary gui­tar tone. “It’s some­thing that just arrives nat­u­ral­ly at this point.” Gilmour seemed gen­uine­ly mys­ti­fied. “I think there’s some kind of strange pecu­liar­i­ty or my lack of coor­di­na­tion between hands that gives it some­thing rather off and thus dis­tinct.” Maybe there’s more than he real­izes to his answer: the qual­i­ties that make an artist unique can be those that seem like deficits or defects in oth­er lights.

There are hints of this wis­dom in “Shine on You Crazy Dia­mond,” Gilmour and Roger Waters’ trib­ute to Syd Bar­rett, the child­hood friend whom Gilmour replaced as the band’s gui­tarist. What­ev­er it was that drove Barrett’s bril­liant mind also seems to have dri­ven him to excess and mad­ness under the spotlights—”You were caught on the cross­fire of child­hood and star­dom… Threat­ened by shad­ows at night, and exposed in the light.” Yet with­out Barrett’s “crazi­ness,” or Gilmour’s lack of coor­di­na­tion, there would be no Pink Floyd.

“Shine on You Crazy Dia­mond” is a trag­ic song—made more so when we learn that an unrec­og­niz­able Bar­rett arrived at the stu­dio the moment they began record­ing it, sev­en years after he left the band with men­tal health strug­gles. With typ­i­cal bit­ter­ness, Waters described him in an inter­view that year as “a sym­bol for all the extremes of absence some peo­ple have to indulge in because it’s the only way they can cope with how f—ing sad it is—modern life.”

The band lost not only a found­ing mem­ber but also a friend when they lost Bar­rett. These sad per­son­al asso­ci­a­tions notwith­stand­ing, the song can also be an uniron­ic call to those who may be hold­ing back or hid­ing because they think there’s some­thing wrong with them. And it’s a song fea­tur­ing some of the most impres­sive gui­tar work of Gilmour’s record­ing career. On “the epic 13-minute open­ing track to Wish You Were Here, he lays down more awe­some tones than most gui­tarists achieve in a life­time,” writes Chris Gill at Gui­tar World.

Play­ing onstage above with Richard Wright at Roy­al Albert Hall in 2006, just months before Bar­ret­t’s death, Gilmour casu­al­ly blows the audi­ence away with awe­some tones. Then he is joined by David Cros­by and Gra­ham Nash in a live ren­di­tion that sounds like both an ele­gy and an anthem, a fit­ting trib­ute to an artist who “reached for the secret too soon”—or what­ev­er com­bi­na­tion of drugs and men­tal health crises caused Bar­rett to retreat into him­self in the last decades of his life—but who also, by shin­ing for a brief moment, left a cre­ative lega­cy in Pink Floyd that few artists can hope to equal.

via Laugh­ing Squid 

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Watch David Gilmour Play the Songs of Syd Bar­rett, with the Help of David Bowie & Richard Wright

Under­stand­ing Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, Their Trib­ute to Depart­ed Band­mate Syd Bar­rett

How Pink Floyd’s “Com­fort­ably Numb” Was Born From an Argu­ment Between Roger Waters & David Gilmour

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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