Pink Floyd Releases Its First New Song in 28 Years to Help Support Ukraine

“I rang Nick up and said: ‘listen, I want to do this thing for Ukraine. I’d be really happy if you played on it and I’d also be really happy if you’d agree to us putting it out as Pink Floyd.’ And he was absolutely on for that.

In 2015, David Gilmour was scheduled to play a concert in London with the Ukrainian band BoomBox. As he explained in a recent statement, the band’s lead singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk had trouble with his visa, leaving the rest of the Boombox to back Gilmour on a version of “Wish You Were Here.” That song’s sentiments took on an entirely different kind of urgency last month after Russia invaded Ukraine.

“Recently I read that Andriy had left his American tour with BoomBox, had gone back to Ukraine, and joined up with the Territorial Defense,” said Gilmour. “Then I saw this incredible video on Instagram, where he stands in a square in Kyiv with this beautiful gold-domed church and sings in the silence of a city with no traffic or background noise because of the war. It was a powerful moment that made me want to put it to music.”

The song Khlyvnyuk sings is “Oh, the Red Viburnum in the Meadow,” a “1914 protest song,” The Guardian reports, “written in honor of the Sich Riflemen who fought both in the first world war and the Ukrainian war of independence.” Gilmour decided to go further and use the “big platform” of Pink Floyd to release a single by the band – their first original song in 28 years. He called drummer Nick Mason and they recorded the track in Gilmour’s barn with bassist Guy Pratt and keyboardist Nitin Sawhney.

Released as “Hey, Hey, Rise Up” – with Khlyvnyuk’s approval (Gilmour says it took some doing to track him down) – the track’s proceeds will be donated to the Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Fund. It’s probably safe to say that this is not a Pink Floyd reunion. Gilmour insisted the band was done when keyboardist Richard Wright died in 2008. “This is the end,” he told the BBC, and there’s little reason to think he’s gearing up for a tour or a new Pink Floyd album now.

Instead, “Hey, Hey, Rise Up” is part of a larger protest by Gilmour, who writes of his Ukrainian daughter-in-law Janina, his grandchildren, and his “extended Ukrainian family” as a very personal connection to the news of the invasion. But he also wants to give young Ukrainians like Khlyvnyuk – who had no idea the world was watching – a larger voice and give voice to the shock and horror felt the world over as civilian deaths and atrocities mount. As he wrote in his statement:

We, like so many, have been feeling the fury and the frustration of this vile act of an independent, peaceful democratic country being invaded and having its people murdered by one of the world’s major powers… We want to express our support for Ukraine and in that way, show that most of the world thinks that it is totally wrong for a superpower to invade the independent democratic country that Ukraine has become.

Gilmour has pulled all his solo records and Pink Floyd’s catalogue post-1987 from streaming services in Russia. As for speculation that Roger Waters blocked the removal of earlier Pink Floyd material, or controversies over Waters’ statements to Russia Today and other outlets – “Let’s just say I was disappointed and let’s move on,” says Gilmour.

He’s more interested in talking about the war and Khlyvnyuk’s experiences. “He said he had the most hellish day you could imagine,” when Gilmour spoke to him and sent him the song — a day spent “picking up bodies of Ukrainians, Ukrainian children, helping with the clearing up. You know, our little problems become pathetic and tiny,” he says, “in the context of what you see him doing.”

See the English translation of the song just below:

In the meadow a red viburnum has bent down low
Our glorious Ukraine has been troubled so
And we’ll take that red viburnum and we will raise it up
And we, our glorious Ukraine shall, hey—hey, rise up—and rejoice!
And we’ll take that red viburnum and we will raise it up
And we, our glorious Ukraine shall, hey—hey, rise up and rejoice!

Related Content: 

Pink Floyd’s First Masterpiece: An Audio/Video Exploration of the 23-Minute Track, “Echoes” (1971)

Watch the Last, Transcendent Performance of “Echoes” by Pink Floyd Keyboardist Richard Wright & David Gilmour (2006)

Watch Pink Floyd Play Live Amidst the Ruins of Pompeii in 1971 … and David Gilmour Does It Again in 2016

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

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