The Pink Floyd songs not sung by members of the band

Pink Floyd

Pink Floyd earned their stripes as the band at the forefront of 1960s psychedelia and early prog rock, and they were not hesitant to push the limit. Throughout its long and famous existence, the group has featured a variety of traveling members and session musicians. However, the band’s backbone has stayed mostly unchanged. Despite this, Pink Floyd has released a few tracks over the years featuring non-members.

The departure of Syd Barrett was without a doubt the most significant alteration in Pink Floyd’s lineup history. Barrett’s departure sparked debate among Floyd fans, who saw him as the most intriguing member of the early band. Even now, many Floyd fans prefer the Barrett era, valuing the guitarist’s hallucinogenic impact over his successor, David Gilmour.

Despite continuing without Barrett, with Roger Waters leading, the new Floyd gained widespread international success. Pink Floyd swiftly rose to global rock success, notably after the release of 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon. The album reinforced Pink Floyd’s status as the poster band for the progressive rock movement. It also included the band’s first track with a guest vocalist as the lead.

The Great Gig in the Sky‘, the final tune on the first side of Dark Side of the Moon, originated as an instrumental organ track. Richard Wright created it. The band wanted a female voice to “wail” over the song for the album version, so Clare Torry was brought on board. Torry, primarily a session musician, was known for her pop song renditions on Top of the Pops collections. The 25-year-old was paid only £30 for her three takes of improvised vocals on ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’. The vocalist only discovered she had made the final cut of the record after purchasing a copy for herself.

The following Floyd single with a guest vocalist is thankfully less exploitative. Roy Harper provided the lead vocals for ‘Have a Cigar‘, which appeared on the highly successful album Wish You Were Here. Both Waters and Gilmour found their vocal performances on the track unsatisfactory, reflecting Waters’ ongoing resentment towards the music industry. Gilmour’s vocal hesitation, reportedly rooted in disagreement with Waters‘ lyrics, emerged later as a point of contention. Harper, recording his album HQ at Abbey Road Studios, joined Floyd during Wish You Were Here’s creation. Gilmour provided him with some guitar riffs in exchange.

While the song remains one of the album’s highlights, Waters has since stated that he dislikes Harper’s version. He wishes it had come off as “more vulnerable and less cynical.”

For the great length of Pink Floyd’s recording career, those were the only two tunes with guest vocalists as the primary voice. That was until 2022, when Gilmour and Nick Mason revived the band and released ‘Hey, Hey, Rise Up!’. Inspired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Gilmour collaborated with Ukrainian singer Andriy Khlyvnyuk to write the piece. Roger Waters, who left Pink Floyd in the 1980s after releasing The Final Cut, did not contribute to the creation of this song. He was openly critical of its content, claiming that it “lacked humanity.”

While not among Pink Floyd’s best hits, these three tunes are noteworthy examples of the band’s evolving sound. It’s also refreshing to hear the impact of musicians outside of Floyd’s chaotic lineup. It appears unlikely that the band will treat fans to any additional work. David Gilmour calls “Hey, Hey, Rise Up!” a one-off, but the future of the prog rock pioneers remains uncertain.

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