Wish You Were Here
Writer(s): David Gilmour, Roger Waters (see lyrics here)
Released: November 20, 1975 (studio version)
Released: July 20, 1995 (live version)
Peak: 1 CL, 13 AR, 68 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)
Sales (in millions): -- US, 0.6 UK, 0.75 world (includes US + UK)
Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 455.4 video, 568.84 streaming
Click on award for more details.
About the Song:
The title cut from Pink Floyd’s ninth album “whose overall theme is absence.” DT Accounts vary as to the inspiration for the song. The general consensus is that it is inspired by the band’s founder and frontman Syd Barrett, who departed the band in 1968 because of problems with LSD and schizophrenia. One story says the song emerged from a poem that songwriter and bassist Roger Waters wrote for Barrett. DT
However, Waters has also claimed the song was “about his grandmother’s final years and how she would think Waters was her long-dead husband.” XFM He’s also said the song was about himself, saying the lyrics are about “being present in one’s own life and freeing one’s self in order to truly experience life.” WK Any interpretation allows for the song to be viewed as “a commentary on how people cope with the world by withdrawing physically, mentally, or emotionally.” SF In addition, “the sighing introspection of the music sums up the mundane tragedy perfectly.” XFM
The album version of the song opens with the sound oa radio station being tuned away from “Have a Cigar,” the previous song on the Wish You Were Here album. The listener flips through several stations including a piece of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony before moving on to the beginning of “Wish You Were Here” playing on the radio. The latter was recorded from singer and guitarist David Gilmour’s car radio. WK He performs “the delicate acoustic guitar intro” XFM as if he is playing along with the radio.
The original version of the song was released as a single in 1975. Twenty years, later it was released again as a single in support of Pink Floyd’s 1995 live album Pulse. The latter version reached #13 on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart. In 2001, Wyclef Jean released a “soul-reggae version” SF which reached #28 in the UK. In 2012, Ed Sheeran and others performed the song at the closing ceremony of the Summer Olympics in London and hit #34 on the chart. It prompted the original Pink Floyd version to hit the UK charts for the first time the next week at #68. In 2016, Avenged Sevenfold took the song to #16 on the mainstream rock chart. Guns N’ Roses performed the song live in 2017 in a medley with Derek & the Dominos’ “Layla.”
One of the most significant covers, however, was in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Wes Borland performed the song live with the Goo Goo Dolls’ Johnny Reznik on the America: A Tribute to Heroes telethon. They revised some lyrics for the occasion. The version simultaneously captured the sadness over American lives lost and the desire to seek revenge on Osamba bin Laden for orchestrating the 9/11 attacks.
First posted 3/30/2023.