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Music

The guitarist Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour described as “refreshing”

Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour is seen as one of the most accomplished and inventive guitar players of his generation. His frills boast a style that is deeply rich in tone and atmosphere, whether it’s from a rhythm or a lead perspective. Given his status in life, he doesn’t feel the need to give slavish praise willy-nilly. But he did spare a thought for the bandleader behind Dire Straits: Mark Knopfler.

“Mark Knopfler has a lovely, refreshing guitar style,” Gilmour explained. “He brought back something that seemed to have gone astray in guitar playing. These days I don’t listen to other people with the objective of trying to steal their licks. Although I’ve got no objections to stealing them if that seems like a good idea. I’m sure that I’m still influenced by Mark Knopfler and Eddie Van Halen as well.”

Well, there you have it: The Pink Floyd musician tipped his hat at Knopfler. Tellingly, he didn’t say anything about his singing style, which is interesting, because Gilmour and Knopfler both served as the lead singers for their bands. Out of the two, Gilmour is easily the stronger vocalist, and it’s impossible to imagine Knopfler singing ‘Breathe’ or ‘Wish You Were Here’ with the angelic, choirboy control that Gilmour gifted them.

But it is possible to imagine Gilmour tacking ‘Sultans of Swing’ because he used a similar tremoloing voice on ‘Young Lust’ and a barrelling countermelody on ‘Hey You’. Gilmour easily has a wider range as a vocalist and stands as one of the more impressive vocalists of his generation.

But he clearly admires Knopfler as a six string player, which makes sense, because Knopfler plays with such attack, vigour and propensity. More importantly, Knopfler can play lead and sing at the same time, which is a tricky thing to accomplish. Gilmour tended to focus on his singing or guitar playing, and never combined the two much like like Knopfler did on ‘Lady Writer’. It’s impossible to separate the two strands on ‘Lady Writer’, and although you could sing it on acoustic, the finished result would sound strange, without the barrelling hooks and sustained notes.

Knopfler wrote for both the guitar and the voice, which distinguished him from many of his contemporaries. It’s hard to think of anyone else who combined both elements of themselves so wholly. The only one I can think of is George Harrison, who melded the instrument and the melodies to create something more interesting to listen to.

Gilmour mentions Van Halen above, but he focused on the riff ahead of the vocals. Indeed, Van Halen’s best-known work was an instrumental: ‘Eruption’. He didn’t need a singer to get his points across, which was ironic, because Van Halen used three singers during his tenure. Knopfler, by contrast, had a clever melding of the two aspects of his trajectory under one roof.

So, Gilmour is right to single the ‘Brothers In Arms’ writer out as one of the more impressive musicians of his generation. And like the rest of us, he should pinch from Knopfler.

Stream ‘Brothers In Arms’ below.