While David Gilmour and Bob Dylan might make music at opposite ends of the spectrum, that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate one another. Gilmour made Pink Floyd realise their full potential, drowning their sound in fuzzy reverb, which is a far cry from the back to basics approach Dylan adopted.
Of course, that’s just who they are as artists. Both men have infiltrated the history books in their own unique way, and while Gilmour is more interested in evoking emotions by making atmospheric soundscapes, Dylan prefers to get his point across with direct lyricism, which can be beautiful and scathing in equal measure.
Even though their creative methods are wildly different, both Gilmour and Dylan are experts at guiding their art to the same picturesque destination. One struggles to imagine Dylan having much space available in his record collection for Pink Floyd, but Gilmour has nothing but heavy praise to say about his confrère.
In 2003, Gilmour opened up about his love of Dylan when he popped into the studios of the BBC Radio show Desert Island Discs. The British institution has been a cultural touchpoint since its inception in 1942 and, ever since, it has welcomed guests with one simple premise; if they were trapped on a desert island which eight songs would they choose to keep them company and stave off madness. It’s an idea that has captured the nation’s minds for nearly 80 years.
One of his selections was Dylan’s ‘Ballad in Plain D’, and Gilmour says of the song: “I lived through a lot of his heavy protest stuff, and this was another side I’m very keen on. This sort of love song approach.”
‘Ballad in Plain D’ is a song that splits opinion and is a one-sided autobiographical version of events surrounding a domestic argument which, in truth, doesn’t reflect too well on the singer-songwriter. Dylan even backtracked on the material in 1985, saying: “I look back and say ‘I must have been a real schmuck to write that.’ I look back at that particular one and say, of all the songs I’ve written, maybe I could have left that alone.”
Gilmour’s love of Dylan is an emotional one, and his music offers the Pink Floyd singer a constant reminder of his parents. After they moved to America while he was still in a formative stage in his life, they lived on the same streets as Dylan in Greenwich Village. His music offered Gilmour a glimpse into his parents’ world while he was stuck dreaming out of his window in rural Cambridgeshire.
“My parents moved to America permanently when I was 18, or 19, and they lived in Greenwich Village from 1965 onwards,” he explained in the BBC documentary, Wider Horizons. “They could see the end of Bleeker Street out of their window, so I got Bob Dylan’s first record for my 16th birthday, which they sent me from Greenwich Village.”
Gilmour’s favourite Dylan song might be a contrary choice, but subjectivity is what makes music so joyful, and life would be dull if we all viewed it through the same lens.