Pink Floyd’s celebrated guitarist, David Gilmour, has rightly been lauded as a rock legend for the vast majority of his glittering career. A gifted vocalist and a searing performer, Gilmour’s style and technical talent propelled Pink Floyd into the history books and has provided countless music lovers with their favourite band, album and song—but what is the song he relies on most, the track that gets him up in the morning and reminds him of the beauty in art, essentially, his favourite song of all time?
Luckily, thanks to BBC Radio 4, we have the answer for you or an answer, at least. As well as being a keen player, Gilmour is a true lover of music and as any true muso will tell you, picking a singular favourite song is a very difficult task to adhere to. It can change with the time of the year, day or even with the change of the wind, such is the brilliant transience of music’s connection. Very few artists can be nailed down on one track alone. That said, there is one song that Gilmour has cited as his favourite.
If there’s one place where, in 2003, Gilmour could be dwarfed by the grandeur and pop culture influence of another then it’s perhaps in the studios of BBC Radio show Desert Island Discs. The British institution has been a cultural touchpoint since its inception in 1942. Ever since it has welcomed guests with one simple premise; if they were trapped on a desert island which eight songs would they choose for company. It’s an idea that has captured the minds of the nation for nearly 80 years.
When David Gilmour agreed to join Sue Hawley for an episode of BBC Radio 4’s show Desert Island Discs, he joined esteemed alumni. Everyone from famous Hollywood stars to world leaders and former prime ministers has sat in the seat and chosen their eight favourite songs to take with them to a hypothetically inescapable island. It has been a terrible scenario that has faced countless musicians and music lovers and one which even goes one step further.
After having selected eight of their favourite songs to take away they are asked to then pick “the castaway’s favourite”. One song which they would prize above all else and rescue should their kit be washed away. For some, it was the most sentimental or the most poignant, for Gilmour it was all about the dancing.
“It’s a tough choice, isn’t it?” replies Gilmour when faced with picking his favourite out of a list that included Bob Dylan, The Kinks, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and more. “I’d just have to take Martha and the Vandellas, I think, for the dancing.” Gilmour’s favourite song, ‘Dancing In The Street’ from the iconic 1960s girl group Martha Reeves and the Vandellas has the beat at its heart and captured Gilmour’s in the process.
Once picked up by David Bowie and Mick Jagger as part of their quite disastrous music video, yes, that one, the original is a powerful toe-tapper. Speaking about the song earlier in the show, Gilmour said of the song released in 1965: “I’m gonna need to dance. I don’t do it very often, of course, at my hugely advanced age. But I need a little bit of Tamla Motown sort of dance music to accompany me on this beach, wherever I am,” he muses, “This is ‘Dancing on the Street’ not on the beach.”
It may seem a little odd to couple David Gilmour a prog-rock pioneer with Motown but the artist was a music lover before he was a music player and we’re not sure anyone can hear the below song without wishing to move their feet. The fact that it would be the only song Gilmour would need to stave off madness on a desert island means it has to be a favourite forever.
Listen to Gilmour’s entire Desert Island Discs appearance, below.