David Gilmour's favourite songs
Credit: Jimmy Baikovicius

David Gilmour’s tragic song about John Lennon

The Beatles changed the musical landscape when they burst onto the scene in the 1960s, making it possible for countless other bands to thrive within the business. The world of music would have been a much darker place if it wasn’t for The Fab Four smashing down the barriers into a million pieces and, without them, it seems implausible that a group as progressive as Pink Floyd would blossom into the unstoppable force they did. David Gilmour is one figure that has remained forthright about how much he owes to his scouse forefathers.

An example of Gilmour’s love for The Beatles came in 2018 when he stated that he didn’t think that Pink Floyd was the greatest band ever and, typically humble, he noted that The Beatles are the group who rightly hold that accolade. This sentiment should come as no surprise to the fans who know Gilmour well, a musician who has rarely remained quiet about his adoration for The Fab Four, and he’s forever grateful for the group building the foundations that allowed Pink Floyd’s career to thrive.

Gilmour was so devastated following the brutal murder of John Lennon in 1980, that he turned to music to convey his emotions on the tragedy and wrote the track, ‘Murder’. The song featured on Gilmour’s sophomore solo album, About Face, which begins with the Pink Floyd man setting the scene outside of the infamous Dakota building where Mark Chapman is waiting outside with other Lennon obsessives.

He begins by singing: “Some of them standing, some were waiting in the line, As if there was something that they thought they might find, Taking some strength from the feelings that always were shared, And in the background, the eyes that just stared.”

The Pink Floyd singer tried to create some mystery around the track and didn’t want it to be a direct reference to Lennon’s death. One way was by swapping Chapman’s pistol for a knife in the lyrics, pleading with the killer: “On your own admission you raised up the knife, And you brought it down ending another man’s life.”

“If I’d left a gun in it, then it wouldn’t have rhymed,” Gilmour tried to explain at the time. “And also it would have made everyone say, ‘Well that’s obviously John Lennon’. That would have been more misleading because–although Lennon’s murder is part of it–it isn’t nearly all of it. It’s just murder in general really.”

Even though, Gilmour claims Lennon’s death only partly influenced the track — without the rage that the tragic event set off inside of him then he wouldn’t have felt compelled to write ‘Murder‘. In the song, Gilmour tries to understand how one human could do such a hideous and evil act to another, especially somebody who they claimed to hero-worship.

The death of John Lennon left an unfillable void in the world, which was made catastrophically worse because of the cruel circumstances surrounding the event. For famous musicians, whilst losing a talent like Lennon was a travesty in itself, it also offered a bleak reminder of their own mortality and how what happened to the Beatle could have just as easily happened to them.

There have been many songs written that are an attempt to deal with the loss of Lennon, whilst Gilmour’s effort is more to do with to do the act of murder itself. The Pink Floyd man beautifully managed to convey the emotions that millions of other people were thinking in the wake of the despicable act in such an eloquent manner, that makes ‘Murder’ such a heartbreaking listen.

Subscribe to our newsletter
Delivering curated content