Roger Waters is a divisive artist. If you don’t believe us just ask his Pink Floyd bandmates. As famous for his uncompromising artistic vision as he is being one of the most gifted musicians and composers to emanate from the 20th century, Waters certainly has his detractors.
One thing that can never be doubted however is his commitment to music. Having famously once said: “Either you write songs or you don’t. And if you do write songs like I do, I think there’s a natural desire to want to make records,” its no surprise that Waters has clocked up a huge amount of songs from which to pick his best. That’s exactly what we did as we pick 10 of his best.
Trying to nail down an artist as huge and encompassing as Roger Waters to just 10 songs is damn near impossible—but we like a challenge here at Far Out so we’ve compiled 10 of our favourite Roger Waters songs both with and without Pink Floyd.
Starting out as a founding member of Pink Floyd across their many guises, Waters alongside Syd Barrett, Nick Mason and Rick Wright became pioneering members of a brand new sound—acid rock had been born. Of course, Barrett’s dedication to the scene would eventually lead to his creative demise and the introduction of David Gilmour was made.
Without a doubt, it would be a defining moment of Waters’ career and life. Alongside Gilmour, Waters would find an equal and a creative counterpart. It would both lead to some of the band’s most fruitful moments as well as their eventual disbandment. But what remains is a career built on one foundational ethos, the integrity of the art is always paramount.
It meant Waters was behind some of Pink Floyd’s most outlandish and impressive moments, a notion he took on to his solo career too. Without further delay, find our list below.
Roger Waters 10 best songs:
10. ‘Watching TV’
Taken from the 1992 album Amused to Death Waters, Waters is in mercurial form as he delivers one of is standout moments on record with ‘Watching TV’. Though the album was another broad conceptual piece form the mastermind of concept albums, taking a closer look at the impact of mass media on our society, the track works remarkably well outside of the album too.
As well as Waters’ unique vocal the chorus also sees a special spot for The Eagles legend Don Henley who shares singing duties. It’s an all-western affair in a bid to accurately depict the 1989 Chinese youth movement against the influence of communism, brought to us through the story of a single student. It’s a wonderful piece of work and speaks highly of Waters’ unique ability to craft a narrative.
9. ‘Hey You’
If you ask your nearest Pink Floyd fan what their favourite album is, we bet you’ll get a fair few responses which are two simple words: The Wall. The album is undoubtedly one of Waters’ greatest works and sees the conceptual genius plot out a rock opera only the maestros of old could have hoped to achieve.
Sharing vocal duty with David Gilmour, ‘Hey You’ is a vital piece of the story of the fictitious rock star Pink. It is his last shot at connecting with the world around him and is often aligned with Waters’ own pleas for help. The bassist had begun to grow tired of fame and this song offers an insight into his mind when making one of the band’s greatest records.
8. ‘Brain Damage’/ ‘Eclipse’
It’s hard to consider these two songs as separate entities, so entwined are they on The Dark Side of the Moon. The songs make Waters’ first real foray into entirely expressive and hopelessly personal lyric writing. On ‘Brain Damage’ he broaches the childhood issues which plague us all and coupled with ‘Eclipse’ the album circles around.
The two songs not only show Waters’ newfound ability to share his soul int the studio but also quietly anointed him the group’s leader after a few years in the comparative musical wilderness since Syd Barrett had left the group. This was the moment Waters took control in more ways than one.
1987 effort Radio K.A.O.S. was another instance of Waters proving his worth. Not long out of the band, the record showed that despite not being backed by Pink Floyd, Waters was more than capable of enacting his vision. However, it also showed that despite his insistence to the contrary, Waters was looking for some of the MTV glow. It means the album is heavy on synths and anything else he thought might grab some attention.
This song, ‘Home’, shows off that despite the need for a little bit more attention, Waters was still channelling the same ethics. In this track, he shows off all manner of post-9/11 hysteria years before it would ever come to fruition. That said, the main purpose of the track is to invigorate his audience into not taking it lying down.
6. ‘Run Like Hell’
It’s hard not to continually go back to The Wall for Waters’ best songs with Pink Floyd but, then again, it is undoubtedly his album more so than any others. On ‘Run Like Hell’ Gilmour may share a writing credit but the idea and creation is all Waters.
The Wall may have in-effect been the last true Pink Floyd album (The Final Cut can easily be described as a Waters’ solo album in all but name) but it still had all the hallmarks of Waters’ intentions. On ‘Run Like Hell’, he tells us of the dangers of drug abuse and fateful fame, it’s another cry for help and one that is one of Waters’ best.
The delicious irony of ‘Money’ is that while Waters and Pink Floyd wrote it as an attack on the falsehood of money being able to buy happiness it remains one of the highest-grossing singles in their illustrious history. It helped to make Dark Side of the Moon one of the highest-selling albums of all time with over 34 million copies sold.
Known for commanding the studio when he has a song written, when the band came to record ‘Money’, Waters was once again on hand to dish out some advice. Gilmour was asked in 1983 where the song’s famous time signature had come from and he duly replied: “It’s Roger’s riff. Roger came in with the verses and lyrics for ‘Money’ more or less completed. And we just made up middle sections, guitar solos and all that stuff.” For a while, it really was Waters’ show.
4. ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’
If you wanted an introduction to the man Roger Waters would become then we should direct you to Wish You Were Here, the album which saw Waters lay down his disinterest with fame, once and for all. Perhaps working as a fable for the pitfalls of fame, ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’ sees Waters discuss his friend Syd Barrett.
The album itself is a tribute to Barrett but this song, in particular, brings the story of Barrett to the fore. A nine-part epic it not only looked at the band’s past but offered a vision of their future: Roger Waters commanding searing songs and creating gigantic musical landscapes.
3. ‘Three Wishes’
The highest-placed solo work for Waters on this list is taken from Amused to Death likely his best solo LP and ranks easily as one of his finest songs ever. It sees Waters use a story to tell of his own personal strife and becomes one of the few truly reflective moments of Waters’ career.
The story in the song tells us of a man who finds a genie in a bottle and begins to make his wishes. Using his worldwide vision the man decides to help achieved wide-reaching things like bringing peace to the Middle East only to be left lamenting the personal issues he didn’t fix. It’s all too easy to see the comparison to Waters’ own life and marks this song out as one of his best because of it.
2. ‘Another Brick in the Wall Pt. I, II, III’
In our minds, this may well be the very distillation of Roger Waters. Of course, a pivotal moment in Waters’ Pink Floyd career, The Wall is the musician at his most personal and there is no more shining crowning moment than ‘Another Brick in the Wall’.
It sees our protagonist Pink continue to build a wall of division to isolate himself from the scary world that surrounds him. The entire song reminds us of the incredible talent behind Waters’ creation. Something that now may feel a little bit old hat was a bonafide rock revolution when it was first delivered. The song and the album have become a part of Pink Floyd iconography and a vital part in the history of many nations.
It would be remiss to not see this as a crucial moment in Waters’ career.
1. ‘Comfortably Numb’
Though Roger Waters may be famed for taking control of recording sessions and stealing the limelight, it is his collaboration with David Gilmour which has produced his best number. ‘Comfortably Numb’, co-written with Gilmour, is a blistering moment on The Wall and is remarkable because it allows both stars to shine. Gilmour’s solo and soaring choruses are matched only by Waters’ compositional genius.
One of the moments in The Wall‘s story which sees our protagonist detach himself further from his audience, the song works as a direct reflection of the isolation Waters was subjecting himself to before the and recorded the album. It’s a piece of work which will likely outlive us all and deserves the top spot.