Roger Waters, co-founder of Pink Floyd: Freedom of expression against the wall

Roger Waters at Madison Square Garden on August 30, 2022 in New York City. Getty Images via AFP - THEO WARGO

Text by: Anne Bernas Follow

6 min

Roger Waters, famous drummer, guitarist and singer of the no less iconic band Pink Floyd, sees a number of his concerts in Europe threatened with cancellation. In question, the political positions of the star of 79 years.


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Krakow in Poland, Frankfurt in Germany, perhaps Berlin, Munich or Cologne, the list of cities that request or plan to claim the cancellation of Pink Floyd concerts, marking the 50th anniversary of the release of the album The Dark Side of the Moon, grows a little longer every day.

The co-founder of the rock band created in 1964 is accused of having positions far from the current norm and affirming them. Among the latest, his statement in February at the UN on the war in Ukraine, considered pro-Russian by many of his critics. "I condemn [Russia's invasion of Ukraine] in the strongest possible terms," he told a session on the possibilities of peace in Ukraine. "Similarly, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was not unprovoked. I therefore also condemn the provocateurs in the strongest possible terms." He added, while calling for an immediate ceasefire: "That's it."


How sad it is for his former fans to see him accept to be just another brick in the wall, in the wall of disinformation and Russian propaganda, "quickly reacted the Ukrainian ambassador to the United Nations Sergiy Kyslytsya, referring to the famous song of Pink Floyd Another Brick in the Wall.

A man true to his convictions

Yet Roger Waters has always proclaimed, and continues to proclaim, his opposition to war and his fight for respect for human rights around the world. Recall that the father of the British star died on the battlefield in February 1944. Roger Waters was then four months old.

Pacifist at heart, the group, from its beginnings, never ceases to denounce in its albums and during its concerts the wars that bloody the world and kill innocent people. In 1980, Another Brick in the Wall, an international mega hit, was banned in South Africa, because the title quickly became the rallying cry of the oppressed during apartheid. Today, it is with regard to Israeli policy towards the Palestinians that the artist finds fault.

In 1983, the band called on the Soviet Leonid Brezhnev in the album The Final Cut, as part of the invasion of Afghanistan, to remove "their dirty hands from my desert".

Opposing conflicts, defending victims of human rights violations, speaking out one's democratic convictions, condemning US imperialism, defending anti-militarism, supporting whistleblowers like Julian Assange, this is the line defended by Roger Waters for more than half a century. At almost 80 years old, it is out of the question for the artist to mitigate his positions.

In 2013, at France Stadium, a year before Roger Waters and David Gilmour, another co-founding member of Pink Floyd and Waters' former "best friend", took different paths, the group was accused of calling for the annihilation of Israel. In question, a balloon in the shape of a pig, marked with the Star of David, which hovers above the public. In an open letter on Facebook shortly after, Roger Waters explained that this pig represents "the evil, and more precisely the evil of a wandering government", and that it is also engraved on it: "the crucifix, the crescent and the star, the hammer and the sickle, the Shell Oil logo and the acronym McDonald's, a dollar acronym and a Mercedes acronym ...


Among his other positions to defend the Palestinian people, that of June 2018. During the final of the Roland-Garros tennis tournament, the former Pink Floyd bassist presents the trophy with a keffiyeh around his neck, provoking the wrath of the Israeli media who once again accuse him of anti-Semitism. A month earlier, the singer had declared in Lyon: "Let the police come and arrest me! Because I advocate for Palestinians who are killed like dogs. No one raises their voice in the West. Tell Mr. Macron that it's time for it to stop! Many have forgotten 1789, but I remember it. It was in your great country that the idea was born that all men are equal.


Roger Waters, wearing a traditional Palestinian keffiyeh before the men's singles final match at Roland Garros tennis tournament in Paris on June 10, 2018. AFP - OLIVIER MORIN

Very active on social networks, Roger Waters also places his political messages on the menu of his stage performances, with a particular interest in the current situation in the occupied West Bank. Opinions still not digested by his detractors, including David Gilmour's own wife, Polly Samson. She openly calls him an anti-Semite on Twitter.

Sadly @rogerwaters you are antisemitic to your rotten core. Also a Putin apologist and a lying, thieving, hypocritical, tax-avoiding, lip-synching, misogynistic, sick-with-envy, megalomaniac. Enough of your nonsense.

— pollysamson (@PollySamson) February 6, 2023

What about the 2023 tour?

Roger Waters' requests for concert cancellations in several European cities have not yet been officially announced. According to the German authorities, the deprogramming should come from the organisers. "As long as he just keeps saying what he's been saying for decades, there is little legal prospect. The parties to the contract should therefore have informed themselves before signing, "says a lawyer in a recent report broadcast by the Franco-German channel Arte.

At the end of February, Frankfurt decided to deschedule the May 28 concert, saying he was "one of the world's best-known anti-Semites," The Guardian reports. The singer announced on Twitter that he would take legal action against these deprogrammings, refusing that "the will of a few [him] prevents him from singing in Frankfurt and Munich". "I want to state officially and once and for all that I am not and have never been anti-Semitic. Nothing anyone can say or publish will change that.


In September 2022, the city of Krakow declared him persona non grata for his positions considered pro-Russian. The city had already canceled its two concerts scheduled for April 2023.

— Roger Waters (@rogerwaters) March 16, 2023

Roger Waters concerts are announced throughout Europe, including Paris on May 3 and 4. Entitled "This is not a drill", the British company's European tour kicked off in mid-March in front of a full house in Lisbon, Portugal. The star warned: those who are not ready to hear his messages will just have to stay at the bar.

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