As Pink Floyd’s bassist, primary lyricist and co-lead singer, Roger Waters has never been one to beat around the bush when it comes to politics. During the band’s peak in the 1970s, Waters peppered his songs with pointed political sentiments. From Dark Side of the Moon through The Wall, Waters took aim at societal malaise, vulture capitalism, class warfare and the intergenerational trauma caused by war.
But as Floyd fans prepare for Waters’ upcoming appearance at the Chase Center—a stop on his rescheduled “This Is Not a Drill”’ tour—the 79-year-old Waters finds himself in… well, hot water, for a political statement he posted to Facebook on Sept. 5. In the message—addressed to Olena Zelenska, wife to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky—Waters suggested that Western powers, including the United States, would do well to stop sending military aid to Ukraine. His reasoning: “Throwing fuel, in the form of armaments, into a fire fight, has never worked to shorten a war in the past, and it won’t work now.”The letter, which is reminiscent of a February tweet from United Educators of San Francisco Executive Vice President Frank Lara, also appears to suggest that Ukraine should have allowed Russia to annex portions of its territory and that NATO—not Russia—is the true aggressor.
The open letter is titled, “Did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”—a reference to a lyric from the song “Wish You Were Here.” At one point in the note, Waters refers to Zelensky as “your old man.” He also reveals that he wrote the note while in Kansas City (during what one presumes was a break on the “This Is Not a Drill” tour).From a certain vantage, it is the platonic ideal of a Facebook post in 2022: Composed by an old white dude in Middle America, it takes an inappropriately casual and callous tone—and (bonus points!) uses a classic rock reference—to make a political point about a subject that the author has no firsthand knowledge of.Since posting the open letter, Waters has been taken to task by a number of outlets, including the music blog Consequence of Sound.
At this point, it’s unclear whether Waters will reconsider his ultra-progressive stance on the war in Ukraine, but judging from a performance he gave at the Moda Center in Portland on Sept. 10, it appears that he may not be interested in hearing from those who would defend arming Kyiv.According to a review of the Sept. 10 show, published by a website called Spectrum Culture, Waters began the concert with the same prerecorded message that he played before his appearance at Madison Square Garden on Aug. 31: “If you’re one of those, ‘I like Pink Floyd but I can’t stand Roger’s politics’ people, you might do well to f–k off to the bar night now.”