Roger Waters called Pink Floyd agent a ‘f***ing Jew’, producer claims
Former Pink Floyd vocalist Roger Waters’ stringent denials that he is personally antisemitic suffered a major blow on Thursday with the release of a new documentary in which fellow musicians detailed his long record of anti-Jewish barbs.
Fronted by the British investigative journalist John Ware and produced by the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA), a UK-based advocacy organization, the film — titled “The Dark Side of Roger Waters” — features extensive interviews with legendary producer Bob Ezrin and saxophonist Norbert Statchel, both of whom are Jewish, in which they recalled several occasions when Waters uttered antisemitic remarks. A vocal supporter of the so-called “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) movement targeting the State of Israel who has depicted the media and music industries as slavishly following “Zionist” imperatives, Waters has always taken offense at the suggestion that his stridently anti-Zionist views are rooted in a personal antipathy towards Jews.
Ezrin — the producer of Pink Floyd’s classic 1979 album “The Wall” who has worked with artists from Alice Cooper to Taylor Swift — offered a nuanced view of Waters’ psyche, depicting him as an intelligent person and highly gifted musician with strongly narcissistic tendencies.
“Not only were Roger and I partners in the music, we were also friends,” Ezrin said with a wry smile. “Roger’s a really complicated guy. He is exquisitely sensitive and insensitive at the same time.”
Among the several anecdotes related by Ezrin was one concerning an impromptu song that Waters wrote about Bryan Morrison, Pink Floyd’s Jewish agent. “I can’t remember the exact circumstance, but something like, you know … the last line of the couplet was ‘cos Morrie is a f–king Jew,’” Ezrin said. “It was my first inclination that there may be some antisemitism under the surface.”
Asked how he responded, Ezrin replied, “You know, I’m embarrassed to say that I was so shocked, I didn’t say anything.” He added that the remark had been made early on in their relationship. “I chalked it up to stupidity on his part and also what I understood to be a kind of nascent antisemitism that existed in England and many places around the world,” said Ezrin.
Statchel meanwhile outlined his ordeal as a saxophonist performing with Waters’ backing band on tour, emphasizing that challenging the singer over his antisemitic comments would have cost him his job.
Statchel said that when he told Waters that his family were Ashkenazi Jews and that most of his father’s relatives had been murdered during the Holocaust, the singer offered to introduce him to “your dead grandmother,” launching into a hackneyed imitation of how he imagined a Polish Jewish woman might speak.
“He put on an impression of an old hag,” Statchel remembered. “It was kind of like a slapstick, insulting way that someone would think a person of no education and low class, and maybe not real smart, would speak.”
On another occasion, Statchel joined Waters and other band members for dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. Waters and other members of the party became angry when they realized that all the dishes carried out by the wait staff were vegetarian, and contained no meat. “Finally the 12th or 13th dish came out, and the waiter seemed intimidated already by the loudness, and the personalities, and the arrogance,” he said. “Roger kind of pushes it with his arm, and he goes, ‘That’s it! Where’s the meat? This is Jew food, what’s with this Jew food? Take away the Jew food!’”
The film also revealed a series of emails that Waters sent to colleagues producing his live show, proposing in one communication that the inflatable flying pig which is a prominent feature of his concerts be embossed with the words “dirty k-ke” — a particularly offensive antisemitic slur. It also pointed to Waters’ most recent tour in which he mounted a graphic display that compared the killing of Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, allegedly by an Israeli soldier, with the fate of Anne Frank, the young Jewish girl who perished during the Holocaust and whose wartime diary of life in hiding in Amsterdam was published posthumously.
“Do I think he considers himself to be an antisemite? I’ll bet you dollars for doughnuts he does not and he will be the first person to say: ‘I’m not anti anything, I am in favor of everyone,’” Ezrin observed. “But as a person with a powerful public platform, he has a responsibility to understand that what he does affects other people, and so he may not be one, but he walks like one, he quacks like one, he swims like one, so from my point of view he’s functionally a duck.”
The documentary’s release coincides with the latest scandal involving Waters, who claimed he was prevented from speaking at a pro-Palestinian event at the University of Pennsylvania last weekend. The university authorities countered that their understanding was that Waters would appear virtually, and that security arrangements to accommodate his physical presence had not been made.
Earlier this year, a five-city tour by Waters in Germany was met with protests and demands for the cancellation of the concerts.
“A valuable asset such as freedom of expression and freedom of art must never be misused as a license for antisemitism,” Senator Joe Chialo of the center-right CDU Party in Berlin declared prior to Waters’ concert in the German capital in May. Referring to the Star of David that appeared on the inflatable pig used by the singer, Chialo added: “These actions — like the BDS campaign he is associated with — are nothing but antisemitic.”