Roger Waters Dropped by BMG Over Israel Comments

The music rights company BMG has dropped Roger Waters, Variety reports, confirming a claim that Waters himself made in an interview in November. Waters, whose equivocal stance on the Russia-Ukraine war provoked similar pushback in 2022, alleges that pressure from pro-Israel groups prompted the decision, though neither he nor BMG responded to requests for comment. BMG had been due to release Waters’ re-recording of Dark Side of the Moon last year, Variety reports, but incoming CEO Thomas Coesfeld killed the deal and the album eventually went to Cooking Vinyl. Last year, Bertelsmann, the German company that owns BMG, expressed “solidarity with Israel” in a statement on the Hamas attacks of October 7.

The BMG exit comes amid renewed attention to Waters’ anti-Zionist and anti-Israel stance, which some allege has crossed into antisemitism. Last spring, Waters won the right to perform in Frankfurt despite serious opposition due to contentious elements of his set. Among them were a video montaging victims of state violence that placed Anne Frank alongside the Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. A section in which a pig emblazoned with the Star of David floats over the crowd was later adjusted to feature the logo of an Israeli arms company.

The more egregious elements of Waters’ set, such as the Nazi-style costume that prompted investigation by German police, are adapted from Pink Floyd’s The Wall, the satirical story of a rock star who slides into fascism. Waters has strongly denied antisemitism, claiming that Israel is just one target of a broad, anti-fascist stage show. Last year, however, a documentary collected numerous claims, including from Waters’ musical collaborators, that he had repeatedly made antisemitic slurs in private. An investigation by the Campaign Against Antisemitism, which informed the film, unearthed emails in which Waters proposed scrawling the inflatable pig at his concerts with an antisemitic slogan and “bombing” audiences with confetti in the shape of swastikas, Stars of David, dollar signs, and other provocative symbols, The Guardian notes.

Waters did not respond at the time, but has previously said, “I have spent my entire life speaking out against authoritarianism and oppression wherever I see it. When I was a child after the war, the name of Anne Frank was often spoken in our house, she became a permanent reminder of what happens when fascism is left unchecked. My parents fought the Nazis in World War II, with my father paying the ultimate price.”