Trading Heroes for Ghosts: How Pink Floyd’s Hero Became a Ghost

The lyrics of the song “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd are often considered to be one of the most poignant and powerful expressions of nostalgia, regret and longing in rock music. The song was written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour, and released in 1975 as the title track of the album of the same name. The song is dedicated to Syd Barrett, the original leader and founder of Pink Floyd, who left the band in 1968 due to mental health issues and drug abuse.

Wish You Were Here Lyrics - Floydology Store
Wish You Were Here Lyrics

The Powerful Question in Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”

One of the most memorable lines of the song is “Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?”. This line is part of the second verse, which goes as follows:

So, so you think you can tell
Heaven from hell
Blue skies from pain
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

Did they get you to trade
Your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
Did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

The Tragic Story of Syd Barrett

The line “Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?” is a rhetorical question that implies that the person addressed by the singer (presumably Syd Barrett) has lost his sense of identity, purpose and inspiration. He has given up his ideals, dreams and passions for something hollow, empty and meaningless. He has traded his heroes, who could be his role models, influences or friends, for ghosts, who could be his illusions, regrets or enemies. He has exchanged his life for a prison.

The line also reflects the theme of alienation and disillusionment that runs throughout the album. The album was partly inspired by the band’s dissatisfaction with the music industry and their own fame. They felt that they had become disconnected from their fans, their music and themselves. They also felt that they had betrayed their original vision and values for commercial success and popularity.

Emotional and Reflective Impact of the Line

The line “Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?” is a powerful expression of sadness, anger and nostalgia. It is a question that challenges the listener to reflect on their own choices and values. It is a question that resonates with anyone who has ever felt lost, betrayed or disappointed by themselves or others.

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