Who Is The Little-Known Singer Behind Pink Floyd's The Great Gig In The Sky?

All true Pink Floyd fans are more than familiar with their song, "The Great Gig In The Sky," from their classic 1973 album, "The Dark Side of the Moon," whose iconic prism cover is well-known to people who don't even know the band. "The Great Gig In The Sky" is a major part of what has made the album resonate with listeners for decades after its release, so much so that its place in eternity is all but certain.

Like so many great songs, "The Great Gig In The Sky" took some time and experimenting before it became the track that's so beloved today. According to Far Out Magazine, the song started off as an organ instrumental piece with Bible verses spoken over it. However, at some point in the creative process, the decision was made to turn it into a piano-driven rock song with female vocals, a choice that wasn't made until "The Dark Side of the Moon" had to be delivered to the band's label, Harvest Records.

Clare Torry's time with Pink Floyd

Luckily, the album's engineer Alan Parsons (of The Alan Parsons Project fame) happened to know a female singer who could do what the band wanted — Clare Torry who, at the time, was a session vocalist with few credits to her name. As per Far Out Magazine, Torry was brought in to record the track and was instructed by the band members to think about dark subjects like death while she improvised her vocals. In just two-and-a-half takes (Torry stopped midway through her third take as she felt she'd already given everything she had), she produced the powerful vocals that would become defining to the song. Torry was so kept in the dark about the project that she didn't even know that her voice had ended up on the album until she bought the record at the store and noticed her name in the credits.

Far Out Magazine features Torry's fascinating account of recording the song in the studio with the band: Apparently, Torry's first attempt at singing over the track was shot down because she was articulating actual words, and was directed to sing longer notes. She stated, "that was when I thought, 'Maybe I should just pretend I'm an instrument ... Alan Parsons got a lovely sound on my voice: echoey, but not too echoey. When I closed my eyes –- which I always did -– it was just all-enveloping; a lovely vocal sound, which for a singer, is always inspirational."

Later life and career

Unfortunately, providing the stellar vocals for one of rock's most legendary tunes wasn't enough to propel Clare Torry's career very far. According to Vulture, the singer only appeared on a handful of recording credits in the 1970s, including songs for Olivia Newton-John and Serge Gainsbourg. She even teamed up with the man who recommended her to Pink Floyd, Alan Parsons, for his Project's track, "Don't Hold Back." Torry had a little more success in the 1980s, with her voice being heard on Tangerine Dream's "Yellowstone Park" and Culture Club's "The War Song," as well as rejoining Pink Floyd's Roger Waters for his solo album "Radio K.A.O.S." for a couple of songs.

But still, Torry largely remained out of the public consciousness. That is until she was persuaded by friends to sue Pink Floyd and their record label EMI in 2004. According to Vulture, the purpose of the lawsuit was for songwriting credits and lost wages for "The Great Gig in the Sky," which was eventually settled out of court but included her as a co-writer on future releases of "The Dark Side of the Moon." Her renewed time in the spotlight was followed by the release of a collection of her previous solo work called "Heaven in the Sky" in 2006 so that listeners can appreciate her great talent, even when she wasn't singing on "The Great Gig in the Sky."