Richard Wright RIP
Richard William Wright (28 July 1943 - 15 September 2008) was a pianist and keyboardist best known for his career with Pink Floyd. Wright’s richly textured keyboard layers were a vital ingredient and a distinctive characteristic of Pink Floyd's sound. In addition, Wright frequently sang background and occasionally lead vocals onstage and in the studio with Pink Floyd (most notably on the songs "Time", "Echoes", and on the Syd Barrett composition "Astronomy Domine").
Though not as prolific a songwriter as his bandmates Roger Waters and David Gilmour, he wrote significant parts of the music for classic albums such as Meddle, The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, as well as for Pink Floyd's final studio album The Division Bell.
Wright performing in 2006
|Birth name||Richard William Wright|
|Also known as||Rick Wright|
|Born||28 July 1943(1943-07-28) |
Hatch End, Middlesex, England
|Died||15 September 2008 (aged 65)|
|Genre(s)||Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, experimental|
|Instrument(s)||Keyboards, Organ, Piano, Synthesizer, Trombone, Vocals, Guitar, Fiddle, Harpsicord, Saxophone, Cello, Mellotron, Farfisa, Vibraphone|
|Associated acts||Pink Floyd (1965-1981; 1987-2008) |
David Gilmour (2002-2008)
The Screaming Abdabs (Sigma 6) (1964-1965)
Early life and career
Wright was educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's School and the Regent Street Polytechnic College of Architecture, where he met fellow band members Roger Waters and Nick Mason. He was a founding member of The Pink Floyd Sound (as they were then called) in 1965, and also participated in its previous incarnations, Sigma 6 and The (Screaming) Abdabs.
In the early days of Pink Floyd, Wright was a prominent musical force in the group (although not as much as Syd Barrett, the band’s chief songwriter and front man at the time) and he wrote and sang several songs of his own during 1967–1968. While not credited as a singer on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, he sang lead on Barrett-penned songs like "Astronomy Domine" and "Matilda Mother", as well as notable harmonies on "Scarecrow" and "Chapter 24". Examples of his early compositions include "Remember a Day", "Paintbox" and "It Would Be So Nice". As the sound and the goals of the band evolved, Wright became less interested in songwriting and focused primarily on contributing his distinctive style to extended instrumental compositions such as "Interstellar Overdrive", "A Saucerful of Secrets", "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", "One Of These Days" and to musical themes for film scores (More, Zabriskie Point and Obscured by Clouds). He also made essential contributions to Pink Floyd's long, epic compositions such as "Atom Heart Mother", "Echoes" (on which he sang lead vocals) and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". His most commercially popular compositions are "The Great Gig in the Sky" and "Us and Them" from 1973's The Dark Side of the Moon. He also contributed significantly to other mid-period Floyd classics like "Breathe" and "Time", singing lead vocals on alternate verses of the latter with David Gilmour.
Wright recorded his first solo project, Wet Dream, and released it in September 1978 with minimal commercial success. Battling both personal problems and an increasingly rocky relationship with Roger Waters, he was forced to resign from Pink Floyd during The Wall sessions by Waters, who threatened to pull the plug on the album's tapes if Wright did not leave the band. However, he was retained as a salaried session musician during the subsequent live concerts to promote that album in 1980 and 1981. Ironically, Wright became the only member of Pink Floyd to profit from those hugely spectacular shows, since the net financial loss had to be borne by the three remaining "full-time" members. He was the only member of the band not to attend the 1982 premiere of the film version of The Wall. In 1983, Pink Floyd released the only album on which Wright does not appear with The Final Cut.
Later life and career
During 1984, Wright formed a new musical duo with Dave Harris (from the band Fashion) called Zee. They signed a record deal with Atlantic Records and released only one album, Identity, which was a commercial and critical flop. Wright rejoined Pink Floyd following Waters' departure. Because of legal and contractual issues from his "hired gun" status during The Wall world tour, Wright's photo was not included in the 1987 album A Momentary Lapse of Reason and his name was listed in smaller letters than Mason and Gilmour. By the time of the Momentary Lapse world tour and the 1988 live album The Delicate Sound of Thunder, Wright was contractually a member of Pink Floyd once again. In 1994, he co-wrote five songs and sang lead vocals on one song ("Wearing the Inside Out") for the next Pink Floyd album, The Division Bell. This recording provided material for the double live album and video release P*U*L*S*E in 1995. Wright, like Nick Mason, performed on every Pink Floyd tour.
In 1996, inspired by his successful input into The Division Bell, Wright released his second solo album, Broken China, including contributions from Sinéad O'Connor on vocals, Pino Palladino on bass, Manu Katché on drums, Dominic Miller (known from his guitar work with Sting) and Tim Renwick, another Pink Floyd associate, on electric guitar. Broken China was considered to be a more focused and artistically successful work than Wet Dream and marked a new phase in Richard Wright's modus operandi, with extensive use of computer-based recording and production techniques, assisted by Anthony Moore with whom he co-wrote the album's lyrics.
On 2 July 2005, Wright, Gilmour, Mason were joined by Waters on stage for the first time since the Wall concerts for a short set at the Live 8 concert in London. Wright underwent eye surgery for cataracts in November 2005, preventing him from attending Pink Floyd's induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame. Roger Waters, who was also unable to attend the band's induction due to rehearsals for the opening of his opera Ça Ira in Rome, appeared in video link and stated, tongue-in-cheek:
|“||Rick actually hasn't had an eye operation, he and I have eloped to Rome and we're living happily in a small apartment off the Via Venuti!||”|
Wright contributed keyboards and background vocals to David Gilmour's most recent solo album, On an Island, and performed with Gilmour's touring band for over two dozen shows in Europe and North America in 2006 . On stage with Gilmour he performed piano, electric piano and synth leads with his Kurzweil K2600 workstation, Hammond organ and even his long-inactive Farfisa organ, which was resurrected especially for performing "Echoes" and a couple of Pink Floyd's and Syd Barrett's older numbers that Gilmour chose to revisit in his recent concerts. He also provided backing vocals and lead vocals (notably on "Echoes", "Time", "Comfortably Numb", "Wearing the Inside Out" "Astronomy Domine" and "Arnold Layne" - the latter released as a live single). He declined an offer to join Roger Waters and Nick Mason on Waters' The Dark Side of the Moon Live tour in order to spend more time working on an upcoming solo project (which may be an instrumental album released in 2008).
On 4 July 2006, Wright joined Gilmour and Mason for the official screening of the P•U•L•S•E DVD. Inevitably, Live 8 surfaced as a subject in an interview. When asked about performing again, Wright replied he would be happy on stage anywhere. He explained that his plan is to "meander" along and said about playing live:
|“||...and whenever Dave wants me to play with him, I’m really happy to play with him. And [to Gilmour] you’ll play with me, right?||”|
He married his first wife, Juliette Gale, in 1964. They had two children and divorced in 1982. He married his second wife Franka in 1984. They divorced in 1994. Wright married his third wife Millie (to whom he dedicated his second solo album Broken China) in 1996. Their only child is named Ben. In 1996 Wright's daughter Gala married Guy Pratt, a session musician who has played bass for Pink Floyd since Roger Waters' exit.
Wright died of an undisclosed form of cancer in his home in Britain on 15 September 2008.  At the time of his death, he had been working on a new solo album, which was thought to comprise a series of instrumental pieces.
Bandmate David Gilmour said: "In my view, all the greatest Pink Floyd moments are the ones where he is in full flow. No-one can replace Richard Wright - he was my musical partner and my friend." He added: "In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten. He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognised Pink Floyd sound. Like Rick, I don't find it easy to express my feelings in words, but I loved him and will miss him enormously. I have never played with anyone quite like him."
Bandmate Roger Waters's website displayed a simple picture as a tribute, showing an array of candles and poppies against a black background.
InfluenceWright's style fused jazz and neoclassical influences, which complemented the simple harmonic structures of the more blues and folk-based songs of Roger Waters and David Gilmour. As a keyboardist, he was more interested in complementing each piece with organ or synthesizer layers and tasteful piano or electric piano passages. Unlike his contemporaries Rick Wakeman, Tony Banks or Keith Emerson, he opted for solo playing only occasionally, notably in "Atom Heart Mother", "Echoes", "Any Colour You Like", "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" Parts 1-5 and 6-9, "Welcome to the Machine", "Dogs", "Run Like Hell" and "Keep Talking". Also notable is the first solo in Syd Barrett's "Love Song". Wright was known for his ghostly atmospheric textures such as the Leslie piano arpeggios at the beginning of "Echoes", the echoed Farfisa Organ in the live versions of "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" and "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", the distinctive Minimoog solos in "Any Colour You Like" and, more famously, "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" and the jazzy electric piano passages in "Money", "Time" and "Sheep". In "A Saucerful of Secrets" and "Sysyphus" he experimented with 'treated piano'. "Sysyphus" also made extensive use of Mellotron sounds, something of a rarity in the Pink Floyd canon. Wright also used Indian modal scales in "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun" and "Matilda Mother".
In the early days of the band, Wright dabbled with brass before settling on the Farfisa organ as his main instrument onstage (in addition to piano and Hammond Organ in the studio). For a brief period in 1969, Wright played vibraphone on several of the band's songs and in some live shows, and he even played trombone on "Biding My Time" (also dating from this experimental period). During the formative years of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett, Wright relied heavily on his Farfisa organ, fed through a Binson Echorec platter echo, to achieve distinctive sounds that helped the band gain their "psychedelic rock" edge. He started using a Hammond organ regularly onstage thereafter, and a grand piano later became part of his usual live concert setup when "Echoes" was added to Pink Floyd's regular set-list. For tours in the 1970s centering around The Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here, Animals and The Wall, the Farfisa was dropped (although it was brought back when Wright toured with David Gilmour on his On An Island tour), and an array of other instruments were added to the lineup, such as: Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer and Hohner electric pianos, VCS 3, Minimoog, ARP String Ensemble and Prophet 5 synthesizers. From 1987 Wright favoured Kurzweil digital synthesizers for reproducing his analogue synthesizer sounds, even though he still used his favourite Hammond C-3 organ. The one that he used with Pink Floyd at Live 8 and with David Gilmour, however, was a "portablized" version (stripped of unnecessary weight and put into a more compact casing by Keyboard Products of Los Angeles, Ca.).
With Pink Floyd
- Identity - 9 April 1984
With David Gilmour
- David Gilmour in Concert (DVD) - October, 2002
- Appears on two tracks: "Breakthrough" (Keyboard / Vocals) & "Comfortably Numb (With Bob Geldof)" (Keyboard)
- On an Island - 6 March 2006
- Appears on two tracks: "On an Island" (Hammond organ) & "The Blue" (Keyboards / Vocals)
- Remember That Night (DVD) - September, 2007
- Live in Gdańsk (CD/DVD) - to be released on 22 September 2008
With Syd Barrett
- ^ a b c d Erlewine, Stephen. "Biography". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2008-09-16.
- ^ a b c d Selva, Meera (15 September 2008). "Pink Floyd member Richard Wright dies age 65", Associated Press. Retrieved on 2008-09-15.
- ^ Pratt, Guy (2007). My Bass And Other Animals. London: Orion Books. ISBN 9780752876313.
- ^ "Floyd founder Wright dies at 65", BBC News Website, BBC (2008-09-15). Retrieved on 2008-09-15.
- ^ Obituary: Richard Wright - The Guardian, 16/09/2008.
- ^ Gilmour's tribute to Floyd star - BBC News Online
- ^ afp.google.com, Pink Floyd's Gilmour mourns bandmate Wright
- ^ Roger Water's Official Homepage
Floyd founder Wright dies at 65
Wright (right) wrote songs on albums including Dark Side Of The Moon
Pink Floyd keyboard player and founder member Richard Wright has died, aged 65, from cancer.
Wright appeared on the group's first album, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, in 1967 alongside lead guitarist Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and Nick Mason.
Dave Gilmour joined the band at the start of 1968 while Barrett left the group shortly afterwards.
Gilmour said: "No-one can replace Richard Wright - he was my musical partner and my friend."
Writing on his website, he added: "In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten."
Wright's spokesman said in a statement: "The family of Richard Wright, founder member of Pink Floyd, announce with great sadness that Richard died today after a short struggle with cancer.
"The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this difficult time."
He did not say what form of cancer the self-taught keyboard player and pianist had.
Wright, a founder member of The Pink Floyd Sound - and other previous incarnations including Sigma 6 - met Waters and Mason at architecture school.
Wright rejoined Pink Floyd for the London Live 8 concert in 2005
Wright, known as Rick earlier in his career, wrote The Great Gig In The Sky and Us And Them from the album.
Waters left the band in 1981, performing his last concert at London's Earls Court.
Wright, together with Gilmour and Mason, continued to record and tour as Pink Floyd during the remainder of the 1980s and into the 1990s, releasing their last studio album - The Division Bell - in 1994.
In 2005, the full band reunited - for the first time in 24 years - for the Live 8 concert in London's Hyde Park.
Wright also contributed vocals and keyboards to Gilmour's 2006 solo album On An Island, while performing with his touring band in shows in Europe and the US.
How Richard Wright made his mark on Pink Floyd
As a kid with a car 30 years ago — I got to see some experimental stuff at what was the Fox Venice. It's sad.