Monday, September 15, 2008

Pink Floyd's Richard Wright Passes at 65

Pink Floyd keyboardist and co-founder Richard Wright died today at age 65 from cancer.

From the band’s start, to The Wall album, Wright was a crucial, important member of Pink Floyd.

He brought an easy jazzy piano style to the band’s music, but also added fantastic wicked Hammond organ playing and spacey synths and effects. He was also as much a part of the minimalistic style of the band’s arrangements as anyone. He knew that the space between the notes was as important as the notes themselves.

To me, Wright’s greatest Floyd moments are The Great Gig In The Sky, Us and Them and most of Shine On You Crazy Diamond (all of the parts, especially the last few minutes of the album).

But let’s not forget his voice. Wright provided backing vocals on much of Floyd’s music, up to Wish You Were Here. Then it was more of the Gilmour/Waters show. But his harmony work on Echoes from 1971's Meddle is classic Floyd and is a great example of how fragile and dreamy his voice was. You got the sense that he wasn’t very comfortable singing, yet he was probably the best singer in the group until Gilmour and Waters got more dominant post 1975

My take is that Wright provided as much of Floyd’s sound as Gilmour’s guitar and Waters' lyrics – at least up to the Animals album, where he seemed to lose interest, not contributing any new music until the 90s.

Of course this can be as equally attributed to Waters, who slowly squeezed Wright and then Gilmour out of the band by doing all the writing and then all of the singing. When Floyd came back without Waters in 1987, Gilmour involved Wright late in the project and he is barely on A Momentary Lapse of Reason – though I saw him on the tour and he was very involved live.

But by The Division Bell, Wright was back in the fold, contributing some really nice instrumentals and a song called Wearing the Inside Out. He also put out a final solo album (Broken China) that included the song Breakthrough, which he sang on Gilmour’s solo live DVD David Gilmour in Concert (below).

While he wasn’t as vibrant and prolific after 1975, he made a huge impact in the use of keyboards in prog rock. While Keith Emerson, Jon Lord and Rick Wakeman played circles around each other in the 70s, Wright was content to play for the song, and that is tougher than it sounds.

I was really glad when Waters buried the hatchet long enough for the band to reunite at Live8 a couple of years ago. They didn't show him much, but when Wright was on camera at the end solo of Comfortably Numb, he was standing up, rocking the shit out of his organ part. Once again adding crucial textures to Floyd's music.

Now I am really glad that reunion happened because along with the Beatles and The Who, death has robbed us of another reunion of one of the biggest bands in history. As recently as last week, Gilmour was saying he was done with Floyd for good, but now that door is shut for sure.

Weird thing is, when I put my iPod on random shuffle just now, Floyd’s Let There Be More Light came on. One song out of almost 15,000. Spooky.

The photo is from the LA Times. Below are two nice videos. Enjoy:

Breakthrough (from David Gilmour in Concert)

Echoes Part One (from Live at Pompeii)


harmolodic said...

"Stay" was always my favorite of the tunes Wright sang. Glad I got to see him with Gilmour when they toured 'On an Island'...

9 said...




Anonymous said...

I was a late bloomer as they say, really got into Floyd later in life. Great Band , Richard will surly be missed. Great Gig showed his GREATNESS.

KeithHandy said...

Wright was a good guy.

It's sad to see one of the four "main Floyds" go... when Barrett died I was a little more detached about it, because his PF wasn't the PF I really grew up with.

Glad they did the Live8 when they did it. It was a perfect ending.

Anonymous said...

So Sad :(

VoxMoose said...

RIP Richard. You will be missed. I also associate him heavily with Meddle. His harmonies on Echoes is absolutely haunting...

Overhead the albatross hangs motionless
upon the air
And deep beneath the rolling waves
In labyrinths of coral caves
The echo of a distant tide
Comes willowing across the sand
And everything is green and submarine

And no one showed us to the land
And no one knows the wheres or whys
But something stirs and something tries
And starts to climb toward the light.

Anonymous said...

Yeh man quite a milestone does Wright's death mark. Very nice tribute to him and good video selection. Appreciate you stopping by my blog too. Cheers, RG.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad, sad day for Pink Floyd fans. RIP Richard, you and your talent will be sorely missed.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your comment on Wrong Notes. Glad you posted the video of "Echoes" from Pompeii. The "Echoes" clip was my original choice for my post--it's my favorite from that movie.

I ended up picking the "Careful with That Axe, Eugene" clip because I love how Wright's organ comes it at the beginning. For anyone who might only watch the first 30 seconds, I think it works as a good intro to Wright's playing and how much it was part of Pink Floyd's sound from that era.

Bluebear2 said...

Nice remembrance!

Echoes is one of my all time favorites ever since I saw them perform it on their Dark Side of the Moon tour at Milwaukee County Stadium.

If you follow the link at my music vault you'll see why. (

Thanks for stopping by, I'll be exploring around here and add you to my blog roll.

Bobby B said...

Excellent tribute to the man. I really appreciate your observations on how his more subtle keyboard work compares to the finger gymnastics of other prog keyboardists of the time.
Well writ. Thank you for the nice comments on my blog as well.

Anonymous said...

Us and Them remains my all time fav Wright work. It always plays in my head..

Jayvee said...

Great rememberance piece! Thanks for stopping by the Round Table yesterday. Looking forward to checking out more of your posts!


Lovely tribute - the Youtube videos just topped it off nicely!

Allan Bontjer said...

Hi Isorski, I liked your little bit on your blog. Yes, Richard lost interest for a while, but I think he was written out of some of the contracts. Only got paid for his bits. I'm mostly a fan of the band for all the bits pre Wish you were here, but did see them in 1988, Sydney. Bye, Allan

Anonymous said...

Just when I read this, "Welcome to the Machine" came on KFOG. Another great example of how RW dominated so much of that album and really created the musical aura that is synonymous with Floyd. Great stuff.