2008 – Associated Press – LONDON – Richard Wright, a founding member of the rock group Pink Floyd, died today… this day in rock! He was 65.
Pink Floyd’s spokesman Doug Wright, who is not related to the artist, said Wright died after a battle with cancer at his home in Britain. He says the band member’s family did not want to give more details about his death.
Wright met Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and Nick Mason in college and joined their early band, Sigma 6. Along with the late Syd Barrett, the four formed Pink Floyd in 1965.
The group’s jazz-infused rock and drug-laced multimedia “happenings” made them darlings of the London psychedelic scene, and their 1967 album, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” was a hit.
In the early days of Pink Floyd, Wright, along with Barrett, was seen as the group’s dominant musical force. The London-born musician and son of a biochemist wrote songs and sang.
The band released a series of commercially and critically successful albums including 1973’s “Dark Side of the Moon,” which has sold more than 40 million copies. Wright wrote “The Great Gig In The Sky” and “Us And Them” for that album, and later worked on the group’s epic compositions such as “Atom Heart Mother,” “Echoes” and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.”
But tensions grew between Waters, Wright and fellow band member David Gilmour. The tensions came to a head during the making of “The Wall” when Waters insisted Wright be fired. As a result, Wright was relegated to the status of session musician on the tour of “The Wall,” and did not perform on Pink Floyd’s 1983 album “The Final Cut.”
Wright formed a new band Zee with Dave Harris, from the band Fashion, and released one album, “Identity,” with Atlantic Records.
Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985 and Wright began recording with Mason and Gilmour again, releasing the albums “The Division Bell” and “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” as Pink Floyd. Wright also released the solo albums “Wet Dream” (1978) and “Broken China” (1996).
In July 2005, Wright, Waters, Mason and Gilmour reunited to perform at the “Live 8” charity concert in London — the first time in 25 years they had been onstage together.
Wright also worked on Gilmour’s solo projects, most recently playing on the 2006 album “On An Island” and the accompanying world tour.
Richard William Wright (28 July 1943 – 15 September 2008) was a self-taught pianist and keyboardist best known for his long career with Pink Floyd. Though not as prolific a songwriter as his bandmates Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour, he did write significant parts of the music for classic albums such as Meddle, Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here, as well as for Pink Floyd’s final studio album The Division Bell. Wright’s richly textured keyboard layers have been 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”). Wright died on 15 September 2008, following a short battle with cancer.
Pink Floyd 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 seen as a dominant musical force in the group (though not as much of one 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 1967–68. While not credited as a singer on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, he sung 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” 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”.
Wright recorded his first solo project, Wet Dream, and released it in September 1978 with little fanfare. However, the album is regarded with some acclaim among Pink Floyd fans. 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 Roger 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 première 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.
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, has 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 you’ll play with me, right? ”
However, Wright stated that he had no desire to perform as part of an officially-reformed ‘Pink Floyd’ again, saying that the Live 8 concert was nice as a “one off.”
Wright had the lowest profile of any member of a band known for their lack of individual attention seeking. Unlike the three other surviving band members who have emerged as public figures, Wright rarely spoke in public. Wright was very rarely seen in the live footage from the Live 8 reunion performance; with a few exceptions he was only shown in wide shots. Some have suggested that the director of the broadcast did not know which musician was the fourth member of Pink Floyd until the very end when they got together for a group shot.
He married his first wife, Juliette Gale, in 1964 and they divorced in 1982 after having two children. He married his second wife Franka in 1984 and they divorced in 1994. Wright married his third wife Millie (to whom he dedicated his second solo album Broken China) in 1996; their one 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 on 15 September 2008 after a battle with cancer.
Wright’s style fuses jazz and neoclassical influences that complemented the simple harmonic structures of the more blues and folk-based songs written by Roger Waters and David Gilmour. As a keyboardist, he is 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, only occasionally did he opt for solo playing, 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”. Another notable solo is the first solo in Syd Barrett’s song “Love Song”. Wright is 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”. Although he is not often mentioned among the ‘synthesizer greats’, it is widely acknowledged that Wright’s inventive use of keyboards and synthesizers with Pink Floyd has been pioneering.
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. Since 1987 Wright favoured Kurzweil digital synthesisers for reproducing his analogue synthesiser sounds, even though he still used his favourite Hammond C-3 organ. However, the one that he used with Pink Floyd at Live 8 and with David Gilmour was a “chopped” version (being stripped down of unnecessary weight and put into a more compact casing).
Further information: Pink Floyd discography
* Wet Dream – 15 September 1978
* Broken China – 26 November 1996
* Identity – 9 April 1984
With David Gilmour
* David Gilmour in Concert (DVD) – October, 2002
o Appears on two tracks: “Breakthrough” (Keyboard / Vocals) & “Comfortably Numb (With Bob Geldof)” (Keyboard)
* On an Island – 6 March 2006
o Appears on two tracks: “On an Island” (Hammond organ) & “The Blue” (Keyboards / Vocals)
* Remember That Night (DVD) – September, 2007
With Syd Barrett
* The Madcap Laughs – 3 January 1970
* Barrett – 14 November 1970
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