Thursday, September 18, 2008

R.I.P. Richard Wright (1943-2008)

This past Monday (9/15), one of my all-time, all-time favorite musicians passed away, the great Richard Wright of Pink Floyd. Richard played keyboards, and sang some occasional vocals. While Pink Floyd is one the most popular and well-known bands in Rock History, the band members themselves were far from rock celebrities, with only the real fans knowing their names, recognizing their pictures, etc. In the early days of Floyd, original leader Syd Barrett got most of the spotlight. When Pink Floyd fractured in the early 80's, the two opposing forces of Roger Waters and David Gilmour got their share of ink for their very acrimonious feud. Richard Wright never got any special kind of recognition, nor did he seek it. He played a more supporting role, but his contribution musically to the band was huge. In many ways, Wright's textured keyboards were the foundation of Pink Floyd's sound.

Pink Floyd in the early days (Wright on the far right)

Richard Wright was a musician's musician. His style was known for restraint, musicality, atmosphere, and lots and lots of emotion. Although his playing was steeped in jazz, blues, and other musical styles, it is amazing to learn that he was self-taught. But then again, that probably isn't surprising. He played straight from the soul.

I also loved his voice, and the occasional songs he sang or wrote for the Floyd, as well as his two solo albums. In the days after Syd left the band, Wright was the most accomplished songwriter in the group. He helped fill that void until Gilmour and Waters' skills were further honed. Gilmour had the amazing voice in the band, but when Richard and David sang together, like on the monumental classic "Echoes," their blend was even more magical. As Roger Waters took creative control of the band as they evolved in the late 70's, Richard's unique contribution was minimized and squeezed out of their sound. This is why I rejoiced when his first solo album, "Wet Dream," was released in 1978!

When the post-Waters version of the band came together in the late 80's, Wright came back into the fold, and by the time they released their "The Division Bell" album in 1994, Wright was a major contributor again, helping write the music for a number of songs, and even taking lead vocals on another. This creative spark continued with the release of his second and final solo album, "Broken China." This was a very serious work, one thematically based around the serious depression that his wife suffered from. Although it was hardly known to even the more dedicated Pink Floyd fans, it is often considered the *BEST* solo album put out by any of the Floyd members. This diehard fan is one who agrees!!!

I tell you, it is a great joy to see Richard in David Gilmour's band on his live DVD "Night After Night," which came out in 2007. Seeing the two of them sing "Echoes" again is purely awe inspiring. Plus David had the kindness to include a number of other Wright lead vocal spots in some of the extras included on the disc. Check it out!

Performing with David Gilmour's band in 2006

I have always been one to champion the underdog, or the unsung hero. Richard Wright was one of these. God, how much I loved his playing and singing! I even put together my own Richard Wright best of mix-CD, entitled "Richard Wright Is God." I made this about 2 years ago when I was in a major Floyd renaissance. He will definitely be missed by this fan. But how blessed I think I am, and we all are for his great contribution to our musical lives.

Give Me 8 Cents,

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