Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Richard Wright Goes Through the Gates of Dawn

Richard Wright, founding member of Pink Floyd and keyboardist for the band, passed yesterday at the age of 65. He had been struggling with cancer for the past several months.

Wright was born on July 28, 1943 in Hatch End, Middlesex. He was a self taught keyboardist and pianist. He attended Haberdashers' Aske's School and the Regent Street Polytechnic College of Architecture. It as the Regent Street Polytechnic College of Architecture that he met future Pink Floyd members Roger Waters and Nick Mason. Along with Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, and Nick Mason he was a founding member of the Pink Floyd Sound in 1965. It was in 1967, under the shortened name of Pink Floyd, that the band released their first album The Piper at the Gates of Dawn. Wright co-wrote two songs on the album, "Pow R. Toc H." and "Interstellar Overdrive." He also sang lead on "Astronomy Domine" and "Matilda Mother," With their second album, A Saucerful of Secrets (the first without Barrett's leadership), Wright wrote "Remember a Day," and "See-Saw," and co-wrote "A Saucerful of Secrets." For their third album he wrote "Sysyphus" and co-wrote "Careful with that Axe, Eugene." In the early days of the band, Richard Wright was regarded as the primary musical force in the band besides Syd Barrett.

As Pink Floyd continued to develop their sound, Wright would write fewer songs to concentrate on what his distinctive keyboard styles could add to the group's music. Although writing fewer songs, he would make several significant contributions to various Pink Floyd compositions, including "Echoes" and "Shine on You Crazy Diamond." For Pink Floyd's classic album Dark Side of the Moon he co-wrote "Breathe," "The Great Gig in the Sky," "Us and Them," and "Any Colour You Like."

Unfortunately it was during the recording of The Wall that tensions would erupt between Richard Wright and Roger Waters. Waters demanded that Wright be fired and he found himself acting simply as a session musician on the tour supporting on The Wall. Nineteen eighty-three's The Final Cut would be historic in being the first Pink Floyd album on which Richard Wright did not appear. Wright would form a new band, Zee, in 1985, who would release only one album (Identity).

Wright officially left Pink Floyd that year and would start recording again with Nick Mason and David Gilmour, releasing the albums The Division Bell and A Momentary Lapse of Reason under the name Pink Floyd. Wright, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, and Dave Gilmour would reunite one last time in 2005 for the Live 8 charity concert in London. Richard Wright also recorded two solo albums, Wet Dream in 1978 and Broken China in 1996. He also worked on the David Gilmour solo albums David Gilmour in Concert, On An Island, Remember That Night, and Live in Gdansk (his very last work). He also worked on Syd Barrett's two solo efforts, The Madcap Laughs and Barrett.

Although when many think of Pink Floyd they tend to think of Roger Waters and David Gilmour, there can be no doubt that Richard Wright was pivotal to the band's success from the earliest days. In fact, Final Cut has always been my least favourite Pink Floyd album. Apparently others might agree with him, as it was their lowest selling album since Meddle (which released all the way back in 1971). His excellent keyboard work was an integral part of the band, adding to their unique sound from the Syd Barrett days. And though he would eventually write fewer songs for the band, I have no doubt of his greatness as a composer. His songs "Remember a Day," "See-Saw," "Sysyphus" "Summer '68," and "The Great Gig in the Sky," were among the best the band had to offer. Although much of the attention in the history of Pink Floyd has been paid to Syd Barrett, Roger Waters, and David Gilmour, Richard Wright was a necessary part of their success. I can say without a doubt that there a lot of people who wish he was still here.


Jim Marquis said...

Wright always seemed like a decent bloke. They all did, except for Roger Waters.

Terence Towles Canote said...

Waters was always my least favourite Floyd member. There's no doubt about his talent ("Eclipse" is my favourite Floyd song), but he always seemed like a bit of a jerk to me!