Remembering Pink Floyd's Richard Wright

Pinkfloyd_lI was a teenager once, which means that I owned the biggest album of 1979 — Pink Floyd’s The Wall. I first got hooked as a wet-behind-the-ears high-school freshman when my best friend dubbed it for me on cassette, then bought the vinyl after seeing the film and fully embracing my addiction to their gravity-defying psychedelic rock. I soon graduated to 1975’s Wish You Were Here and 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, which went on to sell over 40 million copies and spend 14 yearsyears — on the Billboard 200 album chart. Later, in college, when trying to impress the gatekeepers at my school’s radio station, I whiled away hours decoding 1969’s sticky, experimental Ummagumma. Had I logged as many hours studying for my chemistry Regents exam as I did at New York’s Hayden Planetarium for "Laser Floyd," or dumbly plucking away at the Pentatonic scale on my friend’s electric guitar, it’s possible I’d be an entirely different person today. A slight exaggeration, maybe, but it’s hard to overestimate the influence the titans of U.K. space rock have had on my life, and the music that so frequently guides it.

Richard Wright, who died today at 65 after a battle with cancer, was a founding member and keyboardist for Pink Floyd. While not as famous in his own right as the late guitarist-vocalist Syd Barrett and bassist-vocalist Roger Waters, he was instrumental in the development of the iconic Floyd sound — the anthemic organ swells, the layered synth riffs. He wrote a few of their big hits, including Dark Side‘s "The Great Gig in the Sky" and "Us And Them," and worked on songs such as "Atom Heart Mother," "Echoes" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond." Waters famously fired Wright during the recording of The Wall, and Wright was relegated to session-musician status for years, during which he released two solo albums, Wet Dream, in 1978, and Broken China, in 1996. But even from the sidelines, Wright devoted most of his musical life to Pink Floyd.

Chances are good that you or your friends experienced some sort of Pink Floyd phase when you were younger — my PopWatch colleague Gary Susman calls them the "Holden Caulfield" of bands — so it seems appropriate to open up the message boards and hear what you all have to say. All I will add is, thanks for helping open those doors, Richard. And hope to see you one day at that great gig in the sky.

For more on Pink Floyd, check our coverage of Roger Waters at Coachella this past spring, a review of Saucerful of Secrets: The Pink Floyd Odyssey and of the 1995 music documentary Pulse.

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  • Dan Marsh

    While The Wall was big, I think DSOTM had more influence in the musical world.

  • PGV

    RIP Richard Wright.
    Although I’m only 23, and did not experience them in the 70’s, Pink Floyd changed my life. They are the greatest band to ever live. The passing of Wright takes away my hopes of every seeing a Pink Floyd reunion tour or seeing Pink Floyd live.
    Pink Floyd lives on, but Richard Wright, and his haunting, powerful sounds, will always be remembered.

  • Eric Friedmann

    PINK FLOYD has been my favorite rock band since high school back in the ’80s. I actually got into them from watching PINK FLOYD THE WALL over and over again. I got to see them in concert three times since 1987. It was a Pink Floyd concert that eventually led to my losing my virginity (but that’s another story entirely).
    Although Richard Wright did not contribute heavily on vocals, his keyboard magic on such classics like “Echoes”, “The Great Gig in the Sky”, “Any Colour You Like”, “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, “Signs of Life” and “Terminal Frost” cannot be denied.
    Although he can never be replaced, I hope surviving Floyd members Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason will finally put aside their differences and reunite to not only honor Richard Wright’s legacy, but also the late Syd Barrett’s.
    Shine on, Richard. Your death has left your fans UNcomfortably numb and we wish you were here.

  • X302

    This is a sad day, I love Pink Floyd!!! I did get to see them play live and feel fortunate.
    God speed to the great gig in the sky Richard-you will be missed.

  • X302

    I want to add that no one alive can match his skills! he did it all without synthesizers. I love all your work.

  • Donald Latimer

    I know you and Sid will be playing the “the Great Gig in The Sky”. Pink Floyd has been such an important part of my life and many more. Thanks for all you’ve brought into this world and rock on in the next!!

  • dan

    Love Pink Floyd, and even though Wright and Mason were 100% disposable members, this is sad.
    PS
    Did you really put up a picture without Roger Waters?

  • NanFan

    I was very fortunate to see the Animals tour in 1977. Still my #1 concert of all time out of 400 plus shows I’ve seen.
    Vaya con Dios Richard.

  • John Pearson

    At last, the heavenly choir has gained a musician who is fully capable of ascending their music to angelic levels. I hope they appreciate his talent and charm as much as I have. God speed, Rick.

  • shine on rick

    this is a very sad day and rick will be missed a lot. i was very touched reading david gilmour’s comments on his website and also feel lucky to see rick live with gilmour in 2006.

  • Scott

    I was 11 years old and very, very fortunate to see their last tour together in 1994, at Earls Court, London. Something I will never forget. I am, and always will be a Floyd fan, and I was deeply saddned hearing today that Wright died. I had kept a hope that they “might” once again grace us with one last bang. My condolonces go to his family, without Wright, there could have never been a Floyd.
    Long live Gilmour, I hope I get to have one more chance to see him, although I wish I had not have missed his ‘On an Island’ tour, to see both Gilmour and Wright play together would have been statisfying enough.
    Floyd forever!

  • BVR5150

    Hey Dan…did you honestly call Wright and Mason diposable members of Pink Floyd?
    Each member of Pink Floyd brought something unique to the mix, and even though Syd, Roger and David were considered the “front men” each band member influenced the Pink Floyd sound in their own way.
    RIP David. Enjoy the Great Gig in the Sky.

  • steve werblun

    My brothers and I love Pink Floyd! I personally, have seen them perform live in concert over 40 times between 1971 and 1980. Then another 40 times…in various incarnations…until 2006. I was fortunate to have met Rick during the 1987 tour, when they played 5 nights in L.A. A nicer man I have never in my life met. A more powerful yet subtle musician like Rick will never again be. And, for the person who wrote about Rick (and Nick) being disposable (whereas Roger and Dave were more important): You know nothing. Rick was irreplacable. Sure, Jon Carin is a good enough player to perform with both Roger and Dave. But, remember: Rick CREATED that Pink Floyd sound (along with Syd, Roger, Dave and Nick)!!! How on Earth does that make him disposable (replacable!)? Shame on you. If you…like myself (and millions of others) had actually seen Rick perform “live” with either The Floyd or with Dave, you’d know for yourself just how amazing he was! It’s HIS sound (along w/Dave) that IS Pink Floyd!!

  • Thereisnospoon

    Mr. Wright was self-taught and he revolutionized the way keyboarding was done. He set a new standard for all keyboardist of the time. He created visual, musical landscapes with his music. In this way he was a pioneer. I greatly enjoyed his creations. To the Great Gig in the Sky he goes, I’m sure.

  • rick bethlehem

    you will be missed Rick,but you can say that you were more than just another brick in the wall.Peace

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