Richard Wright (musician)
Richard William "Rick" Wright (28 July 1943 – 15 September 2008) was an English pianist, keyboardist, singer and songwriter, best known for his career with Pink Floyd. Wright's richly textured keyboard layers were a vital ingredient and a distinctive characteristic of Pink Floyd's sound. Wright frequently sang background and occasionally lead vocals on stage and in the studio with Pink Floyd (most notably on the songs "Time", "Echoes", "Wearing the Inside Out", "Astronomy Domine" and "Matilda Mother").
Though not as prolific a songwriter as his bandmates Roger Waters and David Gilmour, he wrote 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 is ranked number 5 on Digital Dreamdoor's list of "100 Greatest Rock Keyboardists of All Time" and number 8 on MusicRadar's top 27.
Wright, whose father was head biochemist at Unigate Dairies, grew up in Hatch End, North London and was educated at the Haberdashers' Aske's School.
Wright taught himself to play guitar at age 12, as well as play trumpet and piano, and took private lessons in musical theory and composition at the Eric Gilder School of Music. Uncertain about his future, he enrolled at Regent Street Polytechnic in 1962. There he met fellow band members Roger Waters and Nick Mason, 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. Although Mason and Waters were competent students, Wright found architecture of little interest and after only a year of study moved to the London College of Music.
In the early days of Pink Floyd, Wright was a prominent musical force in the group (although not as much 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 1967–1968. While not credited as a singer on The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, he sang lead on Barrett-penned songs like "Astronomy Domine" and "Matilda Mother", as well as notable harmonies on "The Scarecrow" and "Chapter 24". Examples of his early compositions include "Remember a Day", "See-Saw", "Paint Box" 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 "Cirrus Minor", "Interstellar Overdrive", "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", "Careful with That Axe, Eugene", "One of These Days", "Dogs" 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" (on which he harmonized with Gilmour for the lead vocals) 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", singing lead vocals on alternate verses of the latter with David Gilmour.
Wright recorded his first solo project, Wet Dream, and released it in September 1978 with minimal commercial success. 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 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. Wright became the only member of Pink Floyd to profit from those 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 premiere of the film version of Pink Floyd—The Wall. In 1983, Pink Floyd released The Final Cut, the only album on which Wright does not appear.
During 1984, Wright formed a new musical duo with Dave Harris (from the band Fashion) called Zee. They signed a record deal with EMI Records and released only one album, Identity, which was a commercial and critical flop. Wright worked as a salaried musician alongside Pink Floyd, following Waters' departure. Because of legal and contractual issues from this "hired gun" status during The Wall world tour, his 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. In 1994, by which time his reinstatement in the band had become official, 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 Pulse in 1995. Wright, like Nick Mason, performed on every Pink Floyd tour.
'Rick asked to be a part of "A Momentary Lapse of Reason," and we talked and argued and negotiated again, and this time [The Division Bell] he's on a percentage of everything, not just the record. Last time Nick and myself had put up all the money and taken all the risks on everything, including the lawsuits with Roger. If you take all the risks, you expect to get more of the profits, quite simply. This is a wonderful artistic endeavor we've spent all our adult lives working on, but reality comes into it as well.'
— David Gilmour,
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 marked a new phase in Richard Wright's artistic development and playing style, 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 and 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. This would be the final time that all four (post-Barrett) Pink Floyd members performed together. Wright underwent eye surgery for cataracts in November 2005, preventing him from attending Pink Floyd's induction into the UK Music Hall of Fame.
Wright contributed keyboards and background vocals to David Gilmour's 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 on Hammond organ, piano, electric piano, Kurzweil K2600 workstation, and even his long-inactive Farfisa organ, which was used for performing "Echoes" and two of Pink Floyd's and Syd Barrett's older songs 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 a solo project.
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 was 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 [to Gilmour] you’ll play with me, right?
Wright's final vocal performance took place at "The Madcaps Last Laugh" a tribute concert at The Barbican in London on 10 May 2007. It was organised by Joe Boyd in the memory of Syd Barrett who had died the previous July. Boyd rounded up many musical guests all paying their tributes to Syd including Captain Sensible, Chrissie Hynde, Damon Albarn, Kevin Ayers, Kate McGarrigle with Martha Wainwright and Lily Lankin, Mike Heron, Nick Laird Clowes, Vashti Bunyan, Robyn Hitchcock and performing solo, Roger Waters.
Pink Floyd featuring David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard appeared at the end of the show as surprise guests where they performed the song that had started it all, "Arnold Layne" with Wright on lead vocals.
Wright's final live performance was as part of David Gilmour's band at the premiere of Gilmour's concert DVD Remember That Night. It took place on 6 September 2007 at the Odeon Leicester Square, London. After an edited version of the film had been shown, the band took to the stage to jam and Wright played keyboards.
He married his first wife, Juliette Gale, in 1965. They had two children, Gala and Jamie, and divorced in 1982. He married his second wife Franka in 1984. They divorced in 1990. Wright married his third wife Mildred "Millie" Hobbs (to whom he dedicated his second solo album Broken China) in 1995, with whom he had a son, Ben. Their marriage ended in 2007. In 1996, Wright's daughter Gala married Guy Pratt, a session musician who has played bass for Pink Floyd and bandmate David Gilmour since Roger Waters' exit. In his later years, Wright lived in France and spent time on a yacht he owned in the Virgin Islands.
Wright died of an undisclosed form of cancer in his home in the UK on 15 September 2008 at age 65. At the time of his death, he had been working on a new solo album, which was thought to comprise a series of instrumental pieces.
His death occurred one week before the release of David Gilmour's Live in Gdańsk CD, on which he appeared. The album is the final Pink Floyd-related project to include Wright.
Wright performing in Munich, Germany, on 29 July 2006
|Birth name||Richard William Wright|
|Also known as||Rick Wright|
|Born||28 July 1943|
Hatch End, Middlesex, England
|Died||15 September 2008 (aged 65)|
|Genres||Progressive rock, psychedelic rock, experimental rock,electronic music, jazz, art rock|
|Occupations||Musician, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist|
|Instruments||keyboard, vocals, vibraphone,trombone, trumpet, cello, violin,guitar, bass guitar, organ,harmonium, piano, harpsichord,percussion|
|Labels||Capitol, Columbia, EMI, Harvest|
|Associated acts||Pink Floyd, Zee, David Gilmour,The Screaming Abdabs (Sigma 6)|