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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Great Gig In The Sky

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. Wright’s richly textured keyboard layers were 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"). 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 (Harvest/EMI, 1971) (top), The Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here (Harvest/EMI, 1975), as well as for Pink Floyd's final studio album The Division Bell. 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 Pink Floyd's debut 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 "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" (EMI Columbia, 1968) (bottom), "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" (on which he sang 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 was 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". Bandmate David Gilmour said: "In my view, all the greatest Pink Floyd moments are the ones where he is in full flow. No-one can replace Richard Wright - he was my musical partner and my friend." He added: "In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick's enormous input was frequently forgotten." RIP Rick — "Remember a day before today / A day when you were young / Free to play alone with time / Evening never came / Sing a song that can’t be sung / Without the morning’s kiss."

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