RIP Richard Wright, the keyboard player for Pink Floyd. Robin Hilton writes:
“Pink Floyd fans have long argued over which band member was the most important. Some say it was Syd Barrett, the founding member who gave the group its name and guided the then-unknown band in maniacally imaginative directions. Others argue that it’s Roger Waters, the bassist who took over as lead songwriter after Barrett left the band in 1968; Waters led Pink Floyd through its most successful period. Then there are the David Gilmour fans, who say that the lead guitarist was most responsible for Pink Floyd’s widely influential and groundbreaking sound. But for me, the heart and soul of Pink Floyd was always keyboardist Richard Wright, who died today at age 65.”
Hilton goes on to give a pretty good appraisal of Richard Wright’s keyboard sound and his overall influence in one of the most influential musical acts of all time.
So in that honor, I busted out my copy of DSOTM, which I haven’t touched in years, because let’s face it: when something as monumental (in objective, historical terms) and as influential (in very personal terms), you can only listen it for so many times. I reached that point two years ago, when I realized that I could pretty much pick out any given sonic element in that album, and without taking away anything artistically from that album, I decided that certain monuments should only be appreciated once in a while
But because Richard Wright died today, I’m busting out the old warhorse, and in his honor, I am playing “The Great Gig in the Sky,” which, out of all the songs on the track, really blew my mind the first time I played the album. Considering how mind-blowing the album was on first listen, the fact that I singled out that particular song means a lot to me. When I first Clare Torry reaching for the stratosphere with that voice of hers, I just about fucking lost my mind: this song expressed so much anguish–it is literally agony and yearning articulated in the wailing and howling of human voice.
Yet what begins the song? That’s right: Richard Wright’s gentle, calm piano line, playing a theme that repeats itself after the crescendo. The piano theme serves as a dramatic contrast to Torry’s anguished voice, like a soothing touch that grounds the voice that is striving toward something higher (transcendence, freedom from suffering, redemption?). And as the voice becomes softer and softer, dying almost, Richard Wright gently pounds that last note home.
And the rest, as The Bard once said through Hamlet, is silence.
This isn’t even to mention Wright’s Hammond playing in the section of the song that leads up to the crescendo.
So Rest in Peace, Richard Wright: hopefully you are re-united with Syd Barrett, and the both of you are playing the great gig in the sky.