Richard Wright

(1943-2008) Keyboard and synth player for Pink Floyd through most of that band's existence. As a teenager growing up in London, Wright taught himself to play a number of instruments including guitar, piano, trumpet, and trombone. He met fellow Floyd members Roger Waters and Nick Mason, and they formed the original version of Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett.

In the band's early days, Wright's primary role was to add textures and be experimental, and the psychedelic nature of the band's music gave him plenty of room to do so. He was known for playing a Farfisa Combo organ through a variety of effects devices to create spacey sounds that were typical for the band in its early era. Wright was sometimes assigned to control a Delay line device known as the Binson Echorec, through which the entire mix would be run, with Wright controlling the overall sound from on stage. He also was sometimes tasked to operate the stage lighting while playing. As the band's sound expanded through the Atom Heart Mother and Meddle albums, Wright added electronic instruments such as Hammond organ, Mellotron, and a variety of electric pianos, continuing to play them through effects devices to alter the sound.

With the Dark Side of the Moon album, the band decided to add synthesizers to the mix, and Wright took on the job of mastering a EMS VCS3. Given that the VCS3 was regarded as primarily an instrument for experimental sounds, this fit in well with the band's method of operation, but Wright also wrestled the synth into being a more melodic instrument, up to using it to play a solo on "Any Colour You Like". Over the next two albums, Wright considerably expanded the synth lineup (and consequently retiring some of the other pre-synth electronic instruments such as the Farfisa orgam). His use of a Logan String synthesizer on the "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" tracks of the Wish You Were Here album is one of the iconic uses of that quintessential 1970s instrument on any recording.

However, by the time of The Wall sessions, considerable friction had developed between Wright and Waters, to the point where Waters was able to convince the rest of the band to fire Wright. As told by Mason, due to lack of time to bring in another keyboard player for the live performances of the album, the band had to re-hire Wright on salary as a sideman, with the result that Wright was the only one of the four who made money on that tour. This further increased the animosity level, and at the end of the tour Wright was dismissed. He had no further contact with the other band members until 1986, and did not officially rejoin the band until The Division Bell sessions in 1993. He formed a short-lived duo called Zee with guitarist Dave Harris, which released one album in 1984. The album made heavy use of the Fairlight CMI. Wright later regarded it as a failed effort.

Wright spent the last few years of his career working and touring with Pink Floyd and David Gilmour's solo efforts. He released one more solo album, and was working with Gilmour on a new Pink Floyd album before he contracted an unspecified form of cancer and passed away in 2008.

Unlike most of his fellow progressive-rock synth/keyboard players of the 1970s, Wright was not so given with virtuoso playing, although he was certainly capable of it when he desired. He preferred to concentrate on timbres, as applied to melody and as sound effects. Nick Mason now says that Wright's contributions were under-appreciated at the time, both by the fans and critics, and by the band itself. The final Pink Floyd album, The Endless River, was released after Wright's death and contains a large percentage of tracks and compositions written and constructed by Wright.

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