Happy 65th, Mr. Wright!

>> Monday, July 28, 2008

I almost missed it. I can't believe I almost missed it. Today is Richard Wright's sixty-fifth birthday. No, not that one. Not that one either. Yes, he is one of these, the seventh on the list, but--look, which Richard Wright did you think I'd be wishing a happy birthday? Yes, the one who's a founding member of Pink Floyd, sheesh!

Amongst Floyd geeks, you have your Roger Waters partisans, who think Waters was Pink Floyd, and your David Gilmour partisans who think Gilmour carried everything. The truth is that Rick Wright is the reason they're both wrong. At their creative peak, the Floyd's creative team consisted of music arranged, largely performed, and largely composed by Gilmour and Wright, and words and demo melodies by Waters. A group effort, in other words. And a lot of those creamy, deep background textures that the melodies floated in front of were almost entirely Mr. Richard Wright's Farfisa Organ (and later Minimoog) drones and piano arpeggios.

It's easy to underestimate Wright's significance to the band. He had personal issues and issues with Roger Waters in the late 1970s that led to his being fired from the band. When Pink Floyd regrouped without Waters in 1986, Wright came back, but the fallout from his 1980 termination meant that his photograph had to be cut from the artwork for A Momentary Lapse Of Reason and he was listed as a session musician. (Indeed, somewhat depressingly, there are two versions of the band photo that appears on the inner gatefold of Lapse: the "official" version shows Nick Mason and David Gilmour, but in the original version of the same photo, Wright stands nearby with them.) Frankly, it's almost fair to say that there are perfectly good Pink Floyd albums without Gilmour and without Waters--but there's not a legitimate Floyd album without Wright; there's only one Pink Floyd album he isn't on, The Final Cut, and... well... hey, let's wish Rick Wright a happy birthday!

In Wright's honor, two cuts. The first is a piano instrumental from Michelangelo Antonioni's Zabriskie Point. The second is one of my all-time favorite Pink Floyd songs, the Wright/Waters composition "Us And Them," from Dark Side Of The Moon (the performance here is from the P*U*L*S*E DVD, recorded during the 1994 tour), a song that regrettably seems timely as ever.

Happy birthday, Mr. Wright!







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