The great gig in the sky

>> Monday, September 15, 2008

This is a fucking shitty week in a lot of ways. Already. First, I find out David Foster Wallace died on Friday. Then, today I find out Richard Wright, Pink Floyd's keyboardist, passed away from cancer today. He was sixty-five.

This is fucking terrible.

Wright was the quiet one. The one in the corner. The one who left Pink Floyd during the recording of The Wall because Roger Waters was psychologically beating the shit out of him and then quietly sneaked back into the band when David Gilmour regrouped around '85 or '86. He was a clever, eccentric keyboardist, with a gentle voice capable of gorgeous harmonies.

There are people out there who thought Pink Floyd would eventually get back together again. On one level, they missed it, since David Gilmour's last solo tour prominently featured Rick Wright and practically everybody who'd been a regular touring member of the band in '88-'89 and '94, and Dick Parry who'd toured with them in '75, '77 and '94; one Nick Mason short of a full reunion, in other words. On another level it didn't matter: the Floyd had said just about everything they might have said, and while I wouldn't have said "no" to an asterisk or an epilogue or an appendix, it would have been fine to have the Live8 show as a nice little period on the end of the whole thing. Anyway, it was pretty unlikely they'd reunite, though Wright was game for it. And that's really the point, I guess, of this particular paragraph: Rick Wright was game for it, always said in interviews that he hoped it would happen, and it wasn't because he needed the money or needed the work, you got the sense it was just because he liked hanging around with his friends and playing with them in front of everybody. You got the sense whenever Rick said he'd be game for another go around that if Gilmour had said, "Fine, we're playing dive bars for tips," Wright would have been happy as a clam.

You got the sense that he was easily the nicest member of Pink Floyd. Waters is acidic, and Gilmour has claws hidden in his velvet paws, and Nick Mason--well, Nick Mason's always seemed like a nice guy, but his best friend in the band was always Roger Waters, I'm pretty sure good ol' Nick can be as bloody-minded as he has to be. But there was always something soft about Richard Wright. I'm not trying to slag off on the other guys, but Wright... he just always seemed too nice to be in one of the most successful rock and roll bands of all time. Which is probably a big part of how and why he was kicked out and reinstated, actually.

Forgive me, I'm talking my way through this. Foster Wallace had me feeling like I'd been punched and Rick Wright has me feeling like I want to hit something. It's a different kind of shock, I guess. There is something fundamentally unfair about Wright's passing on. It's not that I expect fair. I'm an atheist for fuck's sake, there is no fair. But Foster Wallace, you know, you can say, "Well, shit, just about everything he wrote was about death in some shape or another." The shock wears off and you see it makes sense. Wright, Wright was just the guy off to the side of the stage watching his hands and occasionally looking up with a shy smile during one of Gilmour's solos.

I have the YouTube clip for "Wearing The Inside Out," a song that Rick wrote with Anthony Moore for the last Pink Floyd album, The Division Bell, and I'm actually tearing up a little, so I'll leave you with it and with what might be Wright's most recognizable contribution to the band, "The Great Gig In The Sky" from Dark Side Of The Moon. Rest in peace, Rick. Rest in peace, man.


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