The Ping of Echoes Passes: Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright Dies

Echoes the radio show owes its name to Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” and that song’s signature sound was the opening sonar pings of Floyd keyboardist, Richard Wright.  He died today, September 15 at the age of 65, reportedly after a losing bout with cancer.  The BBC has one of the earliest obituaries.

The Piper at the Gates of Dawn

Wright was an original member of Pink Floyd. Although he got aced-out into a supporting role after the departure of Roger Waters and the reformation of the band, his organ was a defining sound of Pink Floyd from the stuttering Leslie-spun organ intro to “Astronomy Domine” to the crazed psychedelic calliope of “See Emily Play.”   Wish You Were HereWish You Were Here was as much a Richard Wright showpiece as a paean to Syd BarrettUmmagummaA musician who had listened to blues as much as  Edgar Varese and Cecil Taylor, (Listen to “Sysyphus” on Umma Gumma)  Wright was usually an understated player, building up a sonic architecture around Floyd’s excursions instead of engaging in flashy keyboard solos.

Richard Wright, a relatively unacknowledged source at the core of much of the music you hear on Echoes.  His echoes at least, will continue to reverberate.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

  5 comments for “The Ping of Echoes Passes: Pink Floyd’s Richard Wright Dies

  1. I think it is important to point out that Richard Wright was aced-out not after Waters’ departure but prior to it. He was in fact fired by both Waters and Gilmour who thought he was not contributing to the band during production of The Wall.

    David Gilmour went to great length to bring Richard back into the fold when Floyd reformed. Regardless of whether this was an attempt to deal with arguments that Floyd was no longer a legitimate outfit (post-Waters), or a good faith attempt to bring a former partner back into the band, it did in fact pay off when Wright returned to composing on The Division Bell.

    The greatest regret is that we will never know the great music that was yet to come out of Richard Wright. His music brought an essential element of elegance to Pink Floyd.

  2. Yep. You are right. Thanks for that correction. I recall Nick Mason saying that Wright actually made more money than the rest of the band on subsequent tours because he was a salaried employee and the rest of the band was actually footing the bill for the tour back in the days when you lost money on tours and made it back on CD sales.

  3. I hope Echoes will find time to pay homage to man and his ping. Seriously, I think Wright is often overlooked and his achievements underappreciated – both among rock and floyd fans and among the instrumental music crowd. His part in floyd was overshadowed by the drama Waters brought to the creation of his thematic preoccupations and Gilmour’s guitar. But I think most now agree that Wright’s keyboard sounds were the foundation of the floyd sound.
    And he achieved an interesting blend between the driving background drone of their most memorable pieces and the jazz inflections that punctuated so many tunes. Because Wright was part of a successful rock band I think we forget how much of the floyd’s instrumental stuff anticipates a kind of music we now take for granted. It’s a sad passing. Perhaps even more so because I think with Gilmour’s latest solo album and an upcoming release from his 2006 tour – and Wright plays on both – that there might have developed a larger appreciation for his work in Pink Floyd that Wright might have been able to enjoy.

    Play the first couple of minutes of Shine on…Parts 1-5 or go for aural broke and play echoes. Give ping a chance!

    Remember it might be Reich or Eno for the mind but it’s all Echoes for the soul.

  4. I just had a chance to listen to the new Gilmour live album with Richard Wright playing keyboards, and indeed, Richard has never shined brighter. The versions of Shine On, Breathe and Wish You Were Here are incandescent. The versions of “Astronomy Domine” and “Echoes” may be definitive and much of that is due to Richard Wright’s keyboard work. It’s a little late to do something on the show for Richard. He happened to pass at a time we were in repeats and away at conferences and gathering material for the show. So it’s a little late now. But I’ll look at a suitable time for an on-air tribute.

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