Pink Floyd keyboardist Rick Wright, whose playing enriched some of the most popular songs in rock history, died today (Sept. 15) in Britain after a short battle with cancer. He was 65.
Born July 28, 1943, in Middlesex, England, Wright met Roger Waters and Nick Mason at architecture school and formed the band Sigma 6 in 1965. Once Syd Barrett joined shortly thereafter, the name was changed to Pink Floyd.
Wright and Barrett were the driving creative forces behind the band’s early psychedelic rock, captured on the 1967 album “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” and the following year’s “A Saucerful of Secrets.”
Wright remained an integral part of the songwriting process even after David Gilmour replaced the mentally unstable Barrett in the spring of 1968, penning “Us and Them” and “The Great Gig in the Sky” from 1973’s seminal “Dark Side of the Moon.” He also occasionally handled lead vocals live on songs like “Astronomy Domine,” “Echoes” and “Time.”
But as Pink Floyd grew into one of the biggest bands in the world, tension between Waters and the other members reached a breaking point. During sessions for 1979’s “The Wall,” Waters tried unsuccessfully to fire Wright, who stuck around to play on the subsequent tour but did not appear on the next Pink Floyd album, 1983’s “The Final Cut.”
Wright returned to Pink Floyd once Waters quit the band shortly afterward, and remained with Mason and Gilmour for the final two Pink Floyd studio albums, “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” and “The Division Bell.” In recent years, he played on Gilmour’s solo album, “On An Island,” and toured as part of his live band.
With Waters, Pink Floyd reunited to play at Live 8 in 2005 in London for the first time in 24 years. Sans Waters, Wright, Gilmour and Mason played together on a handful of occasions since, including a May 2007 set at a memorial service for Barrett.
But the group steadfastly refused to reunite for another tour, with Gilmour recently telling Billboard, “the thought of going back to Pink Floyd just doesn’t interest me.”
Outside of Pink Floyd, Wright recorded an album in 1984 under the band name Zee and released two solo albums: 1978’s “Wet Dream” and 1996’s “Broken China.”
Additional details about Wright’s illness or memorial information have not yet been released by his family.