Pink Floyd's Richard Wright, more often than not, was the guy keeping to himself while out-sized personalities like Syd Barrett, Roger Waters and David Gilmour drew all of the attention. Still, he made a number of important contributions to the band's space-rock legend over the years. Gilmour, in eulogizing the late founding keyboardist back in 2008, admitted as much: "He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognized Pink Floyd sound," Gilmour wrote on his website. "In my view, all the greatest PF moments are the ones where he is in full flow." Here's a list of 10 of them ...
"Great Gig in the Sky"From: 'The Dark Side of the Moon' (1973)
Wright's "Great Gig" is built on a ruminative piano signature, something eggshell-fragile and utterly beautiful. But, in keeping with his underrated presence in Pink Floyd, all anybody remembers is the shatteringly emotional vocal turn by Clare Torry. Her performance was a last-minute decision, replacing a series of liturgical readings from when the demo was known as "The Religion Song."
"Interstellar Overdrive"From: 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' (1967)
One of Pink Floyd's initial forays into psychedelic improvisation, this free-form 10-minute event – credited to Wright, along with Barrett, Waters and drummer Nick Mason – features a trippy organ line from Wright that moves from speaker to speaker in the stereo mix. Wright then intriguingly explores his keyboard while Barrett does unspeakably weird things to his guitar. As wild, and as penetrating, as this take might sound, Pink Floyd later unspooled a half-hour version in concert.
"Wearing the Inside Out"From: 'The Division Bell' (1994)
After a three-album dry spell, Wright returned for The Division Bell with all of his creative juices flowing. That he could put together something so delicately moving as "Wearing the Inside Out," after having barely contributed to 1979's The Wall and 1987's Momentary Lapse of Reason while being completely absent for 1983's The Final Cut, made an out-of-nowhere gem like this all the more impressive.
"One of These Days"From: 'Meddle' (1971)
Composed by Waters, Wright, Mason and Gilmour, this rumbling instrumental opened Meddle, and served as a staple at Pink Floyd's concerts in both the 1971-73 and 1987–94 eras. "One of These Days" has been described by Gilmour as one of the group's most collaborative ever; Mason, the drummer, even gets a brief speaking part. As for Wright, his surging washes add just the right sense of portent.
"See-Saw"From: 'A Saucerful of Secrets' (1968)
Wright's second original track on A Saucerful of Secrets found his typically over-looked talents on full display, as a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. In fact, he's featured on organ, piano, xylophone and mellotron – all in service of a whimsical, light-filled vocal that telegraphs the successes Wright would later have on signature tracks like "Us and Them" and "Time" (both of which follow on our list).
"Astronomy Domine"From: 'The Piper at the Gates of Dawn' (1967)
Co-written with Barrett, this freak-out instrumental crystallized everything that Pink Floyd was aiming for in long-form explorations like "Interstellar Overdrive." Wright provides a sweeping dreamscape for the song's outer-limits theme, something he got to show off all over again when "Astronomy Domine" served as the early-tour opener behind his Floyd comeback The Division Bell.
"Time"From: 'The Dark Side of the Moon' (1973)
Wright shared vocals with Gilmour on the band co-written "Time," as they explored Waters' lyric about lost opportunities. Consistently performed live during Floyd's 1972-75 and 1987-94 tours, this would often be Wright's most memorable showcase, though his turn at the mic was (of course) often forgotten amidst Gilmour's eruptive soloing. Still, from his request that its now-iconic cover image be something "simple and bold," to notable contributions on this cornerstone track, Wright's fingerprints are all over The Dark Side of the Moon.
"Echoes"From: 'Meddle' (1971)
This 23-minute song is, of course, filled with instrumental wonders – not least of which is a surging organ solo from Wright said to be inspired by the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." But "Echoes" also stands as a testament to the every-day miracles that happened when Wright and Gilmour were both at the mic. "The blend of his and my voices and our musical telepathy," Gilmour said in his Wright eulogy, "reached their first major flowering in 1971 on 'Echoes.'"
"Us and Them"From: 'The Dark Side of the Moon' (1973)
Long associated with Gilmour, who voiced it, this song actually began as part of Wright's work on the 1969 film Zabriskie Point. With new lyrics from Waters highlighting the project's theme of isolation, and a more jazz-oriented structure from Wright, "Us and Them" would became a critical element in Pink Floyd's biggest album ever.
"Shine On You Crazy Diamond"From: 'Wish You Were Here' (1975)
A nine-part composition with additional contributions from both Waters and Gilmour, "Shine On" is Wright's virtuoso musical moment. The subject of the song, a loving tribute to Barrett, often takes a backseat to co-writer Wright's lengthy turns on the mini-Moog. Later, he adds an ARP String Ensemble Synthesizer, a piano and a Hohner Clavinet – and Pink Floyd's last truly collaborative project is made complete. "Without his quiet touch," Gilmour said, "the album Wish You Were Here would not quite have worked."