The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say

18 09 2008

Eric Priest

This post is not about digital media per se, but without great art at its core, what good is the digital media revolution? And the world lost a great artist this week when Rick Wright of Pink Floyd died after a short battle with cancer.

I’ve always felt Rick was the most underrated member of Pink Floyd, and it is hard not to be overshadowed by the incredible talents of Roger Waters–among the best of all rock lyricists and songwriters–and Dave Gilmour, a legendary lead guitarist, vocalist and songwriter. But Rick’s keyboards added vital soul, texture, and musicality to Floyd, and his warm, emotive voice was an absolute highlight on the Floyd tracks on which he sang (“Time” and “Us and Them” from Dark Side of the Moon, “Stay” from Obscured By Clouds, and “Echoes” from Meddle are a few highlights).

Rick’s keyboard playing in Pink Floyd is often stereotyped as “spacey” sonic textures, and it’s true that he loved experimenting with sound and technology, and at times created layered, atmospheric textures where a given song called for it, like “Shine On You Crazy Diamond.” But to me, his signature sound, and his best work with Floyd, was in his far more earthy folk-and-classical-influenced piano, his jazzy and lyrical electric piano, and most importantly, his Hammond B3 organ, which ranged from lush to meaty to intense to pure rock. He had a broader range on the B3 than any other keyboardist I’ve heard. His passages were so natural, so musical, it was like he was born with a B3 in hand.

I’ve been a Pink Floyd fan since I was ten, and I probably know every note Rick played, especially from Meddle onwards. When you know someone’s music that intimately, you feel you know something about them. When they die, you feel you’ve lost a friend, someone who once shared a part of themselves with you. By all accounts, Rick Wright was gentle, modest, and introspective. And that somehow came across in his playing and songwriting, too, particularly in the powerful but meditative “Great Gig in the Sky” and “Us and Them”–probably my favorite song of all time. In a loving tribute to Rick, Dave Gilmour wrote on his website, “the audience reaction to his appearances on my tour in 2006 was hugely uplifting and it’s a mark of his modesty that those standing ovations came as a huge surprise to him, (though not to the rest of us).”

This is my small way of saying a great artist and a gentle soul will be missed.