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Music

Rick Wright's six greatest Pink Floyd contributions

Much like The Beatles, Pink Floyd were a band crowded with musical talent. After the mental decline of Syd Barrett, Roger Waters took the reins as the bad’s conceptual coordinator and chief songwriter, while David Gilmour soaked in the limelight as the band’s extraordinarily gifted lead guitarist, offering his unique melodic flavourings to songs in perfect measure. All the while, it seemed their pianist, synthesiser and occasional singer-songwriter, Rick Wright, had been overlooked. 

Despite only appearing in the songwriting credits of ten of Pink Floyd’s 217 released songs, Wright was a pivotal force behind many of the band’s most memorable moments during his long-lived tenure. 

Over their 30 years as a prominent recording act, Pink Floyd only employed five core members, with Barrett, Waters and later Gilmour taking the lead as creative director. These creative dominions have unfairly eclipsed the crucial contributions of Wright and drummer Nick Mason.

“It is hard to overstate the importance of his musical voice in the Pink Floyd of the ’60s and ’70s,” Waters said of Wright in a statement following his death in 2008. “He was my musical partner and my friend,” Gilmour added at around the same time. “In the welter of arguments about who or what was Pink Floyd, Rick’s enormous input was frequently forgotten.”

Today, we’re making sure this doesn’t happen on what would have been Wright’s 79th birthday. 

Rick Wright’s six greatest Pink Floyd contributions 

‘The Great Gig in the Sky’

Wright’s greatest contribution to Pink Floyd’s most iconic album, The Dark Side of the Moon, was his elegant and structural piano sequence for ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’. The emotive track touches upon the subject of death with a powerful vocal performance from Clare Torry.

Wright described the inception of the melody as “just me playing in the studio, playing some chords, and probably Dave or Roger saying, ‘Hmm … that sounds nice. Maybe we could use that for this part of the album.’” Waters also praised the song, saying, “It’s a great chord sequence. ‘The Great Gig in the Sky’ and the piano part on ‘Us and Them,’ in my view, are the best things that Rick did — they’re both really beautiful.”

‘Us and Them’

Coming in as a close second for Wright’s contributions to The Dark Side of the Moon is ‘Us and Them’. While David Gilmour is given most of the credit for taking the lead vocals, it was actually Wright who provided the foundation for the song. It was formed from some of his ideas while working on the soundtrack for the 1969 film Zabriskie Point.

The plaintive melodies and surging, powerful chorus rises worked beautifully with Roger Waters’ reflective and insightful lyrics and made for one of the album’s most memorable ballads. 

‘Summer’ 68’

1970’s Atom Heart Mother is by no means Pink Floyd’s greatest achievement, but it has received unfair criticism over the years and the experimental jams within deserve respect and attention. One of the album’s highlights is ‘Summer ‘68’, undoubtedly one of Wright’s most ambitious yet awe-inspiring moments. 

For the rumbling instrumentals, Wright brought in a vast ensemble with dramatic brass sections and striking piano embellishments alongside his own rare contribution of candid, self-analytical lyrics. He sings: “My friends are lying in the sun/I wish that I was there/Tomorrow brings another town/Another girl like you.”

‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond’

At the midway point of the ’70s, Pink Floyd had hit their peak, high on the success of 1973’s The Dark Side of the Moon. The impressive follow-up was 1975’s Wish You Were Here, which is remembered for the immersive acoustic beauty of its title track but is sandwiched by something arguably even more impressive. 

The album begins with the 13.5-minute ‘Shine On You Crazy Diamond, Pts. 1-5’, which is concluded with parts six to nine at the end of side two. The song was written as a sentimental tribute to their former bandmate Syd Barrett and was a collaborative songwriting effort that saw some of Wright’s purest genius. Wright contributed Moog synthesiser, piano and Hohner Clavinet sections to this timeless epic. 

‘See Saw’

In the earlier days of Pink Floyd, Wright was one o the principal songwriters and provided vocals on a more frequent basis. One of his most involved and impressive early compositions was ‘See Saw’, which appeared on the band’s second album, A Saucerful of Secrets

For this classic, Wright provided the structural piano melody and offered his vocals alongside a stunning display of his multi-instrumentalist capabilities with the organ, xylophone and mellotron. 

‘Sheep’ 

By 1977, Pink Floyd had become wholly under the creative control of Waters. Animals was the most conceptual album to date and held just five songs centralised around George Orwell’s Animal Farm concept, whereby the social structure of human civilisation could be satirised using the stereotyped characteristics of dogs, pigs, and sheep. 

Of the five tracks on Animals, four of them were credited solely to Waters and none to Wright. Despite this, Wright makes his virtuosity heard in the atmospheric introduction to ‘Sheep’; he shows his prowess on a Fender Rhodes to give that characteristic Supertramp-style key solo. This dynamic contribution marked one of Wright’s last alongside the most successful incarnation of the feuding band.