Founding Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright died in England on Monday (September 15) at the age of 65 after a battle with cancer. No further information about the cause of Wright’s death was available at press time, according to The Associated Press.
“The family of Richard Wright, founder member of Pink Floyd, announce with great sadness, that Richard died … after a short struggle with cancer,” read a statement from a spokesperson. “The family have asked that their privacy is respected at this difficult time.”
The self-taught keyboardist met bassist Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason in architecture school and in 1964 joined their group Sigma 6, which eventually evolved into the Pink Floyd Sound. With the addition of late singer/guitarist Syd Barrett — who left the band in 1968 and died in 2006 of cancer — the group, now called Pink Floyd, began its rise as one of the most creative and powerful psychedelic bands on the British scene.
In that early period, Wright was a major force in the band’s pioneering experimental sound, penning the songs “The Great Gig in the Sky” and “Us and Them” on Floyd’s legendary 1973 black-light rock opus Dark Side of the Moon. He also added key vocals to the 1971 20-plus-minute epic “Echoes” and made significant contributions to the songs “Atom Heart Mother” and the 1975 Barrett tribute “Shine on You Crazy Diamond.”
At their peak, from the early 1970s through the early 1980s, Floyd were one of the most popular, successful and influential rock bands in the world. The group regularly filled stadiums with an elaborate show that at different times included brain-bursting light displays, wild props, a giant inflatable pig and, during the tour for 1979’s The Wall, the nightly construction of a giant wall across the front of the stage — a symbolic depiction of that album’s central themes of loneliness and disconnection.
Floyd’s commercial breakthrough, 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon, was their first #1 album in the U.S. and spawned what is likely to be a once-in-a-lifetime chart juggernaut, remaining on the Billboard albums chart for an incredible 741 weeks to date — including 591 consecutive weeks, from 1976 to 1988 — on its way to selling more than 40 million copies worldwide. The Wall served to further establish their commercial status by spinning off such classic-rock radio staples as “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)” and “Comfortably Numb.”
However, as the 1970s progressed, Wright, along with Floyd singer/guitarist David Gilmour and Mason, found his contributions diminishing as Waters increasingly dominated the band’s songwriting and direction.
In a group whose history is rife with decades-long grudges, Wright was not immune to the inter-band drama, splitting with Floyd in 1979 during sessions for The Wall, due to his strained relationship with Waters. He returned to the group as a paid session musician for shows in 1980 and 1981, but he was not included on 1983’s The Final Cut, the only Floyd album on which he didn’t appear. Following Waters’ departure, Wright rejoined the band in 1988. He played keyboards and sang on A Momentary Lapse of Reason and co-wrote five songs on 1994’s The Division Bell.
Wright, who performed on every Floyd tour, was also onstage in 2005, when the surviving members of the band played a rapturously received reunion gig at the Live 8 concert . Wright released a handful of solo albums and appeared on records by Barrett, and he had been performing regularly with Gilmour.