Someone sent me an e-mail the other day with the subject "Pink Floyd Founder Dead" and I thought, "Oh man, what happened to Roger Waters?"
Nope. It was keyboardist Richard Wright, not to be confused with the author of "Native Son".
It's always interesting when someone who is considered a minor part of a creative endeavor passes on. It makes you stop to consider what that person's contribution was and how the group would have been different without it.
One of my all time favorite pieces of music is "Us and Them" from "Dark Side of the Moon". If you don't know it already, I feel bad for you for not having it as part of your life. Although I envy you for not being able to hear it for the first time. I first heard it when I was a kid and Floyd was all over what would eventually be called "classic rock" radio. I bought the record (yes, record) and proceeded to experience it in the way it was meant to be experienced, with headphones, lying on your back, in the dark. Wow.
Wright co-wrote "Us and Them" with Waters and damn, it's just gorgeous. Wright plays both organ and grand piano on the song. It moves along at a pace that is as stately as Ravel's "Bolero", and with similar undulations, but climaxes in a very different way before segueing directly into "Any Colour You Like" (which then segues into "Brain Damage" and "Eclipse"), forming one 16-minute long chunk of stoner heaven. Although I managed to enjoy it just fine without any controlled substances. (Those came later.)
"Us and Them" manages to be both sleepy and forceful at the same time. It lulls you into a nice pillowy unhurried place before launching you into a chorus that manages to be bombastic without pulling you out of the mood that the song originally created. Like the best Lennon-McCartney songs, where you can tell who wrote what part, the Wright verse alternates with the clearly Waters-orchestrated and themed chorus. Then Wright brings you back down with an understated piano solo on top of the song's base of his organ and Nick Mason's lethargic drums.
Wright made other key contributions to Pink Floyd, including his work on "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" from "Wish You Were Here". But if he had done nothing but "Us and Them" that would have been quite sufficient for me.