Monday, September 15, 2008

43 Minutes: Farewell, Mr. Wright

Richard William Wright, 28 July 1943 - 15 September2008, rest in peace.

I cannot underestimate the effect of Pink Floyd's 1973 album, The Dark Side of the Moon, on my life. Of course by the time I listened to it, twelve or so years after it was released, it was old news, but still on the Billboard 200. It was the first or second piece of music I ever purchased (on cassette, of course) and I've never given it up. In fact, to maintain ownership, I've had to buy nearly a dozen more copies, and make sure I keep at least two on hand at all times.

To me, the centerpiece of this album is The Great Gig in the Sky. I *got* this song right away, even though it has no proper lyrics. It moved into and through me in a way I'd never felt music do, in a way few other songs can even now. The piano and vocals, the bass and drums all went together in a kind of perfection that musicians rarely achieve. I've loved this song forever; only recently did I discover it was written by Richard Wright.

I first heard and learned about Pink Floyd on a radio show when I was experimenting with my cassette recorder. It was either on WRIF 101.1FM or WLLZ 98.7FM. I still have that tape somewhere, I hope. I listened to it so often I can still hear the host's voice whenever I hear the original band members' and David Gilmour's names. I heard "Shine On You Crazy Diamond," "Run Like Hell," "The Great Gig in the Sky," "Dogs," "Fearless," and "Learning to Fly." I think this may have been just after A Momentary Lapse of Reason was released, because it and The Wall were my subsequent two music purchases, then followed by the compilation album Great Dance Songs, which of course led to Meddle and Wish You Were Here being added as allowances added up.

Pink Floyd was my first musical love. It was and still is a beautiful marriage. I have been a particular fan of David Gilmour, calling him rock's most underrated guitarist, and anti-fan of Roger Waters, who I perceived for a long time as the cause of the band's breakup, but I wasn't any different than any other fan. I knew all their names, none of their faces, and would listen to anything I could get my ears on.

Even though I didn't take the time to get to know Rick Wright's individual work, or buy or borrow his solo projects, I will still mourn his death by listening to Gig and other Pink Floyd works of greatness. This man and his partners put my existence into a context without which I would not be the same person. I am not alone; I am not unique; Pink Floyd's music has touched millions of souls, and they all are sad today.

Goodbye, cruel world.

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