Founding member wrote 'Great Gig in the Sky'

Richard Wright, the Pink Floyd keyboardist who lent jazz and classical touches to the group’s sound and was most recently a member of Floyd guitarist David Gilmour’s band, died Monday at his home in England. He was 65.

Wright had been battling cancer. The Associated Press quoted a spokesman who said the band member’s family did not want to give more details about his death.

Wright, a London native, met bassist Roger Waters and drummer Nick Mason while at Regent Street School of Architecture, joining their band, which went under names such as the Meggadeaths and Sigma 6. The three musicians formed the Pink Floyd Show with Syd Barrett in 1965, evolving from a pop and R&B cover band into an improvisational, psychedelic outfit.

As the songwriters and singers, Wright and Barrett were seen as the group’s dominant musical forces on albums such as “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.” After Barrett departed and Gilmour and Waters entered the group, Wright continued to compose, penning “The Great Gig in the Sky” and “Us and Them” for the album “Dark Side of the Moon.”

“He was gentle, unassuming and private but his soulful voice and playing were vital, magical components of our most recognized Pink Floyd sound,” Gilmour said in a statement. “I have never played with anyone quite like him.”

Wright’s relationship with Waters grew tenuous in the 1970s until Waters threatened to block the release of “The Wall” unless Wright was tossed from the band. He would be rehired as a session musician to work on “The Wall” recordings and live performances; he did not appear on the final Pink Floyd album with Waters, 1983′s “The Final Cut.”

Wright released two solo albums — “Wet Dream” in 1978 and “Broken China” in 1996 — and formed a band, Zee, that released a single album, “Identity.”

After Waters left Pink Floyd in 1985, Wright recorded as Pink Floyd with Mason and Gilmour on the albums “The Division Bell” and “A Momentary Lapse of Reason.” Wright, Waters, Mason and Gilmour reunited three years ago to perform at the “Live 8″ charity concert in London — the first time in 25 years they had been onstage together.

Wright also worked on Gilmour’s solo projects, most recently playing on the 2006 album “On an Island” and the world tour.

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