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This past weekend, we learned that former Washington City Paper music critic Rickey Wright had died. I put together a tribute of sorts made from Wright’s blog posts and WCP pieces, tributes from friends and colleagues and family.
On Saturday afternoon, I had the fortune of talking with Nicole Arthur. Arthur served as Washington City Paper‘s Arts Editor in 1994 and 1995. It was around that time that Wright began reviewing records for us. This was a time when people wanted to be rock critics, when there was space for such writing, when there was competition to review the big records. And Wright reviewed his share of the big records.
But Arthur was more than just an editor to Wright. She was a friend. The two had struck up a friendship in the ’80s. Of course, it started over music.
On Sunday, Arthur e-mailed me some of her many memories of Wright:
“I met Rickey in Richmond, Va., in 1987. I had written a record review for VCU’s student newspaper, which I’m pretty sure was the first thing I ever wrote for publication, and he wrote me a fan letter. He had already graduated at that point, and he was working at Peaches Records & Tapes. We met soon thereafter and were fast friends; I think it was our shared reverence for Love’s “Forever Changes” that sealed the deal. But back to that fan letter — turns out it was completely in character. Rickey had an amazing generosity of spirit; he constantly encouraged other writers and he was a tireless cheerleader for his friends. If you happened to fall into both categories, you were very lucky indeed.
Unlike most critics, Rickey was not a music snob. He would gladly discuss Nick Drake for hours (and it would be hours — he *loved* to talk), but he would just as gladly discuss Def Leppard. He never wrote anything off because it was “uncool.” I once complained about my daughter listening to the Wiggles, and he leapt to their defense: “They’re a classic four-piece pop combo!” This is not to say that he was not discriminating, he was. He once wrote a John Mayer review so brutal, the story goes, that Mayer cited it in interviews as an example of his being eviscerated by the press.
Rickey was a master of the soon-to-be-lost art of making mix tapes; he had a great instinct for implausible-seeming combinations that somehow complemented one another. I’m looking at the list of artists on one of the tapes he made me — the Raspberries, Professor Longhair, Love and Rockets, Roger Miller, Prince, Roseanne Cash. And it’s amazing; I’ve been listening to it for 20 years.”