Chances are good that if you recognize the name, Gary Wright, it is because of his association with one of the songs that defined 1970s rock n’ roll, “Dream Weaver”. While Gary Wright is primarily known for this one huge hit song, it would be wrong to characterize him as a one-hit wonder. Far from it. Gary Wright lived a most interesting life and accomplished much in The Arts. He also rubbed shoulders with some of the most famous and influential performers of the day. So far from being a novelty act, Gary Wright was a respected member of the 1970s Arts and music scene and is someone well worth knowing.
Gary Wright was born in 1943 and grew up in New Jersey. He lived in a household in which many family members were performers, including his mother and his aunt. Both of those ladies sang in local groups, offered their services as session singers during recording sessions and also acted in local theatre productions. As a young boy, Gary Wright was encouraged by his mother and aunt to audition for his highschool play. Gary got the part and liked it so much that he began following in the family footsteps and started acting in local plays and musicals. At one point he got the role of “the son” in the musical, Fanny. The woman who played his mother in the musical was none other that actress Florence Henderson of Brady Bunch fame! Because he got along so well with his stage mom, Florence Henderson recommended him for some television work. Wright’s experiences on professional television production sets opened his eyes to a whole new world of possibilities for his future. Being on set, in an environment where creativity was sought after and highly respected, was a transformative moment and helped set Gary Wright on his own path as an entertainer.
Not surprisingly, Wright soon found school life to be overly restrictive and as a result he dropped out. His first move as a “free” person was to form a band. Because of his experiences in television and theatre, Wright viewed himself as a bit more of an industry insider than was perhaps warranted. But, what this mindset did was give him the confidence to approach influential people as if that was something that everybody did. So, when he came in contact with the band, Traffic at a concert of theirs, talking to anyone connected to the band who would listen to him seemed like the natural and obvious thing to do. Because of those conversations, he met a producer named Jimmy Miller. Miller happened to be the famous “Mr. Jimmy” of Rolling Stones fame. Miller invited Wright to join some recording sessions he had going which resulted in Wright becoming known in the exploding rock scene as a piano/keyboard player. From his experiences playing the keyboards, Wright formed a new band with some other session players and called themselves Spooky Tooth. Spooky Tooth managed to release several songs that cracked the Top 40 in the UK. While they never had a #1 hit song, Spooky Tooth was a respected band and regularly played on bills with heavyweight acts such as The Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Eventually, Spooky Tooth broke up and Gary Wright decided to try his hand at being a solo artist.
One of the things that had helped Wright all through the early stages of his adult life was that he was a very likable person. He made friends easily. Consequently, as the early 1970s dawned and Wright found himself out in the music marketplace as a solo artist, he had plenty of friends in the business who eagerly lent him a hand. One of the most influential of those friends was a man who was just coming into his own right at that time, George Harrison. As many of you would know, The Beatles broke up as the 1960s came to a close. This caused the four members of the band to scatter, artistically, in many different directions. For Harrison, The Beatles break up coincided with his sudden emergence as a songwriter of note on a par with his mates Paul McCartney and John Lennon. In the years immediately following the disillusionment of The Beatles, Harrison decided to use his platform for the good of mankind. He was a firm follower of Eastern mysticism at this point and believed fervently in living a life of peacefulness and charity. It was just prior to Harrison’s famous Concert for Bangladesh that he took Gary Wright under his protective wing. As part of doing so, Harrison introduced Wright to the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and gave him books of poetry based on Eastern teachings. From this exposure, Gary Wright developed an appreciation for some of the same practices that so captivated Harrison, including mediating daily, which Wright did from that point on until his death a few weeks ago. From the books of poetry he read, Wright was drawn to one particular poem that contained a line that went…”When at night my mind weaves dreams”. That poem serves as the inspiration for Gary Wright’s megahit, “Dream Weaver”.
“Dream Weaver” is not only noteworthy because of its poetic lyrics, it was also one of the first major hit songs that featured the prominent use of an electronic synthesizer. Initially, Gary Wright wrote the keyboard part for piano. When it came time to record the song, he laid down piano tracks as originally intended. But, Wright was also an associate of members of the band Pink Floyd. Because of their use of synthesizers and other more experimental instruments, Wright felt somewhat liberated to try new things as well. So, he acquired a synthesizer to replace the piano part and, just like that, “Dream Weaver” transformed from being a typical rock song into being a modern sounding, ethereal piece of music that helped solidify synthesizers as a commonly used musical tool.
“Dream Weaver” raced to the #1 spot and changed the course of Gary Wright’s life. His song ended up being one of the most recognized songs of the decade and carved out a place for him in the annals of rock music history. It was also a song that was impossible for Wright to follow up. While he did have some minor hits afterwards, “Dream Weaver” was his biggest hit and the song most synonymous with his name. In later years, interviewers would frequently ask Wright if he ever tired of playing “Dream Weaver” and he always replied that the song was a gift. To have written something that meant so much to so many people was an honour. From a more practical point of view, the royalties he earned from this one song allowed Gary Wright to live a life of comfort for himself and his family all throughout his days on this earth. In fact, he credits the song’s inclusion on the soundtrack to the hit movie Wayne’s World with being akin to winning the lottery. As time went on, Wright came to terms with the fact that “Dream Weaver” might be his musical Mount Olympus. Wright did continue to record albums as a solo artist and had a few Top 40 hits and he even reunited briefly with the members of Spooky Tooth, too. But, for the most part, Wright spent much of the later portions of his career mainly touring with Ringo Starr’s Travelling All-star band, where he was always introduced as Gary Wright, the man who wrote “Dream Weaver”. From all reports, his introduction always generated smiles and a warm round of applause. In reply, Wright always took to the spotlight with grace and appreciation. As it turned out, it was a good thing to be Gary Wright.
All in all, those who knew Gary Wright all say that he was a genuinely good and kind person and that they are happy for his success. Having charm, good conversational skills, coupled with the ability to play professionally all led Wright to the esteemed position of venerated performer that he holds today. Far from being a one-hit wonder, Gary Wright turned out to be a multi-faceted entertainer of some renown. He also possessed a kind soul and a generous heart and will be greatly missed by his family, friends and all who knew him. You have more than earned your rest, Mr. Wright. May peace be with you now and forever more.
The link to the official website for Gary Wright can be found here.
The link to the video for the song “Dream Weaver by Gary Wright as used in the movie Wayne’s World can be found here.
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