Peace Be With You: The Life and Times of Mr. Gary Wright

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 can be found here. ***Lyrics version 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.

***As always, all original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023

Reader’s Choice: Song #7/250: Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles.

“Here Comes the Sun” was a song that was written by George Harrison. It appeared on The Beatles farewell album, Abbey Road, which was released in 1969. “Here Comes the Sun” was one of two tracks on that album that were written by Harrison *(the other being, “Something”, which you can read about here). With the inclusion of both Harrison songs, he attained a level of respect for his songwriting abilities that he had long craved. Many critics regard his contributions as being the best two songs on the album and that they were on a par with anything ever written by John Lennon or Paul McCartney as Beatles themselves.

Eric Clapton and George Harrison.

“Here Comes the Sun” was written by Harrison one sunny afternoon spent strolling the grounds in Eric Clapton’s garden. The genesis of the song is actually a brief history of the band itself. In the mid-1960s The Beatles were at the very apex of their fame and were changing the way music was being written and listened to. One of the reasons that the innovative nature of their creativity was so strong was that they were free to focus solely on the music they were making. They were unencumbered from the financial goings-on of maintaining their brand because they had a manager who put everything he had into looking after his boys. That man was Brian Epstein. History has shown that Epstein may not have been the shrewdest of wheeler dealers, but, at the time, his presence allowed John and Paul, in particular, to focus on their music. And what glorious music they made! However, the most pivotal event in the history of The Beatles as a band took place when Brian Epstein unexpectedly died. His death created a leadership vacuum on the business side of The Beatles musical empire. That vacuum ended up being filled, at least temporarily, by the members of the band, themselves. From that point onward, whenever the four members of The Beatles gathered to work, they were just as likely to be discussing accounting details with money managers as they were to be discussing new songs. Of the four Beatles, no one despised dealing with business matters more than George Harrison. So, on the day that he wound up in his friend Eric Clapton’s garden, Harrison was actually skipping out on a series of business meetings he was expected to attend at Abbey Road studios.

Brian Epstein.

A second aspect of how “Here Comes the Sun” represents a look into the history of the band is that as The Beatles reached the end of their time together with the recording sessions for Let It Be, Abbey Road and the famous rooftop concert at Abbey Road Studios, George Harrison was beginning to chafe under the yoke of the subordinate role assigned to him by the band’s leaders, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. George Harrison quite literally grew up into adulthood on stage as a Beatle. Now that he was older and wiser and more musically experienced, he had ideas percolating in his brain that he wanted to express. During those final recording sessions as a band, John Lennon was frequently absent (even when he was actually present) which left Paul to fill the leadership void by becoming overly controlling and attempting to dominate the sessions with his own ideas for songs. It became so dysfunctional for a while that George Harrison quit and left the band for several weeks. Stepping away from all of the tension and acrimony gave Harrison the mental headspace to focus on his own ideas for music, as well as his place within the hierarchy of The Beatles. Thus, a song like “Here Comes the Sun” was given the room it needed to be brought to fruition.

The Beatles with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

The final element of Beatles history that can be traced to this song is in how “Here Comes the Sun” embodies Eastern philosophies. As you know, George Harrison and the rest of the band had made a pilgrimage to India and were allowing the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to wash over them. Harrison, more than the others, took the philosophical lessons he was learning to heart. The message of calmness and peace became integrated into the core of his being. Thus, when he suddenly found himself in times of trouble, it wasn’t Mother Mary who whispered words of wisdom, it was the teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi that he drew upon. So, as he left the business meetings and tension-filled recording sessions behind, he found himself at the home of his best friend, in a garden filled with sunshine, his mind filled with creative energy that expressed itself in the form of an optimistic song that simply states that the world is a beautiful place and that everything is going to be OK in the end. That’s it. That’s the central message of “Here Comes the Sun”. No matter how rough life may be, it will always turn out OK in the end if your heart is full.

As part of the negotiations that ensued between Harrison and the rest of his bandmates after he quit and left the band, George Harrison demanded that they move the recording sessions from a movie studio (where they were filming a movie as well as recording Let It Be) and return to Abbey Road Studios so they could work in a more music-centric environment. He also demanded that his ideas be given more weight and that he be allowed to contribute material that he had written. The end result was “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”, the two strongest songs on the final album produced by the best band the world has ever seen. The sad thing about it all is that because The Beatles broke up so soon after Let It Be and Abbey Road were recorded, they never toured together to play these songs live. The only time The Beatles ever performed Harrison’s two musical gems was when they were recorded in-studio. The only time the songs were ever played live were when Harrison performed them as a solo artist or when they were covered and performed by other artists.

“Here Comes the Sun” rough sketch by George Harrison.

Of all of the songs in The Beatles musical canon, most people regard “Here Comes the Sun” as being the most positive, uplifting and life affirming of them all. The song is generally always included in any ranking of the best Beatles songs of all time. Not too shabby for a young man who just wanted everyone to keep making music and for his friends to just get along.

The link to the video for the song “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles can be found here. ***The lyric version can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles can be found here.

***As always, all original content found in this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post may be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #51: Something by The Beatles (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #51: Something by The Beatles.

The evolution of The Beatles has been well documented; with their progression from writing/singing simple Pop gems, to the far more creative, inventive and involved music that marked their production toward the end of their career as a band. One of the key reasons for The Beatles transformation rests with the similar musical maturation of George Harrison. In the early days of the band, Harrison seemed content to be the silent accompanist, with Paul McCartney and John Lennon taking the lead in all aspects of how the band performed. But, over time, his skills grew and his self-confidence grew along with it. Eventually, he sought out a more prominent role for himself. At first, his efforts to raise his profile within the band were met by derision from Paul, especially. This caused George to temporarily leave the band during the production period for the albums “Let It Be” and “Abbey Road” *(Which was captured well in the recent Beatles documentary, “Get back”). In any case, George Harrison was ready for a larger role within the band and, with songs like “My Guitar Gently Weeps”, “Here Comes the Sun” and “Something”, it became obvious that he had reached a songwriting level on a par with Lennon and McCartney.

That The Beatles broke up soon after Harrison stepped up is disappointing because their future as a band seemed to hold the potential for even greater things. But, what it showed more was that each of the band members were growing upward and onward and away from each other. That George Harrison wrote such wonderful music right at the end positioned him well for his post-Beatles life. In the meantime, “Something” proved to be their last great song. John Lennon, himself, states that “Something” was the best song on their final album, “Abbey Road”.

The song, itself, is a love song. But, more than that, it is a song about the idea of Love and the totality of one’s emotional commitment that is required and the enormity of the Joy your heart feels in reply. It is a song that was originally written for Harrison’s then-wife, Patti Boyd. But, again, it was more than simply the words of a man in full swoon. At the time that “Something” was written, George Harrison was, also, fully investing himself in the spiritual journey he was undertaking in India. He viewed the teaching of Buddhism as meshing perfectly with his evolving worldview and, as such, his was very much at peace with his inner self. From his perspective, Harrison saw beauty all round him. Patti Boyd was very much a part of that peaceful, calming, contented vision. So, he wrote “Something” about her and how it was possible to feel a form of love that was so complete as to be perfect.

The opening lines of the song were inspired by the song, “Something In The Way She Moves” by James Taylor, who recorded that song as one of the first artists signed to Apple Music, when The Beatles set up their own company after touring the U.S. This song was the first Beatles single to be released as an A-side song that was written by someone other than Lennon and McCartney. It was, also, the first single released by The Beatles that was released after the album had come out. Because fans could buy “Abbey Road” before they could buy the “Something” single, sales numbers for the song were not as solid as, perhaps, the song’s quality warranted. Therefore, it did not chart as well as might have been expected. That does nothing to diminish the affection for the song that by fans. Many, including famous fans such as Elton John, say that “Something” is the greatest love song ever written. Many critics state that it turned out to be George Harrison’s greatest work.

Whatever the case, “Something” is a beautiful song about a beautiful subject…..Love. As I always say, if you are fortunate enough to have found someone to love, who loves you back with equal vigour then, you have won LIfe’s lottery. So, without further delay, let’s see what all the fuss was about. Here are The Beatles, with “Something”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Something” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official exist for George Harrison, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for playing the most beautiful songs of all-time. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #279: While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern music History.

Song #279: While My Guitar Gently Weeps by The Beatles.

One of the most noteworthy aspects of The Beatles musical catalogue is the evolution of their songwriting. In the very beginning, John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote short, simple, catchy little Pop gems such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and “Love Me Do”. But, as their career hit the mid-later stages, they produced songs with much greater maturity, richness and depth such as “Eleanor Rigby”, “Something” and “A Day in the Life”. As we leave our youth and enter our adult lives, we gain new knowledge and with it, hopefully, the wisdom that comes from experience. That certainly seemed to be the case with John, Paul, George and Ringo. One of the Beatles most affected by the education he was receiving in Life was George Harrison. In the early days of The Beatles, Harrison seemed more like the kid brother who was tagging along with his older brother and his older brother’s friends. George Harrison was a quiet member of the band; leaving the public relations work to John and Paul, for the most part. He, also, left the songwriting and musical direction to them, as well. But, as time went on and he gained more confidence in his own abilities as a musician, Harrison began to write his own songs and bring them to the band. One of the first songs he brought to them was when they were preparing to record the “White Album”. The band had just famously gone to India to study Transcendental Mediatation under the mentorship of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Tensions were beginning to form within the band, as Lennon and McCartney, in particular, presented competing and conflicting visions for the band, moving forward. Harrison, who was deeply invested in the principles of harmony espoused by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, was dismayed at the lack of cohesion from within his own group. So, he put his feelings down in the form of a song called, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”.

***At this point in today’s post, I have to stop and make an editorial comment. In order to completely tell the full story of this song, I have to break a rule of my own. It pains me to do this but, for the rest of the post, I have to talk about Eric Clapton. While I don’t approve, at all, of his politics, I do acknowledge his musicianship and, because of those skills, he ended up playing a critical role in “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” coming to fruition. So, having swallowed my principles whole, here we go…..

As the “White Album” was being prepared, Eric Clapton was still a member of a group called, “The Yardbirds”. He was the same age as most of “The Beatles” and had already carved out quite a reputation for himself as a guitar virtuoso. Like many talented performers located in the same geographic area, Clapton and the members of “The Beatles” swam in the same social waters and often appeared at events on the same bill. Consequently, they all got to know one another. Out of those meetings, Eric Clapton and George Harrison became fast friends. They maintained this solid friendship over the course of many decades, right up until the time of Harrison’s death a few years ago. So, as the members of “The Beatles” gathered to start recording the “White Album”, Harrison presented his lyrics for the song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” to the rest of the group. Because Harrison wasn’t a contributing member of the writing team, Lennon and McCartney were dismissive of the song, at first. But, Clapton lent his friend support and actually recorded the guitar parts that Lennon would have normally played. Clapton’s presence and reputation caused the rest of “The Beatles” to acquiesce in the end and “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” made the cut and appeared on the album. In doing so, it became the only song in the entire “Beatles” catalogue to contain music contributed by someone outside of the official group. Because of the enormously positive reception the song received from the public, Harrison became emboldened to write more. From the fruits of his labour came classic songs such as “Something” and “Here Comes the Sun”.

All throughout the remaining days of “The Beatles”, George Harrison and Eric Clapton remained as friends. They did so even though Clapton made no secret of his desire for Harrison’s wife, Patti Boyd. It is even said that Clapton’s signature song, “Layla” was about Boyd. The song is based on a novel about a character driven to madness because he cannot have the object of his desires.

“I tried to give you consolation

When your old man let you down

Like a fool, I fell in love with you.

You turned my whole world upside down.

Layla…’ve got me on my knees

Layla…..I’m begging, darlin’ please

Layla…..darlin’ won’t you ease my worried mind.”

“Layla” is George Harrison’s wife, Patti Boyd. Yet, through it all, Clapton never made a move while Harrison and Boyd were married. When they eventually divorced, Clapton approached Harrison and made his intentions known. Apparently, Harrison laughed and called Clapton his “husband-in-law” from that point onward. Friendships take many forms and theirs was certainly a unique and tolerant and supportive match, for sure.

In any case, that maturation of George Harrison dovetailed nicely with the maturation of “The Beatles”, as a band. It is unfortunate that the timing of Harrison’s appearance as a creative force within the band happened so close to the dissolution of the band, itself. Who knows what other beautiful songs George Harrison would’ve written in that creative space that they all shared. For what it is worth, I have never read anything that suggests that Harrison shared Clapton’s political views. My understanding is that, after discovering Transcendental Meditation and travelling to study in India, Harrison, next, became a devotee of a book/philosophy called, “I Ching”, which speaks to the inter-connectivity of all living things. It is a belief in inclusivity…..which is the polar-opposite of Clapton’s Nationalist exclusivity-driven proclamations. But yet, despite harbouring differing opinions about how the society in which they lived in should function AND despite Clapton coveting Harrison’s wife all through his marriage, the two were a supportive constant in each other’s life. The very first manifestation of that was in the form of Clapton helping his friend get his first song on a “Beatles” album. That song was, of course, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”. Enjoy.

PS: the video is from “The Prince’s Trust” charity concert. Ringo Starr, Clapton, Elton John, Jeff Lynne, Phil Collins and more, are all playing in this video.

The link to the video for the song, “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” by The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Beatles, can be found here.

The link to the official website for George Harrison, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting the very best of music from around the world. The link to their website can be found here.