Skip to content
Gary Wright, who had a ’70s hit with ‘Dream Weaver’, dies at 80


Gary Wright, a witty singer-songwriter who helped modernize the sound of pop music through his pioneering use of synthesizers while creating infectious and seemingly unmissable 1970s hits including “Dream Weaver” and “Love Is Alive,” died Monday at his home in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif. He was 80 years old.

The cause was complications from Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia, his son Justin said.

Mr. Wright, originally from New Jersey, rose to prominence in the late 1960s after moving to London and helping form the bluesy British progressive rock band Spooky Tooth.

He befriended George Harrison, with whom he collaborated frequently over the years, notably playing the keyboard on the former Beatle’s triple magnum opus album, “All Things Must Pass”, released in 1970.

Their long friendship will have a lasting impact on Mr. Wright’s life and on his music. Mr. Harrison introduced him to Eastern mysticism, giving him a copy of “Autobiography of a Yogi”, by Paramahansa Yogananda, who helped popularize yoga and meditation in the United States, and Mr. Harrison traveled with him in India.

“It was his life path after that,” Justin Wright said in a phone interview. “Deep down he was looking for something, and this was the answer for him.”

His spiritual awakening helped spawn “Dream Weaver,” a track from his 1975 album, “The Dream Weaver,” which reached No. 7 on the Billboard album chart and propelled him to stardom. The song was inspired by the yogi’s poem “God, God, God”, which includes the phrase “My mind weaves dreams”.

Mr. Wright begins the song with the lyrics “I just closed my eyes again/I boarded the Dream Weaver train/The conductor takes my worries away from me today/And leaves tomorrow behind me.”

“Dream Weaver,” carried away by a wave of lush electro that bordered on interstellar, rose to number two on the Billboard charts in March 1976. The song became a hit. touchstone of soft-rock, appearing in films such as “Wayne’s World” (1992) and “The People vs. Larry Flynt” (1996), as well as in a 2010 episode (called “Dream On”) of the musical comedy-drama television series “Glee”.

It was not the only success of this album. In July of that year, “Love Is Alive,” like “Dream Weaver,” soared to No. 2, evoking the languid sexuality of the waterbed era. Mr. Wright has performed at stadium shows alongside heavyweights like Peter Frampton and Yes, standing out among the guitar gods with his strap-on keyboard, known as the keytar.

As his greatest hits became iconic sounds of the 1970s, Mr. Wright took an unconventional musical approach on ‘The Dream Weaver’ album: he relied almost entirely on keyboard instruments, including a Minimoog synthesizer , as opposed to guitars, foreshadowing the synthesizer. – the pop boom of the early 80s.

“The theme of just having keyboards, drums, vocals — and no guitars — came about by chance,” Mr. Wright said in a 2010 interview with Musoscribe, a music website. When he came back and listened to the demos he had recorded, he said, “I was like, ‘Wow. Sounds good. He doesn’t really need guitars.

Gary Malcolm Wright was born April 26, 1943 in Cresskill, Northeast New Jersey. He was the middle of three children of structural engineer Lou Wright and Anne (Belvedere) Wright.

His mother helped him get interested in music and acting, leading him to piano lessons and eventually auditions. Their efforts paid off when he made an appearance on the sci-fi TV series ‘Captain Video and His Video Rangers’ and later landed a role in the 1954 Broadway musical ‘Fanny’, starring Florence Henderson. .

“Initially, I came into the play as a stunt double for the lead role, and then I took over the lead child role,” Mr. Wright said in a 2014 interview with Smashing Interviews magazine. “I was only 11 and 12 at the time. It was an amazing experience to play and sing every night in front of a sold out audience and sing with a full orchestra.

Within a few years, he gave up stage and screen “to be a normal person in school, playing sports and Little League baseball and that kind of stuff,” he told Smashing Interviews. . While attending Tenafly High School, he played in various rock bands, including a duo called Gary and Billy with his school friend Bill Markle. Their single ‘Working After School’ was featured on the TV show ‘American Bandstand’.

After high school, Mr. Wright attended William & Mary in Virginia for a year before transferring to New York University, where he majored in medicine. After graduating in 1965, he briefly enrolled in medical school before moving to Berlin to study psychology.

Losing interest in a life of clinical practice, he returned to music, helping to form a band that gained popularity in Europe; at one point he opened for rock band Traffic in Oslo. There he caught the eye of Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. Mr. Blackwell summoned him to England to join a band called Art, which evolved into Spooky Tooth.

Spooky Tooth temporarily disbanded in 1970 and a year later Mr. Wright released his first solo album, ‘Footprint’. This album featured Mr. Harrison on guitar on the track “Two Faced Man,” which the two performed with Mr. Wright’s band Wonderwheel on “The Dick Cavett Show” in 1971.

Besides his son Justin, Mr. Wright is survived by his wife, Rose (Anthony) Wright; another son, Dorian; one sister, Lorna Lee; and two grandchildren. His marriages to Christina Uppstrom, the mother of his sons, and Dori Accordino ended in divorce.

Alongside his work with Mr. Harrison, Mr. Wright was a session keyboardist for musicians like Harry Nilsson, BB King and Jerry Lee Lewis, and he continued to record solo albums.

In Musoscribe’s interview, he spoke about his 2010 release, “Connected,” and the album’s hook-laden opening track, “Satisfied,” in terms that might have applied to ” Dream Weaver”.

“The word ‘hook’ means to attract people to something,” he said. “When I write songs, I always try to make them that way – catchy – so people will remember them. They will be more ingrained in people’s consciousness.