Prominent musician and songwriter Gary Wright, known for his hit singles “Dream Weaver” and “Love Is Alive,” has passed away at the age of 80. His son, Dorian Wright, confirmed the news, though the cause of death has not been announced.
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In Memoriam: Gary Wright (1943-2023)
Gary Wright was a powerful vocalist and a versatile keyboard player. He was a founding member of the U.K.-based band Spooky Tooth and had been an in-demand session player since the late 1960s, contributing to all of George Harrison’s solo albums, including the groundbreaking 1970 release. His debut, “All Things Must Pass,” and Ringo Starr’s early singles (and later, with the All-Starr Band), as well as collaborations with artists like Nilsson, Tim Rose, B.B. King, and many others.
However, he will be most remembered for his contributions to the synth-driven style of hits during the mid-1970s, including Steve Miller’s “Fly Like an Eagle.” During this time, he could often be seen on stage wearing satin attire and grooving on synthesizers at numerous music events.
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Gary Wright was a child actor who appeared in a Broadway version of “Finian’s Rainbow.” Later, he decided to pursue a career in medicine and went to study medicine in Berlin. However, he continued playing music with a band called The Times, including his journey with Traffic during their European tour in 1967. It was during this tour that he met Chris Blackwell, the founder of Island Records. Being friends with both Traffic/Rolling Stones producer Jimmy Miller, Blackwell persuaded him to come to London. There, Blackwell introduced him to pianist Mike Harrison and drummer Mike Kellie, and with Gary Wright on vocals and organ, Spooky Tooth was formed.
Collaboration with George Harrison and Solo Success
The band’s first two albums, “It’s All About” and 1969’s “Spooky Two,” both produced by Miller, didn’t chart but created quite a buzz among musicians. Virtually all members were hired as session players, and their songs were covered by several artists, including Three Dog Night’s rendition of “I’ve Got Enough Heartaches,” The Move’s regular rendition of “Sunshine Help Me,” and Judas Priest covering “Better by You, Better than Me.”
After the band’s third album, “Ceremony,” proved to be a creative misstep, Gary Wright left the band in 1970. He signed with A&M Records and released a strong solo album, “Extraction,” in 1970, featuring two collaborators, drummer Alan White and bassist Klaus Voormann, who would take Gary Wright into the Beatles’ inner circle. When George Harrison was recording “All Things Must Pass” with producer Phil Spector, the latter invited more musicians to join, and Voormann suggested Gary Wright, who was playing a separate gig across town. Upon a call from Voormann, Gary Wright canceled his gig and arrived at the historic Abbey Road Studios, where he began a friendship with Harrison that would continue for the rest of their lives. He acted in a supporting role on all of Harrison’s solo albums and various related projects, including Ringo Starr’s early solo hits like “It Don’t Come Easy” and In addition to “Back Off Boogaloo,” there was a notable 1971 appearance on the American television program “The Dick Cavett Show” during Harrison’s visit.
Continued Musical Exploration
In the following years, he continued to collaborate with Harrison while releasing a series of albums for A&M Records, including the 1975 release “The Dream Weaver.” Though the album started slow, it became a major hit by the next spring, making Wright a bona fide star. However, following “The Light of Smiles,” it took him nearly two years to follow up his previous success, and his subsequent efforts never quite matched his earlier success. His final track to make its mark on the charts was “Truly Eager to Understand You” back in 1981.
In the years that followed, Wright specialized in synthesizers and soundtrack work, though he had a remarkable return when his song “Dream Weaver” was re-recorded for the 1992 film “Wayne’s World.” It gained significant attention once again. However, he veered back into more traditional rock music, releasing a series of albums, with the final one, “Connected,” being released in 2010. He reunited with Spooky Tooth in 2004 and continued to tour extensively, both as a solo performer and with Ringo’s All-Starr Band.
Throughout the years, his songs have been covered by various artists, with Chaka Khan recording a fantastic rendition of “Love Is Alive” for her 1984 smash album “I Feel for Numerous artists, spanning from ZZ Top to Tone-Loc, have likewise incorporated his musical creations through sampling or covering.