Gary Wright: The Dream Weaver

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Keyboardist Gary Wright was best known as leader of the U.K.-based band Spooky Tooth and the back-to-back 1976 solo hits “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive.” (Check out his website’s clever URL.) He also helped to popularize the synthesizer in the mid-1970s.

Wright was born in the New York City suburb of Cresskill, N.J., on April 26, 1943. He worked as a child actor on Broadway and attended several U.S. universities when he decided to try his luck with rock in London. He joined an existing band that changed its name to Spooky Tooth and signed with Island Records, which released the band’s debut album, It’s All About, in 1968.

Spooky Two followed in 1969 (released on A&M in the United States), which marked the end of the original lineup. Wright’s last LP with the band was Ceremony, a 1969 collaboration with electronic composer Pierre Henry, and their billing subsequently changed to Spooky Tooth featuring Mike Harrison.

Related: Spooky Tooth singer Mike Harrison died in 2018

Wright had already established a solo career concurrent with his involvement with Spooky Tooth, and released solo albums for A&M Records including 1970’s Extraction, with musicians that included bassist Klaus Voormann and drummer Alan White (later of Yes).

Voormann introduced Wright to George Harrison, who was about to record his debut solo album, All Things Must Pass. The two 27-year-olds hit it off and Wright subsequently played piano on much of the triple-LP opus, alongside the members of Derek and the Dominos (Eric Clapton, Carl Radle, Jim Gordon and fellow keyboardist Bobby Whitlock), and dozens of other top-notch musicians.

Listen to the jam session, “Out of the Blue,” from All Things Must Pass

The relationship with Harrison blossomed and Wright continued to perform on the former Beatle’s solo albums. Wright also played piano on many other classic rock hits, including Harry Nilsson’s #1 single, “Without You,” and Ringo Starr’s “It Don’t Come Easy” and “Back Off Boogaloo.” (Years later, he became a member of Ringo’s All-Starr Band.)

Wright’s own planned follow-up solo album, Ring of Changes, was cut with his band Wonderwheel, which also featured future Foreigner guitarist Mick Jones. Harrison makes a guest appearance on slide guitar. The album was produced by Wright and was one of the first albums to be recorded at the newly opened Apple Studios on Savile Row. But it went unreleased.

“I hadn’t listened to it in 40 years, but when I put it on, I thought to myself, ‘I can’t believe this was never released,'” said Wright in 2016, when Ring of Changes was finally issued. “It was more of a rock album than what I had done, but I think it stands up alongside anything that you might hear being played on classic rock radio around the world. I hope that people will be surprised by the material. I’m proud of it and I’m glad it’s finally coming out so everyone can hear what we did all those years ago.”

Listen to the beautiful title track, “Ring of Changes”

Watch this great clip of Gary Wright and his band Wonderwheel with special guest George Harrison on The Dick Cavett Show

Following a brief Spooky Tooth reunion from 1972-74 with Mike Harrison, Wright signed a solo deal with Warner Bros. and returned to the U.S. The result was 1975’s The Dream Weaver, featuring what Wright describes as “the first-ever all keyboard/synthesizer band.” (The only guitar on the album is by Ronnie Montrose, on one song.)

The album was issued on June 15, 1975, and, as BCB reader “Big Mark” notes, its first single, “Love is Alive,” flopped initially. The spiritual follow-up, “Dream Weaver,” became an enormous hit, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 in 1976.

“Love is Alive” was reissued and also reached #2, paving the way for The Dream Weaver to reach #7 on the sales chart, and helping to lead the way to popularize the synthesizer.

Watch Wright perform “Love is Alive” on The Midnight Special in 1976

Wright died on September 4, 2023, at age 80.

Best Classic Bands Staff

6 Comments so far

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  1. Scottyboy
    #1 Scottyboy 27 April, 2018, 03:50

    Love Dream Weaver, still sounds inspring, fresh and alive today, in 2018. Go Gary Wright, must get his latest or rather finally released Ring of Changes…

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  2. recordhound
    #2 recordhound 11 August, 2018, 19:43

    Love is Alive was the original first release and it bombed. It was reissued (with the same WB number) and became a hit after Dream Weaver paved the way.

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  3. Cisley
    #3 Cisley 27 April, 2020, 13:08

    Love Dream Weaver. Always reminds me of Coos Bay, Oregon, when I hear it. Have Gary Wright as a fav on my Sirius Selections in my Jeep Wrangler. Great Song!

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    • RDM
      RDM 27 April, 2023, 00:22

      How cool is that. Coos Bay always makes me smile. My very best friend was born and raised there. I will never forget her and the Bay Vista out her living room window. God Blesa you Lynn….

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  4. Da Mick
    #4 Da Mick 27 April, 2023, 01:46

    You can’t help but really like Gary’s solo hits, but the greater tragedy is how such an incredibly seminal rock band like Spooky Tooth went largely unnoticed and unknown. Anytime I hear them on Sirius, I’m blown away. They made great records, but had even more potential. All they needed was some recognition for the great records they’d already made.

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  5. Big Mark
    #5 Big Mark 27 April, 2023, 20:36

    Love Is Alive (Warner Bros WB 8143) was the first single from the The Dream Weaver, released when the album was new. It flopped upon its initial release but was then reissued after the title track (WB 8167) was a hit.

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