Singer Gary Wright, best known for his 1975 soft rock hits “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive,” has died at age 80. Wright’s son, Justin, confirmed to Rolling Stone that his father died on Monday at his Palos Verdes Estates home after battling Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia for the past six years.
Justin Wright said he dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s six or seven years ago before also receiving a dementia diagnosis. “He managed it fairly well for a while. But a few years ago, he needed professional help and home-care nurses and eventually 24-hour care,” Justin told RS.
Wright was born on April 26, 1943 in Cresskill, N.J. and began his career as a child actor in shows included Captain Video and His Video Rangers before joining the Broadway cast of Fanny in 1954. After briefly considering medical school, Wright moved to England in the late 1960s, where he co-founded the blues-rock band Spooky Tooth with four English musicians. After three albums with the band, Wright struck out on his own and releasing two solo albums on A&M Records, Extraction (1970) and Footprint (1971) before signing to Warner Bros. Records for what would be his breakthrough third solo effort.
The Dream Weaver, released in the summer of 1975, peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard 200 album charts in April 1976, with the yacht rock classic title track peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. At the time, Wright, who played the Hammond Organ, clavinet, Moog synthesizers, Fender Rhodes and several other keyboards on the album — in addition to arranging and producing the collection — boasted that it was one of the first all-keyboard albums; it also featured drums from session veterans Jim Keltner and Sly and the Family Stone’s Andy Newmark as well as guitar on “Power of Love” from Montrose’s Ronnie Montrose.
The ethereal “Dream Weaver” became one of Wright’s most beloved songs and a frequent go-to Hollywood soundtrack cut in films including Wayne’s World (for which Wright re-recorded the song), Toy Story 3, Ice Age: Collision Course and The People vs. Larry Flynt, as well as the TV series Glee and Superstore. Wright also dipped his toe into film soundtrack composition for the movies Endangered Species (1982) and Fire and Ice (1986).
Following the chart success of The Dream Weaver Wright released a string of solo albums throughout the 1970s and early 1980s to diminishing sales, including 1977’s The Light of Smiles (No. 172 on BB 200) and Touch and Gone (No. 117), 1979’s Headin’ Home (No. 147) and 1981’s The Right Place (No. 79). In addition to “Dream Weaver” and that album’s other silky pop hit, “Love Is Alive” (No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100), Wright’s other singles chart successes included 1976’s “Made to Love You” (No. 79), “Phantom Writer” (1977, No. 43), “Touch and Gone” (1978, No. 73) and 1981’s “Really Wanna Know You” (No. 16).
Wright also played keyboards on late Beatle George Harrison’s 1970 solo triple-disc album All Things Must Pass — cementing a friendship that lasted until Harrison’s death in 2001 — and sat in on sessions for album by everyone from B.B. King to Ringo Starr, Harry Nilsson and Jerry Lee Lewis. He also performed with a reunited Spooky Tooth in the early 2000s, as well as with Starr’s All-Starr Band and continued to release new music as recently as his final solo album, 2010’s Connected.
Over the years, Wright’s compositions also found their way into a number of hip-hop songs, including samples of “Love Is Alive” on songs by Raekwon and 3rd Bass, Spooky Tooth’s “The Mirror” on songs by Fivio Foreign and Atmosphere, “More Than a Heartache” (Nas) and “Heartbeat” (Jay-Z).
Listen to “Dreamweaver” and “Love Is Alive” below.
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