These last few days have been rough. First it was Jimmy Buffet. Then Steve Harwell of Smash Mouth. And now Gary Wright is gone at the age of 80 after a long health battle with both Parkinson’s and Lewy body dementia, the same affliction endured by Robin Wiliams and Casey Kasem.
Gary was an example of how one big album featuring a couple of hit singles can be all you need to have an incredible career. His sweet spot was The Dream Weaver, from July 1975, an album (said Wright) was the first all-keyboard rock album. Yes, the drums were real but everything else came from the monophonic synths of the era. (Let’s put works by Kraftwerk and Wendy Carlos aside for the time being.)
There was nothing on the radio The Dream Weaver that summer. Apart from one song featuring Ronnie Montrose, there were no big guitars, just these otherworldly (for the time) sounds from these mysterious and complicated futuristic musical instruments. The title track was the first single. Disregard the “1972” stamp on the video.
Hold on. Back up.
Wright began in show business as a child actor in New York City before moving to Broadway. The idea of a career in music seemed insane so he studied to be a doctor with a specialty in psychology. But while studying in Berlin, the music bug bit again and he eventually found himself in the English band Spooky Tooth. After three albums, he left to do some solo work (there were two albums) and studio sessions for people like George Harrison. Spooky Tooth reformed for a couple of years in 1972 before Wright left to go solo for good.
This brings us to The Dream Weaver in 1975. It had almost no impact when it first came out. The first single–I don’t even remember which one it was–did nothing. But when the title track (the “The” was left out) was released in November, the album began a slow climb, eventually selling in the millions in North America.
There was a second big hit from the album, too.
Those who songs were unusual in that they were hits on AM Top 40 radio and FM rock stations. The constant airplay of those songs from the last 45 years provided a lovely revenue stream. Two great songs was all he needed.
There were nine more albums after The Dream Weaver, but unless you’re a superfan, you can’t name any of them. But it didn’t matter. “Dream Weaver” and “My Love is Alive” is all he really needed to sustain his career. Money came in from other places, too, like writing soundtracks. And when Mike Myers wanted “Dream Weaver” for Wayne’s World in 1982, Wright gave him this re-recording.
Wright’s Parkinson’s got a lot worse in the last year, rendering him unable to speak or move about. He died Monday (September) at his home in Palos Verdes, California. He was 80.