Music legend Gary Wright reflects on his professional collaboration, friendship, and spiritual journey with "quiet Beatle" George Harrison, and releases for the first time a recording of a song they wrote together.
Best known for his multiplatinum hits “Dream Weaver” and “Love is Alive,” Gary Wright came to prominence as a singer and songwriter during the golden age of rock in the 1970s. What is not as well known to the public, however, is Wright’s spiritual side. At the heart of this memoir is the spiritual conversion and journey that Wright experienced alongside his close friend George Harrison. Until Harrison’s death in 2001, the two spent decades together writing songs, eating Indian fare, talking philosophy, and gardening.
In addition to featuring lyrics to a song cowritten by Wright and George Harrison in 1971, titled “To Discover Yourself,” this memoir includes a cache of never-before-seen photos.
Also available is a deluxe e-book featuring an audio recording of “To Discover Yourself.”
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||9.10(w) x 6.40(h) x 1.10(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Gary Wright is known as “the Dream Weaver” because his brilliant talent, highlighted by the enduring song he wrote of the same name, is mixed with his deep belief and practice in Eastern spirituality. Wright tours with his band as well as doing unplugged shows and has also performed with Ringo Starr’s All-Starr Band.
Read an Excerpt
I’ve just closed my eyes again
Climbed aboard the dream weaver train
Driver take away my worries of today
And leave tomorrow behind
Ooooh, dream weaver
I believe you can get me through the night
Ooooh, dream weaver
I believe we can reach the morning light
Fly me high through the starry skies
Or maybe to an astral plane
Cross the highways of fantasy
Help me to forget today’s pain
Ooooh, dream weaver
I believe you can get me through the night
Ooooh, dream weaver
I believe we can reach the morning light
Though the dawn may be coming soon
There still may be some time
Fly me away to the bright side of the moon
And meet me on the other side
Ooooh, dream weaver
I believe you can get me through the night
Ooooh, dream weaver
I believe we can reach the morning light
God can be said to be the Weaver of Dreams in His vast creation, entertaining both Himself and mankind as He weaves epic stories and colossal events that span across lifetimes and millennia. In India, they say that running creation is God’s eternal work and that He takes it very seriously—being a God of love and compassion rather than a punishing dictator. He gave man free will to create his own destiny, never interfering in an individual’s life unless petitioned by pure love from His devotee.
On a human level, it can be said that each one of us is also a dream weaver, creating our own dreams and weaving our own lives over many incarnations, like actors in a movie playing roles as superstars or failures, heroes or villains—all of which are an integral part of His megadrama of creation. Only on that day, when we have no more desires or karma to work out and only wish to be one with God in a state of ecstasy, will we wake from this dream of delusion and enter the highest state of bliss consciousness.
June 1976. I was in Philadelphia about to walk onstage before 120,000 people at John F. Kennedy Stadium. On the bill with me were Peter Frampton and Yes. My album The Dream Weaver had been on the Billboard charts since late 1975 and was currently at number 7; in addition, I had two number 2 singles—“Dream Weaver” and, at the time of the concert, “Love Is Alive.” It was the largest concert I’d ever played, and the power I felt standing before so many people who were radiating this astounding degree of positive energy was overwhelming. There’s no way to accurately describe the emotion I felt as a performer when I began singing “Dream Weaver”—a song I’d written about God’s love and compassion—to an audience of that size. In fact, the entire summer was like that—playing at sports stadiums and other huge festivals around the United States and Europe to well over three million people. That summer of 1976 was a life-altering time for me careerwise, the highest point in my life up until then. I was thirty-three and had a lot of questions about who I was and how I would deal with success and my future.
I soon realized that even though I was experiencing a period of great elation, inevitably the highs would wane. I had been moderately successful as a child actor, even playing in a Broadway musical, Fanny. From my past experience, having released eleven albums, between my solo records and Spooky Tooth—none of which were commercially successful—I knew the feeling of being pumped up with enthusiasm and then being dropped into despair, despite the star power of the musicians I worked with. I could feel intuitively that this experience of success might give me a great opportunity to test my newly found spiritual path and guru. After all, “Dream Weaver” was a song about God’s infinite mercy, carrying us through our trials: “Dream Weaver, I believe you can get me through the night.” And trials there were throughout my life. But I never avoided them, I faced them head on, which gave me spiritual muscle. My guru used to say, “A wrestler will never increase his strength unless he works out with a stronger [opponent].”1 I made God and my guru my best friends early on in my career and carried them with me through all my experiences in life. That changed the entire scope of how I would deal with both success and failure, all the while trying to maintain even-mindedness.
Success does not land in your lap without hard work, something I realized early on in life. Eastern philosophy teaches that qualities and talents are developed and brought over from past lives. You don’t just learn to be a genius or acquire any great talent in one lifetime—it takes sustained effort and deep focus to attract success to anything we do.
I was sixteen years old. It was a late overcast November morning in New Jersey, the streets still wet from rain the night before. I was a junior at Tenafly High School, and two of my closest friends, John McGauley and Eddie Sutton, pulled into my driveway and asked me if I wanted to go for a drive. We had all known each other since the fifth grade and were very close. None of us had driver’s licenses. John had borrowed the car—an off-white 1955 Ford—from one of our high school friends who was a senior. This was well before cars were equipped with seat belts, and we were all sitting in the front seat, me at the far right. As we drove up Grant Avenue, where I lived, John was showing off, downshifting while accelerating around a corner and rapidly approaching a concrete bridge over a stream. The road was still wet; the car fishtailed as we made the turn, hit the bridge nearly head on, and then plummeted down the embankment for about ten feet or so. The car ended on its side, almost in the water.
At the moment of impact, I experienced superhuman strength—bracing my knees against the dashboard. Then—complete silence. I looked over in panic at John and Eddie, but they both looked unconscious. With the car tilted at a precarious angle, I couldn’t reach them. The rear and front windshields had literally blown out of the car on impact. I lifted my body up over the space where the front windshield had been and slid down the hood to the ground. The horn was blowing and the tires were still spinning when the tow truck arrived, followed by a doctor who rushed down the embankment. I had climbed up to the street, where cars were beginning to gather. After a few minutes, the doctor, looking very serious, told me John and Eddie were dead.
That I survived the crash with no major wounds or broken bones was nothing less than a miracle. But the mental anguish was a different story. I believe this event was the genesis of my spiritual search, a journey that would take me around the world to experience things I never dreamed could happen to me and to meet amazing people who would have a profound cultural impact on the world. Early on I realized how fleeting life was and how you could be plucked away at any moment into the mysterious beyond. In India, it is said that life is like a drop of water trembling on a lotus leaf and may slip away at any moment. My Catholic upbringing couldn’t offer answers to the spiritual questions I was pondering, and neither could anyone else. It wasn’t until years later, after I had found my spiritual path and my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda, that I learned that an enlightened master is omniscient, knowing all his true devotees who would come to him either in this present lifetime or in the future. Moreover, such a master has the power to intervene in a devotee’s karma and prevent him from harm or even death. I later realized that it was Yogananda who had intervened in my life at that moment, sparing me from death so that I could remain here to carry out my destined role in this incarnation. But there was yet another part for me to play later on in God’s drama.
I was born on April 26, 1943, in Cresskill, New Jersey, a small scenic town and a suburb of New York City about twenty minutes north of the George Washington Bridge. I was the middle child between my older sister, Beverly, and my younger sister, Lorna. My father, Louis Wright, worked for my uncle, who owned a large construction company that built bridges, roads, and various other infrastructure in towns and cities throughout northern New Jersey. My mom, Ann Belvedere, was a housewife and the motivational force behind the family. We lived in a three-story home at 369 Grant Avenue, directly adjacent to a wooded area on the back of our property and my uncle Jim’s construction company complex on the west side. Growing up in this rural setting was truly a young boy’s dream. Tracking and silently watching the local wildlife in the nearby woods, I knew where many of their burrows and nests were. Much of my time before starting kindergarten was spent playing cowboys and Indians or “army” with my friends who lived down the street. Using some of my uncle’s retired heavy equipment—bulldozers, cranes, and the like—we’d create imaginary battles between the good and bad guys. There were private paved roads throughout the construction complex, which as I grew older afforded me the opportunity to drive my go-cart or one of the family cars without breaking the law.
I was entranced by nature as a young boy and especially looked forward to the subtle magic of seasonal change. Autumn particularly inspired me, when the air grew crisp and the green leaves on the oak, beech, and maple trees transformed into a magnificent array of colors as if they’d been painted by some unseen hand. Around Thanksgiving, when the leaves turned brown and fell to the ground, we would rake them into large piles and dive into them, rolling around in sheer delight. Sometimes we would even set fire to a pile of dry leaves and run through the pungent clouds of smoke as if performing an ancient ritual. (This was, of course, well before such kinds of activities were strictly regulated by the local police and fire departments!) Fall for me was a time of dreaming, reflection, new friends and new beginnings, and the start of a new school year.
Winter soon arrived after Thanksgiving and I anxiously awaited the first snowfall, when everything would become clothed in white and silver. Ice formed on the edges of brooks and streams, and the lakes and ponds would freeze over. Sometimes I’d be up at dawn peering out my second-story bedroom window to see if it had snowed during the night. If it had, I was outside in a matter of minutes dressed for the occasion with snowsuit, galoshes, and woolen gloves. The science of high-tech, cold-resistant clothing materials had not yet arrived; my hands and toes would get numb in the early morning cold and I would have to retreat home to get warm again. One of my favorite activities was looking for animal tracks in the newly fallen snow, usually from rabbits, woodchucks, or raccoons. My goal of course was to follow the tracks until I found their homes, which I did sometimes. I loved nature and its creatures from a very early age, and still do to this day.
Sometimes large winter storms passed through, and if it snowed really hard during the night, my sisters and I would anxiously await the whistle from the police station to blow at eight a.m. sharp, announcing school would be closed that day. That of course meant one thing—riding sleds with our friends all day long. We had so much fun riding down hills in train or airplane formations, or just by ourselves on our American Flyers. If it got too cold, we could always go to a nearby friend’s home for hot chocolate and cookies. Some evenings we would go ice skating at our local pond in neighboring Tenafly, and if it was still snowing and the outside lights were on, the experience was breathtaking.
In late February or early March, when it seemed as though winter would never end, slowly the first signs of spring began to emerge. The first buds on trees became visible, or if you looked carefully, you could see the tiny blades of daffodils or tulips peeping through the wintry-hard sleepy ground. Occasionally, an ice storm would pass through during the night and we would wake up to a fantasy spectacle: trees and meadows clothed in a silvery white ice layer, especially dramatic in the shining sun. From a very young age, I wondered at the mystical power that created this subtle magical beauty. I later realized when I became more firmly rooted on my spiritual path that it was “the silent voice of God, ever calling us through the flowers . . . [and] all things that are beautiful.”2
Summer would finally arrive just after Memorial Day, and our school vacation soon followed. Summer in New Jersey was hot and humid, with the occasional thunder and lightning storm. It also was a time when my friends and I would camp out just with sleeping bags under the stars, staying up late into the night telling ghost stories—one more terrifying than the next. One of our favorite places to camp out was Hank’s cabin, a local landmark about halfway up the trail from Cresskill to Alpine. Close to Hank’s was a spring where we would pitch camp and cook our food on a campfire. Filling our canteens with the nearby cool spring water or just drinking it with cupped hands was always a high point in our escapades. And of course nothing could taste better to me at that time than bacon and eggs fried over a campfire in the early morning. Years later, in the late sixties, I began meditating and became a vegetarian, but I still remember the delight of those bacon and eggs.
Our family also spent a day sometimes at Pine Lake, where you could have a picnic, swim all day, meet new friends, and keep cool. I was about seven years old when I first learned to swim at Palisades Amusement Park—one of our local attractions—which boasted a huge saltwater swimming pool. They advertised one weekend that Buster Crabbe would be giving swimming lessons the following Saturday. He had won the Olympic gold medal in 1932 for the 400-meter freestyle swimming event before subsequently breaking into acting, where he played Tarzan, among other roles. There were quite a few kids in the park that day waiting in the pool to meet him. When it was my turn, he looked at me and said, “Can you swim?” “No,” I answered, “I came here hoping you’d teach me how.” He held out his arms and told me to kick and paddle. He suddenly dropped his arms, releasing his support, and there I was—swimming for the first time in this incarnation. I started yelling, “I can swim, I can swim!” half expecting Buster to start beating his chest with his fists while yelling out the Tarzan war cry: “Ah eeh ah eeh ah.” Back at school I could now boast that Tarzan had taught me how to swim, a huge feather in my cap.
During my early years at Edward H. Bryan Elementary School—walking distance from our home—I became quite interested in Native American culture. Cowboys and Indians were very popular among young boys growing up in the late forties and early fifties, and I loved reading about the different tribes spread throughout the country: how they dressed, the kinds of homes they lived in, and their spiritual beliefs. I even had several outfits I would wear while playing “cowboys and Indians” with my friends. We built three tepees in the wooded area behind our house, where my friends and I would camp out during the summer. I made the tepees myself, cutting young birch saplings to use as the frame, then covering them with rolls of burlap I got from my uncle’s construction yard. They looked pretty authentic—from a distance. I remember receiving a catalogue in the mail featuring Native American costumes that were available at one store only on the East Side of New York City. After my relentless badgering, my mom finally agreed to take me there after school one day. The first thing I saw upon entering the small store was an authentic Native American headdress made with real eagle feathers. As payment for my weeding the garden for the next month, my mom agreed to buy it for me. I was thrilled.
The sages of India teach that you start off your present life exactly where you left off in your past life, being reborn into a family, country, time in history, specific socioeconomic status, in wealth or poverty, in good or poor health, all of which will offer you the perfect opportunity to work out your desires and karma that you brought over from the past. On an extremely subtle level, the soul chooses these opportunities knowing what is best for its evolution back home to God. What you don’t work out in this life, you are given the opportunity to work out in your next incarnation, or as many lives as are needed until you attain liberation. There is also an integral relationship between karma and astrology. In India, Vedic astrology is considered a very precise science and it takes a highly advanced master to interpret a horoscope correctly. At the moment of your birth, the stars and planets are aligned in such a way to perfectly present you with opportunities for growth and advancement. Picture it as a cosmic obstacle course where some things come easily to us in life and other things are a struggle. The difficult things are the tests we face and personal weaknesses that we must overcome in order to grow and develop strength and spiritual muscle; for ultimately, a life without struggle is an unsuccessful life.
Important, too, are the families we are born into. Many times, they are packaged with unfinished business with our parents or siblings from past incarnations. Both hate and love are powerful attracting forces that draw souls into new families or other close relationships in order to work out karma from the past. Consequently, harboring hate for any individual will inevitably draw you back into a close relationship with that person until you work out and overcome your hatred. As a fast-moving stream smooths out the sharp edges of stones over time, so we as individuals interacting in the close quarters of a family are given the chance to work out unresolved issues carried over from the past. God designed His cosmic show in such a way so that we could work out all the kinks embedded in our characters—even if it takes many incarnations—until we reach perfection. “This life is a master novel, written by God, and man would go crazy if he tried to understand it by reason alone.”3
My family had both its challenges and blessings. Dad was over six feet tall and loved sports, especially baseball. He was almost drafted into the minors as a pitcher before he married, but unfortunately he didn’t make the final cut. I think at times later on in his life, he regretted not having made it into the minors and then majors; that was his deep unfulfilled desire, which never came to fruition. My dad had his own demons. He never saw his own father, a captain in the Navy, who had been severely wounded during World War I from a fall, which resulted in brain damage. Returning to the United States, he spent the rest of his life in a military hospital for disabled veterans, where he passed away. Dad lived part of his life through me, coming to all my Little League games, especially when I pitched, and cheering me on. Then there was my appearance at a young age in the Broadway musical, Fanny, and my stint with the British band Spooky Tooth, which he loved. Once, when I was playing a Spooky Tooth concert at the Whiskey in Hollywood, I spotted my dad sitting at one of the tables near the back, beaming at me in approval—truly a very proud father. He passed on a year later, before my success with “Dream Weaver,” succumbing to a lifelong struggle with alcoholism—a very sad loss for me. He never got to see me at the pinnacle of my career.
Dad took pleasure in his work at my uncle’s construction company. I think having the know-how to operate heavy machinery like bulldozers, backhoes, and such gave him great satisfaction and, as a boy, I was overjoyed when he’d let me drive them from time to time. We planted a flower and vegetable garden in a large area in back of our house. My job was to make sure it got watered and weeded. That was the start of my developing a passion for gardening, which is still very much alive in my life. My guru once said, “Humbly serving all with their beauty, flowers say more to us about God than anything else. Each brings a message that the Heavenly Father is right here.”4
Fishing was high on Dad’s list of fun things to do. Every April, when the season began, he and I would drive to one of our favorite streams or reservoirs, hoping to catch trout or bass. I learned a lot about patience during those outings with my father, sitting on the bank of some picturesque lake or stream and silently taking in the beauty around us.
Sometimes during the winter months, we would go ice fishing on one of the large lakes in New York State, rising at four a.m. and driving two hours so we could get a good spot on the ice. On one such occasion, we decided to light a small campfire on the ice near our campsite so we could warm our hands—a big mistake. After about a half hour, I went to check the bait on our fishing gear and then returned to the campfire. Suddenly I heard a loud crunch, and the next thing I knew, I was up to my chest in freezing water. The pain from the icy water stabbed at me like a knife. Dad rushed over and, in a split second, pulled me out—I don’t know why he didn’t fall in as well. He carried me to our car and turned the heat on full blast. I slowly dried off. Shortly thereafter we returned home, sadly without any fish. In retrospect I intuitively feel yet again that even though I did fall into the lake that wintry morning, a fatal outcome had been mitigated by God through the instrument of my later-to-be guru.
Dad was very handy and was constantly either fixing or building things around the house. He converted our attic into a third-story bedroom for my sister Beverly; built a screened-in porch at the back of our house; created a fieldstone barbeque in our backyard; and turned our basement into a large recreation room where we played music and had parties as we grew into our teens. The biggest venture my father undertook was building a fairly large swimming pool in the backyard, a rare item at that time in Cresskill. I think that we were probably either the first or second family in our town to have a pool. But we were an unconventional family, with me being on Broadway in Fanny and appearing from time to time in various TV drama roles, while my elder sister, Beverly, made regular television appearances on variety shows, singing country and western songs and even yodeling. My regular troop of grammar school friends included John McGauley, Eddie Sutton, and Ricky Spoley, and we spent many warm days and muggy nights swimming in the pool and carrying on late into the night at our home.
As part of our family menagerie, we had chickens, ducks, rabbits, a pig, and even a baby lamb, in addition to dogs and cats. My favorite pet of all was Bucky, the lamb. We acquired him during a trip to a local farm one weekend, where my family regularly purchased fresh vegetables. While my parents were perusing the local fare, I wandered outside and spotted a fenced-in area with a tiny lamb inside. I ran up to the pen and began petting his small black face, daydreaming what it would be like to have a lamb for a pet. My parents must have picked up my feelings as they walked over to the pen, curious about what so entranced me. I pleaded with them to buy the lamb, making all kinds of promises to do extra chores if they’d let me have him. To my great surprise, they consented.
Back at home, Bucky and I had so much fun playing together in the backyard, chasing one another and roughhousing together; he would even buck me at times, but never dangerously. One of his favorite pranks was to untie my shoelaces with his teeth while I was relaxing on our hammock. One summer, several years later, my family had a big party in our backyard. Bucky mingled with the crowd, eating portions of the food guests gave him. The next day I couldn’t find him anywhere. I searched and searched, called neighbors, and looked everywhere. Then we got a call that someone had found him dead in one of the fields adjacent to our house. I never knew how he died—probably something he ate. I was numb with sadness and inconsolable over my loss for many days.
In time, I gradually recovered from the loss, and slowly I turned my interest to our other animals. One of my chores was cleaning out the chicken coop and feeding the chickens every day. Usually, I would collect the eggs very early in the morning and cook them for Dad and myself for breakfast before he went to work. Our chickens were an unusual variety, strangely termed Sex-Linked Cross, and they frequently produced double-, triple-, and even four-yolk eggs. I’ll never forget the painful day when I came home from school only to find all our chickens dead. A neighborhood dog—a Dalmatian—had dug a hole under our chicken-wire fence, got into the run, and killed the entire flock. My stomach knotted up as I surveyed the damage—I was devastated.
Having animals from an early age in life taught me a lot about responsibility—and the inevitable pain stemming from attachment to people, animals, and things. I didn’t know this intellectually at the time; I only felt it as emptiness and loss—for it’s very hard not to be attached to something you love. Yet the very nature of this world is duality: joy and sorrow, love and loss. Our home was a great place for a young boy growing up; from a very early age, I felt a mystical connection with the silent beauty and power of God. “Learn from the loving care with which God has fashioned every living creature that He is . . . a Father of tenderest compassion who treasures each member of His house of earthly life.”5
Children’s personalities usually develop during the first seven years of their lives, according to the sages of India, and many of the traits you see during these early years were brought over from past incarnations. From as far back as I can remember, I loved singing and memorizing all the dialogue from the children’s stories I listened to on 78 rpm records like “Bugs Bunny and the Tortoise,” “Sip-Sip Supper,” and many others. Whenever we went on family summer vacations with long drives, I would sit in the backseat of our car and reproduce verbatim entire selections from my record collection, singing and acting all the parts of the characters, as well as mimicking all the sound effects—a one-man show. As the traffic and temperature increased, inevitably someone in our family would yell out, “OK, that’s enough now,” and if I didn’t stop, there would be a “Shut up, or I’ll go out of my mind!” I had driven the family almost to the edge with my relentless recitations. I must have carried over my desire and ability for singing and acting, and my fascination with sounds and sound effects, from a recent incarnation which later on in my life came into fruition—I was one of the first artists to use synthesizers in modern pop music.
Our mom was born in New York City on November 1, 1912, to Anna and Salvatore Belvedere. Both were born in Palermo, Sicily, and both immigrated to New York during the 1890s. Salvatore—whom we all called Grandpa Charlie—got involved in the wholesale produce business, and the family lived comfortably in a brownstone building in lower Manhattan. The family moved to New Jersey, where Mom excelled in school—graduating high school as the salutatorian of her class. Though she wanted to attend college, her hopes were stifled by the Great Depression. She had no choice but to find work to help the family make ends meet. From an early age, Mom loved music. She had known someone at a local radio station who set up an audition for her and her sister, Josephine. The station manager liked what he heard and hired them to perform regularly, a weekly guest appearance singing duets of the popular songs of the time.
Not far from her home was the popular Rustic Cabin roadhouse in Englewood Cliffs. Well-known bands of the time performed there regularly. My grandfather knew the owner of the venue and one evening paid him a visit with my mom. Before being discovered, Frank Sinatra was a waiter and singer there, and during the course of the evening, the owner (who knew she was a singer) asked my mom to get up and perform a duet with Frank and the band. They sang “Night and Day,” a popular song of the era. The audience loved it. She signed many autographs that evening. But soon, as she became frustrated with lack of success and not getting the breaks she wanted, she put her singing career aside, marrying our dad in the early thirties and starting a family.
My mother was always very active in community events. She was a Cub Scout mother, a volunteer for the American Legion, and a participant in local stage productions—sometimes with my dad. I remember marching with her and the Cub Scouts down Main Street in Cresskill in several Fourth of July parades. I still have fond recollections from a very early age of her singing a beautiful lullaby, “Mighty Lak’a Rose,” while I was falling asleep—a memory deeply embedded in my being to this day. The song was written in the early 1900s and recorded by Bing Crosby in 1945. It was written by Frank L. Stanton and Ethelbert Nevin. I carried out the tradition in my own family, singing that same lullaby to my sons Justin and Dorian when they were babies, as well as more recently to my two granddaughters, Kirra and Aubrey. The lyrics, which she modified slightly, were very soothing and have a special place in my heart:
Sweetest little baby
Don’t know what to call him
But he’s mighty lak’a rose
Looking at his Mommy
With eyes so shiny blue
Makes you think that heaven
Is coming close to you
Mom would encourage us to learn songs that we could sing with the entire family at our home or on holidays like Christmas Eve at her mother’s home. A frustrated singer growing up during the Depression, she was unable to realize her career dreams, so she lived them out through her three children. I don’t think Mom ever got over not having had her own successful career, and she continually struggled with disappointment, which later on turned into depression. She often told us that she had to work to help support her large family of eight, which was not uncommon during the Depression. Over time, through marriage and motherhood, she sadly watched her dreams recede into the murky pool of unfulfilled desires. She had enormous drive and, at times, was a bit of a stage mother—a character straight out of a Woody Allen movie. She encouraged each of us to learn and develop our skills in both acting and singing. I took lessons in both, as well as classical piano, for about a year. The first piece I learned to play on piano was one of Chopin’s polonaises, which I regularly performed at family functions. I loved playing classical pieces on our spinet piano in the living room but hated having to read music. I overcame my dilemma by memorizing the piece I was working on until I no longer needed the sheet music. Then I could just play the piece over and over to my heart’s content. My favorites were the Beethoven compositions “Für Elise” and “Moonlight Sonata.” To this day, I don’t read music—I play everything by ear, whether writing, recording, or performing at live concerts.
Older brothers many times like teasing their younger sisters, and I was no exception. The piano sometimes was the vehicle I used to scare my sister Lorna. I would play Sergei Rachmaninoff’s “Prelude in C Sharp Minor” at night in the middle of a loud thunderstorm. Rachmaninoff had huge hands and it was hard to reach all the notes at my age—my hands simply weren’t big enough. But I banged it out very loud and that did the trick. If I simply wanted to bother her, I would play a very annoying random pattern until she started screaming at me to stop, and if that didn’t work she’d tell my parents. Then I’d stop.
Mom’s main focus was on my older sister, Beverly. She not only had a good voice but could yodel and play the guitar—certainly a novelty in those days. Beverly regularly sang on TV variety shows and acted in various drama series, most notably I Remember Mama. She had a steady career performing in supper clubs, cruise lines, and corporate venues throughout the United States and abroad. It was through her connections that I got to see the Beatles perform at their New York debut concert at Carnegie Hall in the early sixties. Later on, I met George Harrison in London and told him I was at the New York show. “You were there?” he asked, astounded. “Yes, but all I could hear was the audience screaming,” I answered. This was before sophisticated sound systems were in play.
My first entrance into the business was with my older sister, Beverly, performing on a popular radio drama series named Grand Central Station. I was seven years old at the time, several years before the arrival of television. All the actors’ performances were live—if you made a mistake, everyone who was listening to the show heard it. I continued to get small parts on several of these kinds of radio shows over the next few years.
Beverly, three years older than I, loved riding horses and being a cowgirl, hence she learned how to yodel at a very young age. We were close and played a lot together with our friends in the forest behind our home or at the baseball field up the street. I think that Beverly inspired me in a subtle way to perform and be fearless before an audience—an attribute that took me quite some time to master. Her talent and showmanship endured even later on in her life when she struggled with her career. Driven by an innate desire to entertain people, she continued to sing and has kept it up to this day out of sheer passion to perform. She still yodels at our family functions!
My sister Lorna was five years younger than I and was the Native American princess of my backyard tribe. In the three tepees on a clearing behind our home, we had great fun dressing up in all our regalia. Due to our age difference, we weren’t that close as brother and sister until after she finished her studies at New York University. We began to spend more time together when she came along with me on several trips to Hawaii during my college years as a tour guide. She is a great cook with an unusual sense of humor, and we became close over the years. Blessed with an amazing voice, she is also an accomplished jazz singer. When I moved to Europe, she visited me several times in England, and when “Dream Weaver” came out and I started touring a lot, I asked her to be one of the backing vocalists.
When I stopped touring in the late 1970s, Lorna signed a deal with Elton John’s label, Rocket Records, and released a 1978 album called Circle of Love. In the early eighties, she moved to London and released “Police Woman (Queen of the Neon Jungle),” which she wrote and her husband, Adrian Lee, produced. Adrian later on became the keyboardist for Mike and the Mechanics during their run of success in the late 1980s. Lorna also played the onstage role of Vi Petty in Buddy (The Buddy Holly Story) in the London West End production. She finally moved back to California a few years ago, to our delight. Adrian, a very talented musician/producer, is a wonderful addition to the family. He is currently active scoring films.
When television did arrive, I got a chance to appear in my first commercial for Post’s Sugar Crisp cereal on the Captain Video and His Video Rangers show, which was broadcast out of New York. This was live TV. We had several run-throughs before the program began. The set of the commercial was designed to look like a typical suburban kitchen, with a bowl of cereal neatly placed on the table in a breakfast nook. The bowl of Sugar Crisps had been sitting on a table with milk in it under the hot studio lights for several hours and, unbeknownst to me, the milk had turned sour. When the commercial started and I took the first bite, I instantly knew what had happened. I had to muster all the strength of my will not to shriek and spit out the sour milk, pretending instead to be glad to be eating this delicious new cereal while saying something corny like, “Gee, Mom, this cereal sure tastes good!”
Gary’s sister Lorna in 1966
Between the ages of eight and eleven, I went with Mom to New York at least one day a week to “make the rounds” of the various advertising agencies and casting directors. She got their names and contact information from publications similar to Variety that were available at the time; she was a good networker. On some of those days, I’d go on auditions, trying out for TV drama parts, commercials, or Broadway shows. I hated having to put on phony smiles or look cute while reciting lines from a script that I had to read cold. Although I fiercely resisted having time taken away from playing baseball—especially Little League, which I was very much into at the time—I see in retrospect how her guidance, tenacity, and persistence were important ingredients that I acquired and applied later during my career. She helped steer the boat of my own life toward later success, while at the same time fulfilling dreams that circumstances didn’t allow her to realize on her own.
Table of Contents
1 The Beginning 5
2 My Path Emerges 34
3 Spooky tooth and London in the Sixties 48
4 I Meet George 70
5 We Become Friends 85
6 Vacations, Reformations, and Frustrations 101
7 Visiting Ravi Shankar 118
8 The Dream Weaver 133
9 Undreamed Success 148
10 The Struggle Begins 161
11 I Return to India 172
12 Headin' Home 181
13 South America 191
14 Struggle, Growth, and then the Light 201
15 Who I am 213
16 Wayne's World and New Horizons 223
17 There Goes the Sun 233
What People are Saying About This
"This book has given me a personal window onto a classic time in music history, as well as an understanding of Gary's life. Dream Weaver is such an inspirational piece of reading from a man who has weathered the journey of being an artist so gracefully."
—Robert DeLeo, Stone Temple Pilots
“From standing in the audience watching Spooky Tooth live to later recording together with George Harrison on ‘All Things Must Pass,’ we had no idea what was to come. In 1976, the year of, “The Dream Weaver” & “Frampton Comes Alive,” we would play together at some of the biggest venues in the world. This book makes me smile as Gary spells it out like it really was. His personal insights are priceless as he takes you inside the bubble, exposing you to his unique experiences both as the person and as the rock star.”
“I worked closely with both Gary Wright and George Harrison during my 25 years as Chairman of the Board at Warner Brothers Records. Dream Weaver reflects the depth of Gary’s musical and spiritual journey as well as his close relationship with George. It’s a great read and an uplifting story that I would highly recommend to all.”
—Mo Ostin, legendary music exec at Verve, Reprise Records, Warner Bros. Records, and DreamWorks
“Gary Wright's true desire transcends material pursuits. His honest story proves that if one lives a truly spiritual life they will reap tremendous rewards. Gary's deeply serious thoughts lie behind an infectious smile and irrepressible sense of humor. His words let us feel the sting of his desire for both worlds.”
“Writing a song that becomes a timeless classic is very rare in the music industry, and sustaining a career over multiple decades is an even greater accomplishment. Gary Wright has achieved both these goals, and his book, appropriately named Dream Weaver, blends his struggle as an artist with his spiritual beliefs that he was introduced to by his lifelong close friend George Harrison. Great stories, rare photos, a new recording of a song that he and George wrote together in the early 70's, this compelling and uplifting book is one you'll want to read.”
—Zach Horowitz, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Publishing
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Knowing quite a bit about George Harrison's life and music being a decades-long Harrison fan, I really looked forward to reading this book about Gary Wright's collaboration and friendship with Harrison. Wright's account of his travels with Harrison to India, Brazil, Portugal, and elsewhere in Europe, and his stories about their friendship, were often riveting to read. Wright's descriptions of Harrison filled in a lot of color on who Harrison was and what made him so special as a songwriter, guitarist, and human being. For that I say to Wright: thank you. But at other times I was left wondering why certain details on Wright's contributions to some of Harrison's work were included and why other obvious details were overlooked or even omitted, which led me to suspect Wright exaggerated his role in places. In particular, without mentioning the contributions of other piano/keyboard players on certain songs Wright describes, the book made it sound like he was the sole piano/keyboard player and that is simply not factually correct. A simple fact-checking of Harrison album liner notes bears this out -- as does accounts of the sessions from interviews with musicians published in other books about Harrison's music. For example, Wright's description of his contributions to Harrison's "All Things Must Pass" album. Wright went into detail on the recording sessions, most notably for "Isn't It A Pity." But it is widely reported that many musicians played on those sessions -- often at the same time -- and in the 2000 reissue of the album Harrison noted there were sometimes two piano players on songs. In fact, Harrison thanked Billy Preston, Gary Brooker, as well as Wright for their piano/keyboard playing on the album. But Wright doesn't mention them at all. Wright also claimed to have played on the studio version of Harrison's single "Bangla Desh," but it has been reported for decades that Leon Russell played piano on the song. What, then, was Wright's contribution? And if Wright played on the song too, why didn't he mention Russell's contribution? Likewise, although Wright described the sessions recording the Harrison albums "Living in the Material World" and "Cloud Nine," he never mentioned the piano/keyboard contributions by Nicky Hopkins and Jeff Lynne/Elton John, respectively, on those albums. I was especially irked Wright didn't mention Hopkins's piano playing on the "Living in the Material World" album because Hopkins's distinctive sound is so prominent throughout the album. [Oddly, though, Wright doesn't describe the other Harrison songs or albums he played on in between "Living in the Material World" and "Cloud Nine," with the exception of "If You Believe," which he co-wrote with Harrison that appeared on the album entitled George Harrison. I guess there wasn't much to say about them.] Beyond Wright's seeming puffery of his role at times and his failing to acknowledge the roles of other musicians, he stated the obvious that he didn't play at The Concert for Bangladesh but Wright didn't say why he wasn't there. (Leon Russell played piano and Billy Preston played organ.) Wright also didn't mention The Concert for George at all. Wright wasn't there, but doesn't say why. Are we to believe Wright had nothing to say about the memorial concert given in honor of his friend George? (Gary Brooker, Jools Holland, Chris Stainton, and Billy Preston played keyboards at the concert.) These points were glaring to me, and that's why I posted this review. Aside from the Harrison-related topics, some of the more interesting reading in the book is on Wright's search for meaning and purpose along with excepts from "Autobiography of a Yogi" and statements made to Wright by his guru. They were quite thought-provoking and inspirational. One last comment: Wright's real claim to fame, the songs "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive," are true period pieces of when they were released and bring me back to that time. Wright predictably spends a lot of time talking about those musical achievements.