Gary Wright,
Dream Weaver: A Memoir; Music, Meditation & My Friendship with George Harrison
(Penguin, 2014)

Flashback to Feb. 7, 1978. I was an undergraduate at a small college in northwestern Pennsylvania. And we considered it a major feat when we got Gary Wright to perform at our out-of-the-way campus. After all, he was still riding the popularity wave of his two big hits from 1976, "Dream Weaver" and "Love is Alive."

I remember three specific things about this concert: It was the first time I'd ever seen anyone play a portable keyboard like an electric guitar, worn with a strap slung around his neck. Gary was also wearing a colorful outfit of some kind, as befit our 1970s fashion sense. And as soon as he launched into "Dream Weaver," a light fog began to billow out from the stage and to descend upon the audience. This was high-tech stuff for us. We loved it. I look back and think that nothing could have illustrated that part of the non-disco '70s better than our experience on that winter night in Clarion.

Well, we're all older now. And whenever I happen to hear "Dream Weaver" or "Love is Alive" on classic hits radio, I think of that night. And I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Gary Wright. Where had he come from? Where had he gone? What has he been doing lately? Fortunately, with this memoir, he answers these questions and adds many more stories to the tale.

Wright seemed to just pop onto the scene and into our lives in the mid-1970s. But the truth is that he'd been deeply into the music business for years by then, working behind the scenes as an in-demand studio musician and songwriter, based most often in London or in Europe. He also performed and recorded albums with his own group, Spooky Tooth. And it turns out that we'd been hearing him all along without knowing it: on Harry Nilsson's single "Without You," on Ringo Starr's "It Don't Come Easy," on George Harrison's album, All Things Must Pass, and on a variety of other recordings. He was a busy guy.

At the same time, Wright was exploring spiritual options to fill the void that his Catholic upbringing had left with him. His interest in Eastern philosophies -- and especially in the Self-Realization Fellowship of Paramahansa Yogananda, and his book, Autobiography of a Yogi -- helped to reinforce further Wright's friendship with George Harrison. The former Beatle was already following Indian philosophies and lifestyles, like the Krishna Consciousness Movement. He was happy to help Wright explore these kinds of teachings and practices. The two began to hang out, both personally and professionally. They even made a pilgrimage to India together.

It was a natural progression, then, that his musical and philosophical paths would join together when Wright recorded his first solo album, The Dream Weaver, in early 1975. And that's when things really began to happen. "Dream Weaver" and "Love is Alive" quickly became chart hits, and Wright became famous. Wright outlines the before, during and after of the process. Which eventually leads us up to today and to the Rest of the Story. And just two months after I saw him in concert, Wright was off to India again. Who knew?

Maybe Wright (or his publisher, or his editor) felt that this book would grab more readers if George Harrison's name was mentioned in the title. While this may be true, his life story is worthwhile on its own. The behind-the-scenes telling is as enlightening to the times and to our favorite music genre as any of the other rock musician autobiographies that have been published in recent years. An added benefit here is the absence of trash-talking, dirt-dishing and foul language. Some readers may say this is a sanitized view of the scene. Others will find it delightfully refreshing.

Anyone who was of music-listening age in the 1960s and '70s will probably enjoy reading Wright's version of what was happening to him back then. And yes, every Harrison fan should read this book, too.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Corinne H. Smith

3 February 2018

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