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TRIBUTE: Gary Wright

The American musician and composer Gary Wright, who passed away yesterday at the age of 80 after a long battle with his health, will forever hold a most unique place in my own music memories, for it was he with his band Wonderwheel who were the first band that I saw live in concert. They opened for Yes at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow in September 1972.

By that time Gary Wright had already spent three years with the hugely talented but sadly underrated Anglo-American band Spooky Tooth where he played Hammond organ and shared lead vocal duties. Those of a similar vintage to me will recall Spooky Tooth from their significant contributions to a couple of early Island Records samplers (a reduced-price compilation album), You Can All Join In and Nice Enough To Eat. These albums featured respectively‘Sunshine Help Me’ and ‘Better By You, Better Than Me’, both Wright originals and showcasing his expressive songwriting abilities and rich soulful voice. 

Gary Wright was to play on all of George Harrison’s solo albums, including the ex-Beatles’ masterpiece, 1970’s All Things Must Pass, and also collaborated with many other notable musicians including another former Beatle, Ringo Starr, Nilsson, and B.B. King. Wright’s solo musical career, however, was really to take off with the singles ‘Dream Weaver’ and ‘Love Is Alive’ (the former sold over 1 million copies in the US alone), both taken from his debut solo album The Dream Weaver which was released in 1975.

Gary Wright’s career never reached these commercial heights again and in the following decades he largely concentrated on instrumental and soundtrack work, though he did make a surprise appearance in the 1992 film Wayne’s World, where he sang a re-recorded version of ‘Dream Weaver’. But he will always retain a place in my heart as being the first act I saw at my first-ever gig.

Photo of Gary Wright’s 1972 compilation album, That Was Only Yesterday: Simon Godley

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.