Inside Gary Wright's Friendship With Beatle George Harrison

Together and apart, the four Beatles managed to touch so many of their contemporaries in the rock world. Often, it was by indirect influence — their music either inspired their peers or sparked a (mostly) good-natured antagonism. But for Gary Wright, who passed away on September 4, 2023 after years of living with Parkinson's disease and Lewy body dementia, the influence of a former Beatle was direct and extended outside the field of music. Besides his solo work on hits like "Dream Weaver," Wright was noted for his collaboration and friendship with ex-Beatle George Harrison.

In his book "Dream Weaver: A Memoir; Music, Meditation, and My Friendship with George Harrison," Wright recalled that it was bassist Klaus Voormann who first introduced him to Harrison in 1970. It wasn't a social arrangement — Harrison was recording with Voormann, and they needed a keyboard player. Wright was surprised to be considered, as he had been out of touch with Voormann for almost a year and had never met Harrison. But being a fan of the Beatles and of Harrison's "Within You Without You," he jumped at the chance.

Wright found the ex-Beatle a kind and admirable leader in the recording sessions. He was patient with Wright through the learning curve of a new song and, at the end of the day, asked him back for more. Wright's keyboards are featured throughout the album "All Things Must Pass," and that was only the beginning of his and Harrison's time together.

Wright considered Harrison to be his mentor

Besides music, Gary Wright and George Harrison shared an interest in Eastern philosophy and religion. It was part of their relationship almost from the beginning. "Eastern philosophy teaches that we frequently are drawn into circumstances where we will meet our close friends from previous lives so that the relationship can progress," Wright wrote in "Dream Weaver: A Memoir." He believed that souls who became the students to mentor-souls would encounter their gurus over many lifetimes before achieving enlightenment. Wright felt intuitively drawn to Harrison and came to believe that they had known one another in past lives, and that he was meant to reconnect with the Beatle as part of his spiritual journey.

Harrison, a devoted convert to Hinduism, seemed to pick up on his new friend's feelings. Wright told WROR that not long after their first meeting, Harrison began furnishing him books on Indian philosophy and religion. "That was kind of the genesis of our friendship, how it started" said Wright. "He was my mentor," he added shortly after. The two eventually traveled to India together. Harrison's influence led Wright to Paramahansa Yogananda, who became his guru, and in an interview with The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Wright said that he considered himself a yogi. 

Harrison was part of the inspiration for 'Dream Weaver'

Per Simon Leng's "While My Guitar Sleeps: The Music of George Harrison," Gary Wright's professional association with George Harrison began soon after Wright had parted company with Spooky Tooth, the band he had founded. He was releasing solo albums when he began recording with Harrison, and their 1972 trip to India helped lead into Harrison's next album, "Living in the Material World." But it also helped spark Wright's most famous song.

On a since-removed blurb written for his personal website (via American Songwriter), Wright said that Harrison gave him a copy of Paramahansa Yogananda's memoir to read before the trip. In the book was a poem, "God! God! God!," with a line about the mind's weaving of dreams. The phrase "dream weaver" passed in and out of Wright's mind quickly, but he made sure to write it down, and several months later, he picked it as a title for a new song. "The song was finished in an hour," he wrote. "The lyrics and music seemed to have flowed out of me as if written by an unseen source."

Initially unsure of what the song meant, Wright eventually decided that "Dream Weaver" was about God carrying humanity through its troubles. It remained his biggest hit throughout his career. It even influenced his mentor — the song's use of synthesizers guided Harrison's arrangement of his song "See Yourself."

Wright sat on a song they wrote together until after Harrison's death

Gary Wright became a regular musical collaborator of George Harrison's. He played on Harrison's albums, and Harrison lent his support to Wright's own efforts. Per Wright's "Dream Weaver: A Memoir," Harrison produced Wright's first single under a pseudonym. Through Harrison, Wright also met ex-Beatle Ringo Starr, whom he toured with in his later years (per Pop Dose).

Wright's last face-to-face meeting with Harrison was in Switzerland in 2001 (per "Dream Weaver"), and Wright walked away with the feeling that they would never meet again "in this incarnation." That November 29, he received word of Harrison's death while recording in Florida. Almost at once, Wright wanted to find a way to pay tribute to his friend and mentor.

He turned to the song "To Discover Yourself," which he and Harrison wrote together in London in 1971 according to Smashing Interviews. "I just put it aside and I thought, 'Well, one day I'll record this,'" said Wright. But he never did, not until the very day that Harrison passed. That recording became a CD bonus track, but Wright later re-recorded it with several musicians' help, including one Ringo Starr.