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Tue, 09.12.1944

Barry White, sophisticated soul singer

Barry White

Barry White was born on this date in 1944. He was an African American singer and composer.

He was born in Galveston, TX and raised in Los Angeles. While still very young, Barry White dove into the California music scene playing piano on Jesse Belvin's hit, "Goodnight My Love," at the age of 11. White also made several records during the early 1960s, under the name "Barry Lee," and as a member of the Upfronts, the Atlantic's, and the Majestics.

Soon he found greater success guiding the careers of others, including Felice Taylor and Viola Wills. In 1969, White put together “Love Unlimited,” a female vocal trio made up of Diane Taylor, Glodean James (his future wife), and her sister Linda.

He also founded the Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-piece group to accompany him and the singing trio. Here he conducted, composed, and arranged. Love Unlimited's success in 1972 with "Walkin' in the Rain with the One I Love." With White's gravelly, passion-soaked voice, this song revitalized his career. At the same time, he had hits with "I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby," "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" (1973), "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe," and "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" (1974).

He established a formula where catchy pop/soul melodies were blended with sweeping arrangements and his husky growl. The style quickly moved to self-parody and the sexual content of the lyrics grew. Although his pop hits lessened towards the end of the 1970s, he remained the idolatry subject of live performances.

White's last major hit was 1977's Top 5 "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me." The following year, he graced the UK Top 20 with a cover version of Billy Joel's "Just The Way You Are." He later had several recordings with Glodean White, with little success before returning to the UK Top 20 in 1987 with "Sho' You Right." In 1992, singer Lisa Stansfield and White re-recorded a version of Stansfield's hit, "All Around The World." At the same time a series of commercially successful albums proved White's status as more than a cult figure.

He enjoyed a larger resurgence with 1994 album “The Icon Is Love,” and his ballad “Practice What You Preach” became his first No. 1 hit in 17 years. Toward the end of the 1990s, his songs were regularly featured on the Fox comedy series “Ally McBeal,” and he made an appearance on the show. White's single, “Staying Power,” off a 1999 album of the same name, won him two Grammys. That same year, White's chronic blood pressure problem forced him to cancel several live performances with the group Earth, Wind & Fire and he was briefly hospitalized.

Barry White died on the July 4, 2003. His survivors include eight children, grandchildren, and his companion Catherine Denton.

Reference:
Heart & Soul:
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books
ISBN 0-8230-8314-4

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