WORLD-OBITS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORLD-OBITS > 2006-08 > 1156767439
From: "Peter_McCrae" <>
Subject: WHITE: Barry Eugene White--2003>USA
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2006 13:17:19 +0100
Barry White, who died in Los Angeles on Friday aged 58, had one of the most
distinctive voices - and girths - in soul music.
A mountain of a man, White reigned over the disco boom of the 1970s in a
fabulous range of satin suits and gold chains. His voice, a sensual
bass-baritone purr, was best likened to rich, dark chocolate fudge cake,
with a generous helping of whipped cream on top.
Barry White: the
'Walrus of Love'
White's lush and overblown dance hits came from a tradition established by
such soul singers as Isaac Hayes and Marvin Gaye, with compositions lasting
as long as eight minutes and extended introductions building up to an
For his many fans White became a kind of soul music agony aunt. "What Barry
White is," he said, "is a man who understands men and women and isn't afraid
to say things that many men won't talk about, yet so many women want to
His music functioned as an aural soundtrack to what he called "the most
sacred act". His lyrics, spoken at near subsonic pitch and invariably
celebrating "luurrve", easily earned him such sobriquets as the Love God of
Soul, and the Bard - or Buddha - of the Boudoir.
Lines such as "Take off that brassiere, my dear/Don't wear no panties",
growled over a pulsating bass-line and the swirling strings of the 40-piece
Love Unlimited Orchestra, were reported to have sent thousands of couples
racing to their bedrooms.
So effective were they in this respect that White's name came up in a Senate
report on the American birth-rate boom of the mid-1970s. The resulting
"Barry Babies" would be presented to White at his live performances, held
aloft to the "Walrus of Love" by parents coyly anxious to explain to the
17-stone singer the connection between his music and their children's
At the height of White's success in the mid-1970s records such as You're My
First, My Last, My Everything and Never, Never Gonna Give You Up sold
millions all over the world; and though his sales dipped in the 1980s, he
remained an idol to many, able to the end, with his live shows, to turn
hordes of grown women into quivering wrecks.
Barry Eugene White was born at Galveston, Texas, on September 12 1944. His
parents never married and Barry seldom saw his father, who already had a
wife and children. He and his brother were brought up by their mother in an
impoverished ghetto in East Los Angeles, near Watts, the flashpoint for the
riots of the 1960s.
At the local high school he was strongly influenced by his mother, who was a
music teacher and pianist. From the age of three he heard classical music
played on the gramophone, and when he was five his mother bought the family
a piano. "I woke up one day and there she was, playing the Moonlight
Sonata," he recalled. "It captured me baby. I was blown away. I knew then,
in my soul, that I had to learn to play."
He began to practise for four hours a day; he was a lead voice in the choir
of the local Baptist church at eight, and by the age of 12 was directing and
playing for the local senior choir. When he was 14, his voice did not so
much break, he recalled, as shatter. "I woke up one morning to speak to my
mother and my chest vibrated so strong it scared the hell out of me. We
looked at each other, son to mother. She said, 'My son, you are a man
Young Barry already had a parallel life on the street. Big for his age and
always a very good fighter, he became involved with warring street gangs,
fighting, stealing and performing stick-ups. He admitted to "80 or 90"
burglaries, though all were typified by his individual taste: "All I stole
out of your house was your record collection - all I took was LPs, I never
bothered with singles . . . I had the baddest collection."
Sent to the Reese school, a centre for incorrigible youth, he spent his 17th
birthday in jail for stealing a truckload of tyres, at which point he
decided music would be his way out.
White joined the Upfronts, a Los Angeles rhythm and blues group, and
recorded for Lummtone Records, though without success. By the time he was 19
he had settled down and was married, to a schoolfriend, Mary, with two
During the mid-1960s he played as a session man on many small label
releases, performed solo in Los Angeles clubs and worked as a drummer and
road manager. In 1967 he began to work in A & R for Mustang Records, writing
and producing for the singer Felice Taylor, whose song I Feel Love Comin' On
reached No 11 in Britain that year.
But it was not until he discovered the trio Love Unlimited the next year
that things began to move. Love Unlimited consisted of Diane Taylor and
sisters Glodean and Linda James; Glodean later became White's second wife.
Using the knowledge he had gained while working as an A & R man, White
became the trio's manager and producer, signed them to UNI Records, and in
1972 wrote and produced their single Walkin' In The Rain With The One I
The single sold a million copies, reached No 1 in America and No 11 in
Britain, and, in a typical flourish, featured a lascivious White voice-over
during a "telephone break" halfway through the song.
In 1973 he released his first solo LP, I've Got So Much To Give. The album
established his style of deep, intimate vocals in lush orchestral settings,
and spawned a single, I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby, which
reached No 3 in America and earned a gold disc for a million sales.
From this point on White enjoyed an increasingly secure position as the king
of karma sutra disco. His second LP, Stone Gon' (1974), included the classic
Never, Never Gonna Give You Up and the eight-minute instrumental Love Theme,
played by the Love Unlimited Orchestra, which went to No 1 in America.
The same year his Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Babe was his third
million-selling single, while the album Can't Get Enough became his
biggest-selling LP. It featured the single You're The First, The Last, My
Everything, which topped the British charts for two weeks.
More albums followed in rapid succession, a Greatest Hits compilation among
them. In 1975 Love Unlimited had their last major hit with I Belong To You.
As the disco boom palled towards the end of the 1970s White's profile
dropped somewhat - though he had a British hit in 1979 with a cover of Billy
Joel's Just The Way You Are - and for five years from 1982 he stopped
In 1987, after re-equipping his studio at his home in Sherman Oaks, Los
Angeles, he released The Right Night and Barry White, which performed
But the individual and unchanging nature of his sound and image ensured a
loyal fan base, and when in the 1990s many cultural icons of two decades
earlier came to be rejuvenated, White enjoyed renewed success.
His album The Icon Is Love (1994) sold more than a million copies in America
and was placed No 1 in the R & B charts. Meanwhile, his image as a heroic,
romantic joke was reinforced by cameo roles on Ally McBeal, serenading a
gathering of lawyers, and on The Simpsons, where he sang I Can't Get Enough
of Your Love Babe to a horde of snakes.
In 1999 he published his autobiography Love Unlimited, and the next year he
won his first two Grammys for the song Staying Power (I'm not going nowhere
baby. I'm staying. You know why - I've got staying power).
But this proved not to be the case in his own married life. His first
marriage was dissolved and he was separated, though not divorced, from his
second wife. "You have to move with your soul," he explained. He had two
sons and four daughters from his marriages and recently another daughter,
Barriana, with his girlfriend Catherine Denton.
|WHITE: Barry Eugene White--2003>USA by "Peter_McCrae" <>|