Barry White

  • Singer and songwriter born Barry Carter in 1944 in Galveston Texas. He grew up in Los Angeles. He died in 2003 – he was a diabetic, and he suffered a stroke while undergoing dialysis. White was his father’s last name, and eventually he used it as his given name.
  • He listened to his mother’s classical music collection as a child, and he learned to play the piano when he was 5 years old. At 14, his voice suddenly became very deep – this deep baritone ultimately became his distinctive sound. When he was 16, he was sentenced to jail for stealing car tires, and while there he heard Elvis Presley singing It’s Now Or Never on the radio. He credited this for giving him the resolve to change his life.
  • In 1960, after his release from jail, he joined a vocal group, The Upfronts. His first release as part of the group was Too Far To Turn Around. He started working for small independent record companies in Los Angeles, and in the mid 60s, he was hired by Del-Fi Records to search for talent. He began working with artists signed by the label, writing songs and working as a session musician, with several of the songs he wrote making the Billboard charts.
  • In 1970, he discovered a female vocal trio called Love Unlimited. He worked with the group to hone their style, which was similar to The Supremes. In 1972, they made an album, with White as producer, and the album – From A Girl’s Point Of View, We Give You …Love Unlimited – was picked up by a record label and released. The album produced a hit, Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love, which was written by White. It became the first song that he wrote and produced to sell over 1 million copies. From 1973 to 1979, the group would release 4 more albums, and 1 song – I Belong To You – reached #1 on the R&B chart in 1974.
  • The man with the amazing voice had yet to try to become a solo artist. He was hesitant to be in front of a microphone, and in 1972 he had several songs planned for another male artist. On the demo, he sang on 3 of the songs, and his music industry friend insisted that he re-record the songs with himself as solo artist. Eventually, he wrote and recorded enough songs to make an album. In 1973, he released his debut solo album, I’ve Got So Much To Give. It was a success, reaching #1 on the R&B album chart and #16 on the Billboard 200 album chart. The single I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby reached #3 on the Hot 100 chart, his first big hit.
  • In 1973, he formed a 40 piece orchestra called The Love Unlimited Orchestra. They became the backing group for Love Unlimited, as well as for White’s solo work. The Orchestra released several instrumental songs, and their debut release, Love’s Theme, reached #1 on the Hot 100 – one of the few instrumentals to top the chart in its history. It’s considered by many to be the first disco hit.
  • He was prolific in the 70s, releasing a total of 10 solo studio albums, with 1974’s Can’t Get Enough topping the album chart. The album had 2 mega hits – Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe was #1 on the Hot 100 chart, and You’re The First, The Last, My Everything reaching #2. The album makes Rolling Stone’s list of the Greatest Albums of All Time, at #283. He had 5 songs during the 70s that reached #1 on the R&B chart, with It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me also reaching #4 on the Hot 100 chart in 1977. By this time, he was well established with his signature funky disco sound – he was one of the earliest disco artists. His voice was captivating, and his songs were all about love and seduction. He was called Dr. Love, The Prince of Pillow Talk, The Walrus of Love, and The King of Disco.
  • As the 80s began, disco was on the way out. White realized it, and his music leaned more towards R&B and soul as the decade unfolded. He released 7 albums during the 80s, which did not sell well except to his core fans. In the 90s, there was a resurgence of interest in White. His 1994 album The Icon Is Love reached #1 on the R&B album chart, and became his biggest selling album, certified 2x platinum. Two singles were hits – Put Me In Your Mix reached #2 on the R&B singles chart in 1991 and Practice What You Preach hit #1 in 1994. His final studio album, Staying Power, was released in 1999.  The title track won 2 Grammy awards for White.
  • Barry White’s sales of over 100 million records world wide puts him in the list of the most successful artists ever. I loved his deep voice, and his style just oozed sensuality. Watch him in this clip from 1974 of Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe on The Midnight Special.

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