Born September 12, 1944, in Galveston, TX (one source says Los Angeles, CA), raised in Los Angeles; died of kidney failure, July 4, 2003, in Los Angeles, California; married Glodean James (a singer), July 4, 1974; children: Kevin, Bridgett, Barry, Jr. Sang in Galveston church choir at age eight; became church organist and part-time choir director at ten; professional debut at age 11 playing piano on Jesse Belvin's recording of "Goodnight My Love"; joined Los Angeles rhythm and blues band the Upfronts as singer/pianist at 16; worked as arranger for Rampart Records under name Lee Barry and as road manager for Bob and Earl; songwriter and producer for Mustang/Bronco Records, beginning 1966; producer for Love Unlimited singing trio, beginning 1972; signed recording contract with Twentieth Century-Fox, 1973; conductor, composer, and arranger for Love Unlimited Orchestra, beginning 1973; founded recording company, Unlimited Gold, 1979; other business interests include Sa-Vette Music, Soul Unlimited, and Barry White, Inc. Addresses: Record company-- A&M Records Inc., 1416 North La Brea Ave., Hollywood, CA 90028. record producer.
During the mid-1970s singer/songwriter Barry White was the undisputed maestro of sensual soul music. Growling seductive lyrics in a deep, husky voice backed by lush orchestration, White produced a string of hit songs during the decade, with titles such as "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More, Baby," "I'll Do Anything You Want Me To," and "I'm Qualified to Satisfy." His repetitive melodies and danceable rhythms were major influences on the disco music that emerged later in the decade; with his 41-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra he produced the prognostic disco hit "Love's Theme" in 1973. The multifaceted White frequently wrote, arranged, and produced for other performers as well as himself; by the time his popularity as a singer had waned in the late seventies, his musical talents had earned him more than one hundred million dollars in worldwide record sales. "Before Teddy Pendergrass's snarl, Luther Vandross's arpeggios and Michael Jackson's hiccups, there was Barry White's deep, smooth moan," High Fidelity writer Havelock Nelson recalled. "He promised his baby virtually everything," Dave Marsh remarked in the New Rolling Stone Record Guide, "in a way still acceptable to the FCC."
White grew up in poverty and, like many poor black performers, got his musical start at a local church. At eight he began singing in the choir and two years later he played the organ and assisted the choir director. By the time he was 16 White had joined a rhythm and blues band, the Upfronts, as a singer and pianist performing in small clubs in the Los Angeles area. He next joined Rampart Records and started composing and producing. During this time he met performers Bob and Earl and wrote their 1963 hit "The Harlem Shuffle." In 1966 White became head of A & R (artists and repertoire) for Mustang/Bronco Records, where he wrote, produced, and unsuccessfully recorded as a solo vocalist. While there he met three female singers--Diane Taylor, Linda James, and Glodean James. Naming them Love Unlimited, he produced their first single, "Walkin' in the Rain with the One I Love" which turned gold. In 1973 White and his female associates signed recording contracts with Twentieth Century-Fox Records. His initial release, "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little Bit More, Baby," topped the charts, the first in a succession of million-selling singles and albums which included "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up," "You're My First, My Last, My Everything," Can't Get Enough, and Just Another to Say I Love You. White's easy-listening soul appealed to both pop and rhythm and blues audiences and was described as "sophistisoul." In 1973 White formed the Love Unlimited Orchestra to accompany him on his concert tours. The performer and his entourage left Twentieth Century-Fox when he founded his own recording company, Unlimited Gold, in 1979.
Although White's appeal declined in the 1980s, he continued to compose, produce, and perform. His 1982 album Chance sold particularly well. Marsh quipped that the singer's "corpulent frame" and "cluster of huge rings" sabotaged his reign as "a black matinee idol." In a 1990 Jet interview White deemed many current love songs "blatant and ... vulgar." "Making love is one thing," he related, "having sex is another ... I've always advocated loving, sharing, giving, understanding, making love, making time for each other, making time to communicate, stimulate." While critics have noted more uptempo tunes and less heavy orchestration in later White albums, a People critic wrote in a review of Change that "the product seems to be the same basic White bread: a little change, and a lot of status quo." Still, in his High Fidelity critique of the 1988 album The Right Night and Barry White, Nelson concluded: "During any quiet storm, underneath White satin is still a pretty good place to be."
by Nancy Pear
Barry White's Career
Barry White's Awards
20 gold singles and 103 gold albums; 10 platinum singles and 38 platinum albums.
- Selective Works
- Compositions Has written numerous songs, including "The Harlem Shuffle," recorded by Bob and Earl and The Rolling Stones; "I Feel Love Coming On," recorded by Felice Taylor; and the instrumental "Love's Theme," recorded by the Love Unlimited Orchestra.
- I've Got So Much to Give, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1973.
- Stone Gon', Twentieth Century-Fox, 1973.
- Rhapsody in White, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1974.
- Can't Get Enough, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1974.
- Just Another to Say I Love You, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975.
- Barry White's Greatest Hits, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1975.
- Let the Music Play, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1976.
- Is This Whatcha Want?, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1976.
- Barry White Sings for Someone You Love, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1977.
- The Man, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1978.
- The Message Is Love, Unlimited Gold, 1979.
- I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1979.
- Sheet Music, Unlimited Gold, 1980.
- Best of Our Love, Unlimited Gold, 1981.
- Beware, Unlimited Gold, 1981.
- Barry White's Greatest Hits, volume 2, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1981.
- Change, Unlimited Gold, 1982.
- Dedicated, 1983.
- The Right Night, A&M, 1987.
- The Man Is Back, A&M, 1989.
- Put Me in Your Mix, A&M, 1991.
- Also contributed to Quincy Jones's Grammy Award-winning "The Secret Garden (The Seduction Suite)" from the album Back on the Block, and to rapper Big Daddy Kane's "All of Me Wants All of You," 1990.
July 4, 2003: White dies on July 4, 2003, in Los Angeles, California, of kidney failure, a mild stroke, and ongoing low-grade infections. He was 58. Source: CNN.com, www.cnn.com, July 7, 2003; New York Times, July 5, 2003, p. A13.
- The Encyclopedia of Rock, edited by Phil Hardy and Dave Laing, Schirmer Books, 1988.
- The New Rolling Stone Record Guide, edited by Dave Marsh and John Swenson, Random House, 1983.
- The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock and Roll, edited by Jon Pareles and Patricia Romanowski, Summit Books, 1983.
- Daily News (New York), May 20, 1990.
- Ebony, March 1990.
- Elle, December 1989.
- High Fidelity, March 1988.
- Jet, July 9, 1990.
- Newspaper, June 7, 1990.
- People, August 18, 1980; October 4, 1982; September 26, 1983.
- Washington Times, June 21, 1990.