Barry White died aged fifty-eight from kidney failure and stroke on 4th July 2003 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. His remains were cremated, and the ashes were scattered by his family off the California coast.
Barry White was born Barry Eugene Carter on September 12th 1944 in Galveston, Texas and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. Barry White was the older of two children. His brother Darryl was thirteen months younger than Barry, who grew up listening to his mother's classical music collection and first took to the piano, emulating what he heard on the records.
Barry White has often been credited with playing piano, at age eleven, on Jesse Belvin's 1956 hit single, "Goodnight My Love." However, in a 1995 interview with Larry Katz of the Boston Herald, Barry White denied writing or arranging the song. He believed the story was an exaggeration by journalists. While Barry White and Belvin lived in the same neighborhood, Belvin was 12 years older than Barry White who also stated that he had no involvement with Bob & Earl's 1963 hit single "Harlem Shuffle", a song he is credited with producing and in his 1999 autobiography Barry White confirmed the song had been produced by Gene Page, who had worked with him on many of his 1970's successes.
Barry White's voice deepened suddenly when he was fourteen he recalled. As a child he had a normal squeaky kid voice. Then as a teenager, that completely changed. His mother cried when she knew her baby boy had become a man.
His brother Darryl was murdered in a clash with a rival gang, and Barry White himself was jailed, at the age of sixteen, for stealing thirty thousand dollars worth of Cadillac tyres.
While in jail, Barry White listened to Elvis Presley singing "It's Now or Never" on the radio, an experience he later credited with changing the course of his life.
After his release from jail, Barry White renounced gang life and began a musical career at the beginning of the 1960s in singing groups. He first released "Too Far to Turn Around" in 1960 as part of The Upfronts before working for various small independent labels in Los Angeles. He also recorded several singles under his own name in the early 1960's.
Bob Keane of Del-Fi Records—the man who discovered Ritchie Valens—hired him as an A&R man in the mid 1960s, and Barry White started working with the label's artists, including Viola Wills and The Bobby Fuller Four, as a songwriter, session musician, and arranger. He discovered singer Felice Taylor and arranged her song "I Feel Love Comin' On", co-written with his friend Paul Politi and it became a big hit in the UK. Other charting hits written by Barry White and Politi for her included "It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It's Spring)" and "Under the Influence of Love". Barry White also wrote "Doin' the Banana Split" for TV bubblegum act The Banana Splits in 1968.
In 1972, Barry White got his big break producing a girl group he had discovered called Love Unlimited. Formed in imitative style of the Motown girl group The Supremes, the group members had gradually honed their talents with Barry White for two years previously until they signed contracts with Uni Records. Barry's friend Paul Politi hooked him up with music industry businessman Larry Nunes, who helped to finance their album. After it was recorded, Nunes took the recording to Russ Regan, who was the head of the Uni label owned by MCA. The album, 1972's From A Girl's Point of View We Give to You... Love Unlimited, became a million album seller and the first of Barry White's string of long-titled albums and singles.
Barry White produced, wrote and arranged their classic soul ballad "Walkin' in the Rain with the One I Love", which climbed to number fourteen in the Billboard Hot 100 Pop chart and number six on the Billboard Rythn&Blues chart in late 1972. This single also reached number twelve in the UK chart. Barry White's voice can clearly be heard in this piece as he plays the lover who answers the phone call of the female lead.
Soon after, Regan left Uni for 20th Century Records. Without Regan, Barry White's relationship with Uni soured. With his relationship with Uni over and Love Unlimited contract-bound with the label, Barry White was able to switch both his production deal and the group to 20th Century Records. They recorded several other hits throughout the 1970s, "I Belong to You", which spent over five months on the Billboard Rythn&Blues chart in 1974 including a week at number one and "Under the Influence of Love", which hit number three on the Billboard Pop album charts. White married the lead singer of the group, Glodean James, on July 4th 1974.
Barry White wanted to work with another act but decided to work with a solo male artist. While working on a few demos for a male singer, he made three song demos of himself singing and playing, but Nunes heard them and insisted that he re-record and release them himself as a solo recording artist. After arguing for days about it, Barry White was finally persuaded to release the songs himself although he was initially reluctant to step out in front of the microphone.
Barry then wrote several other songs and recorded them for what eventually became an entire album of music. He was going to use the name "White Heat," but decided on using his given name instead. Barry White was still hesitating up to the time the label copy was made. It eventually became Barry White's first solo album, 1973's 'I've Got So Much to Give'. It included the title track and his first solo chart hit, "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby", which also rose to number one on the Billboard Rythn&Blues charts as well as number three on the Billboard Pop charts in 1973 and stayed in the top forty for many weeks.
Other chart hits by Barry White included "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up", "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe", "You're the First, the Last, My Everything", "What Am I Gonna Do with You", "Let the Music Play", "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" and "Your Sweetness is My Weakness" and others. Barry White also had a strong following in the UK, where he scored five Top ten hits and a number one for "You're the First, the Last, My Everything".
In 1973, Barry White created The Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-piece orchestral group to be used originally as a backing band for the girl-group Love Unlimited. However, Barry White had other plans, and in 1973 he released a single with "Love's Theme",written by him and played by the Orchestra, That same track reached number one on the Billboard Pop charts. Later, in 1974, he made the first album of the Love Unlimited Orchestra, 'Rhapsody in White', containing "Love's Theme". Barry White is sometimes credited with ushering in the "disco" sound, seamlessly combining Rythn&Blues music with classical music. Some also regard "Love's Theme" as the first hit in the actual "disco era".
Barry White would continue to make albums with the Orchestra, achieving some successes such as: "Rhapsody in White"; "Satin Soul"; "Forever in Love"; "Midnight Groove"; "My Sweet Summer Suite", Remake of "Theme From King Kong". The Orchestra ceased to make albums in 1983, but continued to support Barry White as a backing band.
After six years Barry White left 20th Century in 1979 to launch his own label, Unlimited Gold, with CBS/Columbia Records. Although his success on the pop charts slowed down as the disco era came to an end, he maintained a loyal following throughout his career. Despite several albums over the next three years he failed to repeat his earlier successes, with no singles managing to reach the Billboard Hot 100 except for 1982's "Change," climbing into the Billboard Rythn&Blues Top 20. His label venture was exacting a heavy financial cost on Barry White, so he concentrated on mostly touring and finally folded his label in 1983.
After four years he signed with A&M Records, and with the release of 1987's 'The Right Night & Barry White', the single entitled "Sho' You Right" made it to the Billboard Rythn&Blues charts, peaking at number seventeen.
In 1989 Barry released 'The Man Is Back'! and with it had three top 40 singles on the Billboard Rythn&Blues charts: "Super Lover", which made it to number thirty-four, "I Wanna Do It Good to Ya", which made it to number twenty-six, and "When Will I See You Again", which made it to number thirty-two.
A 1970's nostalgia fad allowed Barry White to enjoy a renewed wave of popularity in the 1990s. After participating in the song "The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)" from Quincy Jones's 1989 album 'Back on the Block', Barry White mounted an effective comeback with several albums, each more successful than the last. He returned to the top of the charts in 1991 with the album 'Put Me in Your Mix', which reached number eight on the Billboard Rythn&Blues Albums chart and the song by the same name reached number two on the Billboard Rythn&Blues singles chart.
In 1994, White released 'The Icon Is Love', which went to number one on the Billboard Rythn&Blues album charts, and the single "Practice What You Preach" gave him his first number one on the Billboard Rythn&Blues singles chart in almost twenty years. The album was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Rythn&Blues Album category, but lost to TLC's 'CrazySexyCool'.
In 1996, Barry White recorded the duet "In Your Wildest Dreams" with Tina Turner. 1996 also saw the release of Space Jam and its soundtrack, on which Barry White had a duet with Chris Rock, called "Basketball Jones," a remake of Cheech & Chong's "Basketball Jones" from 1973.
Barry White's final album, 1999's Staying Power, resulted in his last hit song "Staying Power," which placed number forty-five on the Billboard Rythn&Blues charts. The single won him two Grammy Awards in the categories Best Male Rythn&Blues Vocal Performance and Best Traditional Rythn&Blues Vocal Performance.
Over the course of his career, Barry White sometimes did voice over work for television and movies. He voiced the character Bear in the film Coonskin (1975), and also played the character Sampson in the movie's live-action segments.
Barry White appeared as himself in a few episodes of The Simpsons, and most importantly the episode "Whacking Day", in which Bart and Lisa used his famous deep bass singing voice, played through loudspeakers placed on the ground, to lull and attract snakes. Barry White was a fan of the show, and had reportedly contacted the staff about wanting to make a guest appearance.
Barry White played the role of a bus driver for a Prodigy commercial in 1995, and he also portrayed the voice of a rabbit in a Good Seasons salad dressing mix commercial, singing a song called "You Can't Bottle Love".
In addition, he did some work for car commercials, most famously for Oldsmobile, and later on, Jeep. Barry White also provided voice over for Arby's Restaurant commercials on television and radio to promote their Market Fresh menu. Barry White's voice can also be heard in Apple's first iBook commercial.
White made three guest appearances on the comedy drama television series Ally McBeal, as his music was often featured on the show in dream sequences.
Barry White was overweight for most of his adult life and suffered from related health problems. In October 1995, Barry White was admitted to a hospital as a result of high blood pressure. In August 1999, Barry White was forced to cancel approximately a month's worth of tour dates owing to exhaustion, high blood pressure, and a hectic schedule. In September 2002, Barry White was hospitalized with kidney failure attributed to chronic diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure.
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