Barry White

Born September 12, 1944, in Galveston, Texas, Barry White was raised in Los Angeles. He immersed himself in the local music scene while still very young, and has often been credited with playing piano, at age 11, on Jesse Belvin's 1956 hit single, "Goodnight My Love". However, in a 1995 interview with the Boston Herald, White denied writing or arranging the song. He believed the story was an exaggeration by journalists. He made several records during the early '60s, under his own name, as Barry Lee, and as a member of The Upfronts, The Atlantics and The Majestics. None of the early recordings that Barry made met with much success, and by his early 20s he found himself doing production work for Bob Keene at A&R Records. His label, Keen Records, was enjoying the success of the Bobby Fuller Four's "I Fought The Law" in 1966. White was hired for 40 dollars a week to do A&R work for Keene's other labels, Mustang and Bronco.

One of the first groups he worked with was the Versatiles who later changed their name to The 5th Dimension. White's first big hit however, came from Viola Wills, whose "Lost Without the Love of My Guy" went to the Top 20 on the R&B charts. His salary went up to 60 dollars a week. His next success was with Felice Taylor, who had three huge hits in England, "It May Be Winter Outside", "I'm Under the Influence of Love", and "I Feel Love Coming On". White got another raise, to 400 dollars a week.

When the Bronco label went out of business, White began doing independent production. Then three years later, Paul Politti, who also worked at Bronco, contacted him to tell him that Larry Nunes was interested in teaming up with him. Nunes had started cutting tracks for a concept album he was working on. Meanwhile, White had started working with a girl group who hadn't done any singing professionally. The trio consisted of Diane Taylor, Glodean James (his future wife) and her sister Linda. They rehearsed for almost a year. For their first record, Barry wrote a song called "Walkin' in the Rain (With the One I Love)" with lyrics that were inspired by conversations with Glodean. White christened the group Love Unlimited. Larry Nunes took the tape to Russ Regan, the head of the Uni label owned by MCA, who liked what he heard and signed the group. Led by Glodean's soaring vocals, Love Unlimited's 1972 debut album, "From A Girl's Point Of View, We Give To You", became a million-seller, and the single, "Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love" rose to #14 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Soon after, Russ Regan left Uni for 20th Century Records and Barry White's relationship with Uni soured. Unhappy with the label's management and Love Unlimited contract-bound, White decided he needed to work with another act and joined Rus Regan at 20th Century. There, he made three demos of himself singing and playing the piano. When Nunes heard them, he insisted that Barry re-record and release them as a recording artist. They argued for days about it. White was still hesitating up to the time the label was printed. Barry was going to use the name White Heat, but the record was issued as the first Barry White album. That album was 1973's "I've Got So Much To Give", which lived up to its title and went Gold, and featured the #3 Billboard single, "I'm Gonna Love Ya Just a Little More, Baby".

White negotiated a release from Uni for Love Unlimited and they joined him at 20th Century Records. Using his own success as a springboard, Barry had an idea for a concept album. His lifelong dream had been to write and produce Soul music for a full orchestra. The brass at 20th Century Fox were sceptical. Soul music for an orchestra? After some convincing however, the Love Unlimited Orchestra was a reality. It's debut album, "Rhapsody in White", went Gold on the strength of a #1 Billboard single called "Love's Theme" in early 1974.

For the next five years there was no stopping the Barry White Hit Train. His own, "Barry White Sings Love Songs For The One You Love", "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me", "Playing Your Game Baby", "Let the Music Play", "You See The Trouble With Me", "Just Another Way to Say I Love You", "I'll Do for You, Anything You Want Me To", "Love Serenade", "The Man", "Your Sweetness Is My Weakness", "Sha La La Means I Love You", "September When We Met", a splendid cover of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are", and Love Unlimited "In Heat", "I Belong to You", "Move Me No Mountain", "Share a Little Love in Your Heart", and "Love's Theme", with lyrics. He also scored a soundtrack for the 20th Century Fox film The Together Brothers, enjoying a resurgence on home video.

It was a great run of hits, but by 1980, it came to a sudden halt. Russ Regan and another ally, Hosea Wilson, left 20th Century Records and White was faced with management that he couldn't see eye to eye with. White also left after fulfilling his contract with two more album releases, Love Unlimited Orchestra's "My Musical Bouquet" and his own "I Love to Sing the Songs I Sing". Barry then signed a custom label deal with CBS Records. At the time, it was touted as one of the richest deals ever. He started a label called Unlimited Gold. The roster included White, Love Unlimited, The Love Unlimited Orchestra, Jack Perry, and a teenaged singer named Danny Pearson who charted with a song called "What's Your Sign Girl?" He also did a duet album with his wife Golden called "Barry & Golden". Aside from the Gold album, "The Message Is Love", most of the LPs weren't huge sellers. The Disco era having faded from prominence and a new mixture of Soul and Rap having taken its place, Barry found himself out of touch with the current music scene. After eight Barry White albums, four Love Unlimited albums, four Love Unlimited Orchestra albums, constant touring, and dealing with the rigors of the music industry, White decided to take a break.

After 18 months, Barry signed with A&ME Records in 1992, releasing the albums "The Man Is Back", "The Right Night & Barry White", and "Put Me in Your Mix" (which contains a duet with Isaac Hayes, "Dark and Lovely"). "The Icon Is Love" became his biggest-selling album since the '70s releases, going multi-Platinum. It includes the Platinum single "Practice What You Preach". While some later efforts buried his vocals in whiz-bang electronic effects, on "The Icon Is Love", White's deep baritone voice comes through loud and clear. "Staying Power" followed in 1999, which showcased in the best tradition of Soul music, where the focus is the singer and the song. For this effort, White received recognition at the 2000 Grammys when he won his first two awards for Best Male and Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.

Barry's health began to fail in September, 2002 and he entered Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles to be treated for kidney failure brought on by high blood pressure. During his stay he suffered a stroke and was undergoing dialysis treatment when he passed away on July 4th, 2003. His remains were cremated and the ashes were scattered by his family off the California coast. His last words were, "Leave me alone, I'm fine."

On September 20, 2004, Barry White was posthumously inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in New York. In early February, 2019 Mercury/UM Records announced a massive, seven-CD box set, "Love Unlimited Orchestra: the 20th Century Records Albums (1973-1979)" would be issued on March 29th.

Barry White will be remembered for a career that took him from the ghetto to international success with 106 Gold and 41 Platinum albums, 20 Gold and 10 Platinum singles, with worldwide sales in excess of 100 million.