Saturday, July 5, 2003
Los Angeles Velvet-voiced R&B; crooner Barry White, whose lush baritone and throbbing musical compositions oozed sex appeal on songs like "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," died Friday. He was 58.
White, who had kidney failure from years of high blood pressure, had been undergoing dialysis and had been hospitalized since a September stroke. He died about 9:30 a.m. at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said his manager, Ned Shankman.
His canyon-deep, butter-smooth vocals emphasized his songs' sexually charged verbal foreplay, like on 1975's "Love Serenade," which began with White purring: "I want you the way you came into the world, I don't want to feel no clothes ..."
The heavyset musician enjoyed three decades of fame for songs like "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me."
Although his popularity peaked with several disco hits in the 1970s, White's music was introduced to a new generation by sample-hungry rappers. He received belated recognition for his work in 2000 when he won his first two Grammys, for best male and traditional R&B; vocal performance for the song "Staying Power."
Don Cornelius, founder of the "Soul Train" TV show, remembered White as "a true master."
"There was no match for Barry White. His music is just going to live forever," Cornelius said. "It's not limited to disco or soul or hip-hop or anything."
Born Sept. 12, 1944, in Galveston, Texas, to a single mother, White and his younger brother, Darryl, spent most of their childhood in south central Los Angeles. He said he had a lifelong love for music. During his early teenage years, he began singing in a Baptist church choir and was quickly promoted to director.
White joined the Upfronts soul group as bass singer and cut six singles. For several years, he stayed away from performing and focused on work behind the scenes as a songwriter and producer.
He married a childhood sweetheart, identified only as Mary in his autobiography, and fathered four children with her before they separated in 1969 and later divorced.
White discovered the female trio Love Unlimited -- which included his future second wife, Glodean -- and produced their million-selling 1972 single "Walkin' in the Rain With the One I Love."
The next year, White returned to performing with the song "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby," which topped the R&B; chart and hit No. 3 on the pop chart.
He is credited by some for helping launch the disco phenomenon with his orchestral "Love's Theme" in 1973, which he conducted with his group, The Love Unlimited Orchestra.
In 1974, his album "Can't Get Enough" climbed to the top of the pop charts on the strength of the signature hits "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" and "You're the First, the Last, My Everything."
After working on more than a dozen albums in the 1970s, his career waned over the next decade as he attempted small comebacks with the albums "The Right Night & Barry White" (1987) and "The Man is Back!" (1989.)
He enjoyed a larger resurgence with the 1994 album "The Icon Is Love." Toward the end of the 1990s, his songs were regularly featured on the Fox comedy series "Ally McBeal."
His single "Staying Power," off a 1999 album of the same name, won White two Grammys and proved he hadn't tamed his libidinous lyrics. "Put on my favorite dress, the one that oozes sexiness," he cooed in the title track's opening lines.
White's survivors include eight children, grandchildren and his companion, Catherine Denton.