Monday, November 17, 2014

Barry White, The #53 Artist of the Seventies*

This soul giant was born in Texas, but grew up in Los Angeles.  He listened to his mother's classical music collection, then sat down at the piano to play what he heard.  Barry fell in with the wrong crowd, and was incarcerated when he and his gang stole $30,000 worth of tires.  It was during this time in jail that White listened to Elvis Presley's song "It's Now Or Never", an experience that Barry later cites as changing his life.

Imagine what his life would have been had he not cast aside his so-called friends and turned himself around.  And how deprived the world would have been without his amazing talent.

After he was released from jail, White began his music career by singing in groups, including the Upfronts ("Too Far To Turn Around").  Barry also worked for several small record labels, and recorded several solo singles in the early 1960's.

White earned a job as an A&R man a few years later, writing songs, arranging, and working as a session musician for artists such as the Bobby Fuller Four and Bob & Earl.  In 1972, Barry discovered the female group Love Unlimited, and helped to get their debut album recorded.  White wrote, arranged, and produced the group's single "Walking In The Rain With The One I Love" (on which he also sang backing vocals), a #14 hit.

White and the group both switched to 20th Century Records, and Love Unlimited enjoyed further hits with "I Belong To You" and "Under The Influence Of Love".  White created the 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra as a backing band for the group.  Barry married the lead singer of the group, Glodean James, in 1974.

White recorded some demos of a song he was working with for another artist, but he was encouraged by management at 20th Century to record the songs himself.  This resulted in Barry's debut album, I've Got So Much to Give, in 1973.  Upon hearing the single "I'm Gonna' Love You Just A Little More Baby", fans were enticed, wondering who this new deep voice on their radio was.  The song rose to #1 on the R&B chart and #3 overall. 

The album went Gold, the first of four consecutive White albums to achieve that feat.  The title song was a #5 R&B hit.  Later in the year, Barry released the album Stone Gon', which contained another smash hit, "Never, Never Gonna' Give Ya Up".  It went to #2 R&B and #7 overall in the U.S., #5 in Belgium, and #9 in the Netherlands.

In 1974, White released the album of his career, Can't Get Enough, which landed him a #1 album.  The single "Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe" earned Barry a #1 multi-format hit in the United States that also reached #5 in Canada and #8 in the U.K.

White's follow-up "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" hit #1 in the U.K. and #2 in the United States (#1 R&B).

Meanwhile, the Love Unlimited Orchestra, under the direction of White, recorded Barry's beautiful "Love's Theme" in 1974, which became a #1 smash and is one of The Top 100 Instrumentals of the Rock Era*.

Barry was red-hot during this period, and scored another big hit with "What Am I Gonna' Do With You" in 1975 from his album Just Another Way To Say I Love You.  The song reached #5 in the U.K. and #8 in the United States.  The #1 R&B hit gave White nine consecutive Top 10's in that genre.

White released his Greatest Hits album in 1975, and it has now gone over the one-million mark in sales.

White registered R&B hits including "I'll Do For You Anything You Want Me To" and "Let The Music Play", but his next big success came with the album Barry White Sings for Someone You Love.  The single "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me" soared to #1 R&B and #4 on the Popular chart in 1977.

Barry continued to score hit after hit on the R&B chart, but it was the last Top 10 song he would enjoy.  White, overweight most of his adult life, suffered a stroke in May of 2003 and died two months later.

In 2013, Barry was  posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

White accumulated 13 hits in the Seventies, with six great Top 10 songs and one #1.  He sold 12 million albums in the decade.

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