The Original R&B Loverman: Barry White

The soul singer who brought romance right into the bedroom

Barry White in the 70s
Barry White in the 70s.

Who was Barry White?

Though he didn't necessarily look the part, Barry White invented the loverman soul persona associated with '70s R&B, unleashing a spate of pop and R&B hits that matched the lush romanticism of Philly Soul with the hard and sexual underpinning of pure funk. His deep growl became the ideal of Seventies soul seduction.

Barry White's best-known songs:

  • "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe"
  • "Love's Theme" (with the Love Unlimited Orchestra)
  • "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby"
  • "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up"
  • "You're the First, the Last, My Everything"
  • "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me"
  • "I've Got So Much to Give"
  • "What Am I Gonna Do With You"
  • "Let the Music Play"
  • "Oh What a Night for Dancing"

Where you might have heard him Barry's hits are almost always a signal that some character in a TV show or movie is in the process of seducing someone or something: luring snakes in the classic "Simpsons" episode "Whacking Day" with the track "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Baby," or Willow seducing Oz in an episode of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," or Denise Richards flipping her hair in an episode of "Friends" to the tune of "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby."

Born: Barry Eugene Carter, September 12, 1944, Galveston, TX; d. July 4, 2003, West Hollywood, CA

Styles R&B, Soul, Disco, Urban contemporary, Pop

Instruments Vocals, Keyboards, Arranging

Claims to fame:

  • Created a smooth yet seductive brand of R&B that ruled the charts in the Seventies
  • Established a basso profundo lover-man persona that defines the genre
  • Created the Love Unlimited Orchestra, the greatest orchestral effort in R&B history
  • Helped presage disco with his orchestral arrangements and driving beats
  • A crucial element in the development of modern R&B
  • Sampled and cited as an influence by many early hip-hop pioneers

History of Barry White

Early years

Barry became interested in music at a very early age when he harmonized with his mother on "Silent Night," and he learned quickly --- by 11, he had his first recording session, playing piano on Jesse Belvin's R&B hit "Goodnight My Love." Immersing himself in every aspect of the business, White soon made a name for himself producing, writing, and mainly doing A&R work for various labels. It wasn't until 1972, when White wrote and produced the hit "Walkin' In The Rain With The One I Love" for Love Unlimited, a trio he'd met at Motown in the late Eighties (and whose lead, Glodean James, would later become his wife).

Success

The Barry White sound, honed by years of production, had finally arrived, but one ingredient was missing -- Barry. Unhappy with the group's contract with the Uni label, he left for 20th Century and started looking for a male vocalist to sing a number of demos he'd written. Several people insisted he sing them, but Larry Nunes at Uni finally convinced him, at the last minute, to release the 1973 album I've Got So Much To Give as his own.

That album and its leadoff single "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" were worldwide smash hits, as was the instrumental "Love's Theme" (done as the Love Unlimited Orchestra).

Later years

The Seventies were phenomenally successful for Barry, and even when disco died and R&B changed in the Eighties, he never really went away, engineering several small comebacks and keeping his name in the public eye. His biggest resurgence came after the TV show Ally McBeal used several of his songs; that and his continuing influence on the R&B and hip-hop communities led to a second career that was still going when White suffered a stroke in 2003. Beset by chronic health problems including hypertension, high blood pressure and renal failure, White passed away on September 20, 2004.

More About Barry White

Other Barry White facts and trivia:

  • Known as "The Walrus Of Love," though he resented the title
  • Ran with a Los Angeles gang at the age of ten and was jailed for four months at 17
  • Voice dropped into its famous lower register, overnight, at fourteen
  • Arranged Bob and Earl's 1963 hit "Harlem Shuffle"
  • Lee Ritenour and Kenny G were both members of White's Love Unlimited Orchestra
  • Originally offered the recurring role of "Chef" on TV's South Park
  • Marine biologists have used White's music to encourage sharks to reproduce

Barry White awards and honors GRAMMY Awards (1999), Dance Music Hall of Fame (2004)

Hit Barry White songs and albums:

#1 hits
Pop "Love's Theme" with the Love Unlimited Orchestra (1974), "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" (1974)

R&B "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" (1974), "You're The First, The Last, My Everything" (1975), "What Am I Gonna Do With You" (1975), "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" (1977), "Practice What You Preach" (1994)

Top 10 hits
Pop "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby" (1973), "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" (1974), "What Am I Gonna Do With You" (1975), "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" (1975), "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me" (1977)

R&B "I've Got So Much to Give" (1973), "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" (1974), "Love's Theme" with the Love Unlimited Orchestra(1974), "I'll Do for You Anything You Want Me To" (1975), "Let the Music Play" (1976), "Playing Your Game, Baby" (1978), "Your Sweetness Is My Weakness" (1978), "Put Me in Your Mix" (1991)

#1 albums
Pop Can't Get Enough (1974)

R&B: I've Got So Much to Give (1973), Can't Get Enough (1974), Stone Gon' (1974), Just Another Way to Say I Love You (1975), Barry White Sings for Someone You Love (1977), Barry White the Man (1978), The Icon Is Love (1994)

Top 10 albums
Pop Barry White Sings for Someone You Love (1977)

R&B Under the Influence Of... with the Love Unlimited Orchestra (1974), White Gold with the Love Unlimited Orchestra (1975), Let the Music Play (1976), Put Me in Your Mix (1991)

Notable covers Dance diva Taylor Dayne had a minor hit with her cover of "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," while Lisa Stansfield had better luck with her hit version of "Never, Never Gonna Give You Up (which also led to an acclaimed cover by Cake). His work has been sampled extensively in hip-hop, most notably "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More," which was featured in Tone Loc's "Cuttin' Rhythms" and De La Soul's "De La Orgee"

Movies and TV Barry did some voiceover work in the controversial animated blaxploitation film Coonskin (1975); he also guest-starred in a 3-episode story arc of FOX-TV's "Ally McBeal"