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White, Barry (12th September 1944-4th July 2003)

He is a singer-songwriter, composer, pianist, voice artist and actor born Barry Eugene Carter In Galveston, Texas to a family where he had an older brother and was given his mother’s last name of Carter as she and his father were never married.  He later took his father’s last name of White which he used throughout his professional career.

He grew up listening to the classical music collection owned by his mother and began to play the piano when very young.  By the time he was 11 years old he is credited as playing the piano on the hit single “Goodnight My Love” by Jesse Belvin although denied arranging or writing it.

When he was around 14 years old his voice broke and his tone became very deep.  By the time he was 16 he’d already fathered two children and ended up in prison for stealing Cadillac tyres.  During that time he heard “It’s Now or Never” by Elvis Presley which he later said had changed the course of his life.  He married Mary, the mother of his first two children and they would go on to have a further two. His daughter, Denis Donnell, later White, was born to Gurtha Allen in 1962 but she did not discover he was her father until 1988.

Once he was released from prison he started to sing with various groups such as The Upfronts and with them performed on their single “Too Far to Turn Around”.  He worked with several independent labels in the early 1960s and released singles where he was backed by both the Majestics and the Atlantics on the different recordings.  He also worked with the duo Bob & Earl as a pianist and backing singer but has said he had no production involvement on their “Harlem Shuffle” which he has sometimes been credited with producing.  He did, however, use the duo’s producer, Gene Page, on several of his own recordings and co-wrote the song “Bring Back My Yesterday” with Bob Relf from the duo, which he recorded on an album in 1973.

Around the middle of the 1960s he became an A&R man for Bronco Records which led him to work as a session musician, arranger and songwriter for artists such as The Bobby Fuller Four and Viola Wills.  He co-wrote and arranged the hit song “I Feel Love Comin’ On” with Paul Politi which was recorded by Felice Taylor, who he had discovered. He and Politi then went on to write further chart songs for her that include “Under the Influence of Love” and “It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring)”.  In 1967 he released his own single “All in the Run of a Day”

In 1968 he wrote the song “Doin’ the Banana Split” for the TV series The Banana Splits and in 1969 he was signed up as a producer for Forward Records of Los Angeles.

When the 1970s came around he produced the girl group Love Unlimited who he had worked with for approximately two years before they signed up with Uni Records.  They released the 1972 album From a Girl’s Point of View We Give You… Love Unlimited which would become the first of his many singles and albums that had long titles. He wrote, arranged and produced their chart hit “Walkin’ in the Rain with the One I Love”, which he featured on as a voice on the phone, and became his first million selling single as a producer and writer.

He moved himself and Love Unlimited to 20th Century Records and throughout the 1970s the group had several more chart singles and singles.  In 1973 he formed the 40-piece The Love Unlimited Orchestra originally to be used as backing for Love Unlimited but later that year the orchestra had a chart topping hit with his song “Love’s Theme”.  That led to the 1974 album Rhapsody in White which was the first of many for the orchestra for the next 9 years until they ceased recording as a solo entity and were used as his backing band from 1983.  Also in 1974 he married the Love Unlimited lead singer, Glodean James and they went on to have four children.

After writing several songs, initially for a new male artist, it was decided he would record and release them himself.  He then wrote and recorded several others and they were put together to make up his debut solo album in 1973 I’ve Got So Much to Give which produced his first chart hit as a solo artist “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby”.  It reached No. 1 in the Billboard R&B chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Pop chart.  This would be the beginning of a string of chart hitting songs over the rest of the decade.

Also in 1973 he released the Billboard R&B chart No. 2 “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up” followed by the chart topping “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love Babe” in 1974.  Also in 1974 “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything” was a chart topper in the US and UK followed by the same in 1975 in the US with “What Am I Gonna Do With You”.  Also in 1975. he was doing voice over work for TV and films and became the voice of Brother Bear as well as playing Sampson in the 1975 film Coonskin.

In 1976 he reached No. 4 with his “Let the Music Play” and then went back to topping the charts again in 1977 with “It’s Ecstacy When You Lay Down Next to Me”.  The following year he reached No. 2 with Your Sweetness Is My Weakness”.  Although not always reaching the No. 1 spot in the UK he was a regular visit to the UK chart Top 10 and became nicknamed “The Walrus of Love”.  In 1979 he launched his own record label with CBS/Columbia Records called Unlimited Gold.

The 1980s weren’t quite as kind as they had recently been but he still retained a loyal following and released several albums, including Barry & Glodean with his wife, and only one single “Change” that made the chart in 1982.  He toured for much of the time but his record label was proving costly so he finished it in 1983.  Four years later, in 1987, he signed a contract with A&M Records and released the album The Right Night & Barry White which produced the Billboard R&B chart song “Sho’ You Right” which reached No. 17.  Two years later, in 1989 the album The Man Is Back! was released and produced the singles “I Wanna Do It Good to Ya!, “Super Lover” and “When Will I See You Again” which all reached the Billboard R&B chart Top 40.  He was also a featured performer in in 1989’s “The Secret Garden (Sweet Seduction Suite)” by Quincy Jones

Around the time the  1990s came around he started to regain some of the popularity he had last seen in the 1970s and released several albums including 1991’s Put Me In Your Mix which reached the Billboard R&B Album chart at No. 8 with the title track reaching No. 2 on the  R&B singles chart.   He made a guest appearance as a voice in several episodes of The Simpsons, including 1993’s’ “Whacking Day” and “Krusty Gets Kancelled”.

1994 saw the R&B chart topping The Icon Is Love with its single “Practice What You Preach” reaching No. 1 on the R&B singles chart which was the first time in 20 years for him to make it to the top of the charts.  The album received a Grammy Award nomination for Best R&B Album.  Back into acting in 1995 he performed in a Prodigy commercial in the role of a bus driver which would lead to many other voice appearances in TV advertisements.  While touring in 1995 he nearly collapsed so took a break in the autumn but in October, suffering from high blood pressure, he had a minor stroke and was in a coma for 4 days.  He was discharged from hospital a week later.

A years later, in 1996 he recorded “In Your Wildest Dreams” in a duet with Tina Turner and also that year sang a further duet with Chris Rock on “Basketball Jones” that appeared on the soundtrack of the film Space Jam.   On the acting side of things he performed in 3 episodes of Ally McBeal from the late 1990s.

In 1999 he released what would be his final album Staying Power with the title track, which would also be his last hit song, reaching No. 45 on the Billboard R&B chart.  This would see him winning two Grammy Awards for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance and Best Male R&B Vocal Performances.  He also toured with Earth, Wind and Fire in 1999 but canceled his tour dates for a month due to high blood pressure and exhaustion.

He continued to perform into the new millennium but not always having the strength to stand and suffering ill health he gave his last performances sometime around 2002. In September 2002 he suffered kidney failure thought to possibly be a result of his high blood pressure.  He underwent kidney dialysis but while awaiting a transplant in 2003 he had a stroke which made him retire.  Suffering from seizures in his last few weeks, he wasn’t well enough to have a transplant.  In July of 2003, when he was 58 years old, he died of kidney failure at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.  After cremation his ashes were scattered off the coast of California in the ocean.

After releasing 21 albums and gaining two Grammy Awards, in 2004 he was posthumously inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame and in 2013 was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Glen Campbell recordings
Capitol P-3669 (Promo US 45)