Grammy Award–winning singer Barry White's smooth, deep voice produced sexy soul hits like “Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe.”
Barry Eugene Carter was born on September 12, 1944 in Galveston, Texas. White was raised in Los Angeles, where he immersed himself in the local music culture at an early age. He made several records during the early ‘60s, under the name (Barry Lee), and as a member of the Upfronts, the Atlantics and the Majestics. However, he found greater success offstage, guiding the careers of others, including Felice Taylor and Viola Wills.
In 1969, White formed the group Love Unlimited, a female vocal trio made up of Diane Taylor, Glodean James (his future wife) and her sister Linda. He also founded the Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-piece ensemble to accompany himself and the singing trio, for which he conducted, composed and arranged.
Love Unlimited's success in 1972 can in large part be attributed to White's throaty vocals in such hits as “Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love.” The group's success rejuvenated White's own career, receiving acclaim for such songs as “I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” and “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” in 1973 and “Can't Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” and “You're The First, The Last, My Everything” in 1974.
As the sexual content of the lyrics grew more explicit, he gradually became viewed as a self-parody. But though his pop hits lessened towards the end of the ‘70s, his live performances remained sold out. The singer's last major hit was in 1977 with “It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me.”
During the peak of his career, White earned gold and platinum discs for worldwide sales. The UK singer Lisa Stansfield has often publicly supported White's work and in 1992, she and White re-recorded a version of Stansfield's hit, “All Around The World.” During the ‘90s, a series of commercially successful albums proved White's status as more than just a cult figure.
Over the course of his career, White sometimes did voice-over work for television and movies.
He voiced the character Brother Bear in the film Coonskin (1975), and also played the character Sampson in the movie's live-action segments.
White appeared as himself in a few episodes of The Simpsons. In the episode “Whacking Day”, Bart and Lisa used his famous deep bass singing voice, played through loudspeakers placed on the ground, to lull and attract snakes. White was a fan of the show, and had reportedly contacted the staff about wanting to make a guest appearance.
White played the role of a bus driver for a Prodigy commercial in 1995, and he also portrayed the voice of a rabbit in a Good Seasons salad-dressing-mix commercial, singing a song called “You Can't Bottle Love”.
In addition, he did some work for car commercials, most famously for Oldsmobile, and later on, Jeep. White also provided voice-over for Arby's Restaurant commercials on television and radio to promote its Market Fresh menu. White's voice can also be heard in Apple's first iBook commercial.
White made three guest appearances on the comedy-drama television series Ally McBeal, as his music was often featured on the show in dream sequences.
White was overweight for most of his adult life and suffered from related health problems. In October 1995, White was admitted to a hospital as a result of high blood pressure. In August 1999, White was forced to cancel a month's worth of tour dates owing to exhaustion, high blood pressure and a hectic schedule. In September 2002, White was hospitalized with kidney failure attributed to chronic diabetes mellitus and high blood pressure.
In May 2003, White suffered a stroke while waiting for a kidney transplant, which he needed due to complications from years of chronic high blood pressure. He died on July 4, 2003 in Los Angeles.
On September 20, 2004, White was posthumously inducted into the Dance Music Hall of Fame at a ceremony held in New York. On September 12, 2013, which would have been White's 69th birthday, he was posthumously awarded the 2,506th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6914 Hollywood Blvd in the category of recording. The show Counting Cars paid tribute to White by restoring the last car he owned for his widow, Glodean.
In an obituary affectionately referring to White by his familiar nickname, ‘The Walrus of Love,’ the BBC recalled “the rich timbres of one of the most distinctive soul voices of his generation, about which it was once said: ‘If chocolate fudge cake could sing, it would sound like Barry White.’”
September 12, 1944
July 4, 2003
- Barry White's first release (under the name Barry Lee) was “Too Far to Turn Around” in 1960 as part of The Upfronts. He also recorded several solo singles as Barry White in the early 1960s, starting with “Strange World” and “Tracy (All I Have Is You)” in 1963 backed by vocal group the Atlantics.
- During the late 1960s, White wrote several songs for The Banana Splits children's TV series, including “Doin’ the Banana Split.”
- White also founded the Love Unlimited Orchestra, a 40-piece ensemble to accompany himself and the singing trio, for which he conducted, composed and arranged. The instrumental “Love's Theme” topped the US Hot 100 in 1974 and also had a significant influence on the disco sound, which exploded the following year.
- Known for his distinctive bass-baritone voice and romantic image, White was nicknamed “The Walrus Of Love.”
- The title track of White's final album, 1999's Staying Power, won him two Grammy Awards in the categories Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.
- White published his autobiography Insights on Life and Love in 1999.