Barry White - Walrus of Love
Barry White was born Barry Eugene Carter on September 12, 1944 in Galveston. At the age of four he would perform Gospel music with his mother, such as an incredible rendition of Silent Night, while harmonizing with his brothers. Although he was born in Texas, the family eventually moved into the high-crime South Central area of Los Angeles, where he joined a street gang by the age of 10. He also taught himself to play piano, making his debut at the age of 11, playing piano on Jesse Belvin's Goodnight My Love. Barry recorded his first record at the age of 16 with a band called the Upfronts. Their hit song was Little Girl, recorded by a local label called Lummtone Records. He made several albums during his early career, both as a solo artist, and with the Upfronts, the Atlantics, and the Majestics. During this time, White was sent to jail for stealing $40,000 worth of Cadillac tires. After spending four months in the LA County Jail, he gave up the gang to pursue his musical career.
White accepted a job in artist representation for several independent labels, including Mustang and Bronco. He earned a mere $40 per week. His first big hit came from Viola Wills, Lost Without the Love of My Guy. Years later, he had three hit albums with Felice Taylor, increasing his pay to $400 per week before retiring from his AR position.
In the early 1960's White's initial success was as a songwriter. Some of his songs were recorded by artists such as Bobby Fuller and The Banana Splits. In 1963 he arranged the Harlem Shuffle for Bob and Earl, which went on to become a hit in the UK in 1969.
In 1969, White organized Love Unlimited, a three girl band who fashioned themselves after The Supremes. The band rehearsed for one year before making their public debut. Within two years, they were signed by 20th Century Fox Records. White wrote, produced, and arranged Walking in the Rain (With the One I Love), which made the Billboard top 20. This hit featured his deeply resonant voice over a telephone. He eventually married one of the singers, Glodean James, who became his second wife.
In 1973, while working on demos for a male singer, a record label suggested that White record the album himself. Having no interest in becoming a recording artist, White refused. After days of arguing, he was finally persuaded to sing. White's romantic, smooth bass voice made his debut album, I've Got So Much To Give, a smash. Hit songs include "I'm Gonna Love Ya Just A Little More Baby". He was going to use the name White Heat, but instead this became the first Barry White album.
White brainstormed an idea to produce an instrumental album with his band, Love Unlimited. He called the band the Love Unlimited Orchestra. He conducted the orchestra, earning the nickname "Maestro". The orchestra was a success, earning a BMI award for Love's Theme, which went platinum, selling over 3 million records. His studio band consisted of such legends as Ray Parker Jr., Nathan East, Wah Wah Watson, and David T. Walker.
White went on to record several hits over the years. He was at home on Soul Train and also appeared on the Today Show. He became known as the "Walrus of Love", "Man with the Velvet Voice", and "Maestro". His success slowed during the 80's, but he made a comeback in the early 90's with guest appearances on The Simpson's and The Ally McBeal show. White won his first Grammy in 1999 with his album Staying Power.
White went from the ghetto to being known as one of R&B's most romantic singers. Barry White's success includes 106 gold and 41 platinum albums, with worldwide sales in excess of $100 million. He was excellent as a singer, musician, arranger, and producer.
In 2002, White was chronically ill with hypertension and chronic high blood pressure, which led to kidney failure. He was hospitalized in September of that year, and underwent dialysis.
In May of 2003, Barry suffered a stroke, and retired from public life. The combination of his illnesses proved to be too much. While awaiting a kidney transplant, Barry White died on the Fourth of July, 2003 - leaving behind a 4 week old daughter, Barriana. His body was cremated and his family scattered his ashes off the California coast. White's last words on his death bed were, "Leave me alone, I'm fine." He was 58 years old. CYNTHIA BLACKWELDER - GATOR PRESS