Barry White, the legendary R&B singer whose smooth, deep baritone set the standard for romantic crooners for years to come, died Friday after a lengthy battle with numerous health problems. He was 58.
White passed away at Los Angeles’ Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Friday morning, according to a spokesperson for the late singer. White suffered kidney failure last fall and had a stroke in May (see “For The Record: Quick News On Barry White, J. Lo, Metallica, White Stripes, Radiohead, Hanson, Tori Amos, Raekwon & More” ). He had been waiting for his health to improve in hopes of undergoing a kidney transplant.
“His generous nature, courtly manners and timeless music made him the most giving and sought-after human being I’ve ever known,” White’s longtime manager, Ned Shankman, said.
White’s voice — at once booming and tender — seemed an extension of his imposing presence. The singer’s large frame seemed matched only by his charisma and his talent. His career spanned more than three decades, but he is perhaps best known as the velvet voice behind such classics as “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” and “You’re the First, the Last, My Everything.”
White’s first foray into music came at age 16 when he recorded the song “Little Girl” with the group the Upfronts. He later worked as an A&R rep (with the 5th Dimension and the Bobby Fuller Four) and as a producer (putting together Love Unlimited). Soon White began working on demos of his own, which eventually yielded his first album, 1973’s I’ve Got So Much to Give.
White then joined forces with Love Unlimited, rechristened it the Love Unlimited Orchestra, and began to churn out a string of hits that made him one of the most successful R&B artists of the ’70s. Songs like “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me,” “You See the Trouble With Me,” “I’ll Do for You Anything You Want Me To” and “Love Serenade” established White and Love Unlimited as the music of choice for many a romantic evening through the disco era.
The ’80s brought a handful of less successful albums and eventually a hiatus for White. However, he re-emerged in the ’90s with the albums The Man Is Back, The Right Night & Barry White and Put Me in Your Mix. Despite his early success, White would not win his first Grammy Award until 2000, for his album Staying Power.
White was preparing a “duets” album for release on Def Soul later this year.
White is survived by eight children: La nece, Deniece, Nina, Shehera, Barriana , Barry Jr., Darrell, and his stepson, McKevin. He is also survived by his companion (and the mother of Barriana), Catherine Denton.