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Last Updated: Friday, 4 July 2003, 20:42 GMT 21:42 UK
Obituary: Barry White
Barry White, pictured in 1994
Barry White influenced Jazzy B and Lisa Stansfield
With his large frame and unmistakably deep, rich, voice, Barry White was a towering figure in the world of soul music. Dubbed the Walrus of Love, he enjoyed a virtual monopoly on pillow talk disco during the mid-1970s.

From his first international hit, Love's Theme, in 1973, White expounded on only one topic.

Songs, such as his theme tune, You're The First, My Last, My Everything, typically dealt with what he termed "the only subject on planet earth - lurve between fellow human beings".

White had not always conducted himself in such a loving way, and the theme of his songs was a long way from his own background Los Angeles' South Park neighbuorhood, although he was born in Galveston, Texas, on 12 September 1944.

His brother Darryl was murdered in a clash with a rival gang, and White himself was jailed - at the age of 17 - for stealing $30,000 worth of Cadillac tyres.

After serving four months behind bars, White turned his back on crime and instead set his musical wheels in motion.

After recording several records in the 1960s, White first found commercial success as a producer and arranger with a singing trio, which included his wife, Glodean.

He had his first solo hit in 1973 - I'm Going to Love You Just a Little Bit More, Baby - and this set the tone for more than 30 years of hits, including Never Never Gonna Give You Up, Babe and Sho' You Right.

Despite being unable to read or write music, White sold more than 100 million records, had more underwear thrown at him than Tom Jones and boasted of meeting hundreds of "Barrys" - apparently conceived to his seductive, soulful, music.

Influential

His singularly deep voice caused his mother to scream with fright when it first broke at the age of 14.

Calista Flockhart
White's music featured in Ally McBeal, starring Calista Flockhart
But White was able to ally this trademark husky growl to sweeping string arrangements and catchy soul melodies, to create a distinctive disco sound.

His explicitly seductive lyrics later verged on self-parody and his last pop triumph in the 1970s came instead with a cover version of Billy Joel's Just The Way You Are.

During the 1990s, the rediscovery of 1970s music worked to his advantage, and Barry White was revered once more as a disco love god and a major influence on the likes of Jazzy B and Lisa Stansfield, with whom he recorded a duet in 1992.

And You're My First, My Last, My Everything became known to a new generation through featuring in the television comedy series, Ally McBeal, in which White once appeared.

Although ill with the chronic high blood pressure which would eventually result in kidney damage, he continued to bear his message of "loving, caring, sharing" on tours throughout the world.

Barry White's declining health forced him to rely increasingly on his 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra, so that he could perform such classic songs as Let The Music Play in concert.

However, thousands still flocked to watch his large lumbering frame, and catch 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."






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