I remember the day Barry White passed on 7/05/2003; BET posted a tv banner with a picture of him showing his birth date and the date he left this earth. I suddenly felt sad; this admired singer would no longer be with us. Mr. White died after the BET awards, so he had no “Culture Tribute.”
When a solo artist leaves this earth, it is up to the Culture to continue their legacy by pressing play on their songs and keeping the artist in conversation. I think that is what I felt when I saw the banner that day. There was the question of who will keep Barry White’s legacy of being the “voice of love” alive.
I always admired Barry White from his appearance on “The Simpsons” when I would hear his songs as an audience sitting in the back of my mom’s Mitsubishi Galant during the “Quiet Storm.” I would intimidate his deep voice while singing, “Practice What You Preach” and “I’ve Got So Much to Give.” During my childhood of listening to Barry White, the songs were selected by the radio, my parents, or whoever house I was sitting in during “clean house time.”
A couple of days ago, I decided to listen to Barry White for myself on a search to find a song I had heard a month ago, all because my friend Mr. Al Pete was listening to Joey Badass before recording Flowers for the Culture Podcast.
In me, taking a whole day of listening to Barry White, I felt Black joy, I felt love, and I felt a greater appreciation of music. Here are a few songs from his catalog that made me feel this way.
The Black Joy.
Barry White’s first album, “I’ve Got So Much Love to Give,” starts with “Standing in the Shadow of Love.” The song begins with a solid instrumental for 2:35. The tempo speeds up as the “Love Unlimited” singers sing the chorus “Standing in the shadow of love” after their part. You can hear Barry White moaning the words “Oh.” This moaning of “Oh” symbolizes the sound of a broken heart man, the music speeds up, and Barry White shouts out the song’s lyrics, “Didn’t I treat you, the right baby, didn’t I.”
As I listened for the first time, I was filled with Black joy. Allowing “Love Unlimited” singers to go first before hearing Mr. White is genius. The song’s tempo had my good anxiety on ten because I had no idea where the music was going, but I was excited to find out. The second time I heard the song within the 8 minutes, I felt the joy in the words of George Clinton when he described “Pimp A Butterfly.” I was able to dance my way out of constriction.
Barry White can be defined as the “voice of love”; his music always spoke about the presents of love. Pick any Barry White song, and he will tell you via song or words what he can or cannot do in a relationship, but the topic is always love.
Barry White’s smooth voice would make any grown woman blush regardless of if he is saying,” I have a real serious problem, I miss you girl” in his song “Your My Baby” or when he is saying. “Baby, I can’t sit around you twenty-four hours a day telling you, “Baby, I love you, I need you, and I want you” from his song “Girl It’s True, yes, I ‘ll Always Love You.” There is always a sense of love in Mr. White’s songs. I always felt that listening to him growing up, although not understanding at the time how someone can “Practice what they preached.” or even now listening to “I Can’t Believe You, Love Me.” where he sings that he cannot believe a woman loves him. These are just a few songs that give good examples of how Barry White was and is “The Voice of Love.”
“Music always dictates the lyrics” is what Mr. White said during an interview with Oprah. Mr. White did not shy from allowing the instruments in his music to provide the introduction to his voice or vocals. If you listen to the song “How Did You Know It was Me,” you first hear the drums, string instruments, and the beautiful horns (oh, the horns). Before Mr. White even says a word, you are already in the groove with no exit until the song ends. In my opinion, the sound of the music and the singer should support each other. You can pick any song by Mr. White, who does that with his orchestra, “The Love Unlimited Orchestra.”
In Mr. White’s song “What Am I Going to Do with You” (the music I was initially looking for), Barry White does a now infamous tongue roll not for the “machine gun” sound it is known for today by artist Westside Gunn but to blend in with the instruments. Barry White knew he was an instrument; this is another reason why I appreciate his music.
In closing, I hope reading this, you dig into Barry White’s catalog and find an album or a song that brings you Black joy, a presence of love, and an appreciation of music. Pressing play to listen to “The voice of love” by Mr. Barry White is a simple way to keep his legacy in rotation.
I would love to hear your favorite Barry White song or album.
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