20th Century 2120
ho would have guessed that the 11-year-old kid playing piano for Jesse Belvin on "Goodnight My Love" would grow up and have number one hit singles as a vocalist and leader of a 40-piece orchestra? Probably no one at that classic recording session, including young Barry White himself, who was paid $55 for his work that day.
"When I left school, I started learning about the record business, because I was hooked on music and trying to find out where I belonged," he said. At 17, he was hired as an arranger by Rampart Records. He had his first taste of success in 1964 when a song he arranged, Bob and Earl's "Harlem Shuffle," went to number 44. Two years later, his arrangement of "The Duck" by Jackie Lee peaked at number 14.
In 1967, while head of A&R for Los Angeles-based Mustang and Bronco Records, White wrote and produced "It May Be Winter Outside (But in My Heart It's Spring)" for Felice Taylor, a number 42 hit. That same year, Taylor had a number 11 hit in Britain with White's "I Feel Love Comin' On."
In 1969, he met the three women who would become Love Unlimited, and five years later a filler instrumental written by Barry for a Love Unlimited album and credited to Love Unlimited Orchestra, "Love's Theme," became a number one hit. In 1972, Barry wrote and produced a million-selling single for Love Unlimited, "Walkin' in the Rain With the One I Love." "People always asked me how come I didn't record," Barry said, "but I was busy being a producer, writer, arranger and businessman -- while knowing all the time that one day I would have to record and the time would be right."
The day came -- three days after Russ Regan was named head of 20th Century Records. White had first met Regan at Loma Records, an R&B subsidiary of Warner Brothers. When Regan became head of Uni Records, White brought him Love Unlimited.
Regan agreed that the time was right for Barry to record his own material. His label debut, "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby," went to number three in June, 1973. The company's fastest-selling single to that time, it helped shape White's hit-making persona. Combining a melodic tune with a memorable hook in a seductive, half-sung half-spoken baritone. This was backed by lush strings and a slow disco beat.
White's sweet and lowdown style proved irresistible, and before long, had attracted millions of disciples. His biggest hit, "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe," entered the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the top seven weeks later. The follow-up, "You're the First, the Last, My Everything," did almost as well, spending two weeks at number two in January, 1975. "What Am I Gonna Do With You," a number eight hit came next. Two years later, Barry had his final top 10 single, "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me."
Once asked to describe his career, White said with characteristic modesty, "Love is the center of my music, necessity put me here and my God-given talents cinched it."
- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.
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