×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Barry White to Receive Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

A&R man emerged from behind the scenes to singing success

One of soul music’s most enduring and impactful figures, Barry White is finally set to be awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Sept. 12. If the honor feels a bit overdue for a man who died a decade ago and experienced his greatest success at an age when R&B’s current leading men were still in diapers, it’s all on par for a career that was often a few steps ahead of the culture at large.

Little about White’s career adhered to conventional wisdom. As a juvenile delinquent growing up in the Los Angeles community of Watts, White found his ticket into music singing and playing piano in church. Despite being blessed with one of popular music’s most distinctive baritones, he was content to remain behind the scenes as a producer and A&R man for his first decade in the business. Undeterred by his gargantuan figure, he emerged as a highly sexualized star in the age of disco, which worshipped svelte youth and fitness. And he enjoyed some of his most widespread visibility in the 1990s, long after his musical heyday had passed.

A quintessential model for the producer-turned-star, White was also a standard-bearer for urban music’s inclination toward aspirational opulence — a quality reflected in his huge ensemble arrangements, which at one point included an 80-woman orchestra.

Yet White was initially reticent to step into the limelight himself, and sought out a career in more modest environs. After years as a producer and songwriter, during which he developed the careers of Viola Wills and Felice Taylor, White finally hit paydirt with his girl-group Love Unlimited, whose White-penned hit “Walking in the Rain With the One I Love” broached the top 20 of the singles chart, with a subsequent LP going platinum.

Hoping to replicate Love Unlimited’s success with a male artist, White recorded a series of demos featuring his own voice, which attracted the attention of his label boss Larry Nunez, who urged White to record them under his own name. White blanched at the suggestion, yet eventually came around to embracing his own peculiar instrument.

Barry White is a carrier, he has a sound,” White said of his singing voice back in 1979. “But no, he isn’t a singer. Maybe he’s a phraser, (in that) he can take a melody and a message and deliver it. Instead of a voice, he has a way of delivering it.”

White’s commercial heyday saw him notch six No. 1 R&B singles, and he has sold more than 100 million records. Despite a sales drop-off in the 1980s, he finally attained lasting commercial longevity when his music was rediscovered by music supervisors in the 1990s and beyond. Though he only scored one film — 1974’s “Together Brothers” — White’s music graced literally hundreds of features and TV series, most recently making an appearance in “Despicable Me 2,” while his voice was something of a recurring character in Fox skein “Ally McBeal.”

“I look at (my music) more as a scoring sound, like movies,” White said in a 1995 interview. “I try to tell a story musically in a song.”

More Biz

  • Kirk Kerkorian

    Kirk Kerkorian's Estate Settles With Widow for $12.5 Million

    The estate of late media mogul Kirk Kerkorian has a reached a settlement with his widow, who claimed she was entitled to a third of his $1.8 billion fortune. Una Davis will receive just $12.5 million under the deal, which is set for court approval on Wednesday. Davis married the mogul in March 2014, becoming [...]

  • Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg Strictly

    Variety's Innovate Summit 2018: What We Learned

    New insights into how data collection plays a role in the tech and entertainment spheres were revealed at Variety’s annual Innovate summit held in Los Angeles on Wednesday. Meg Whitman and Jeffrey Katzenberg discussed the exciting future of television designed for mobile phone viewing with their new streaming platform, “Quibi,” an executive from “The Ellen Show” discussed the [...]

  • Capitol Music Group Names Amber Grimes

    Capitol Music Group Names Amber Grimes Senior VP of Global Creative

    Amber Grimes has been named to the newly-created position of Senior Vice President of Global Creative for Capitol Music Group, it was announced today by Chairman & CEO Steve Barnett, to whom Grimes will report. According to the announcement, in her new position, Grimes will be integrally involved in formulating and executing the company’s global [...]

  • Kevin Hart

    Why Kevin Hart's Mea Culpa Was Too Little, Too Late (Opinion)

    Forgive me if this sounds trite or preachy, but the importance of owning up to our mistakes cannot be overstated. Denials, silence, cover-ups, repudiation — all are unacceptable. Media outlets around the globe, including ours, wrote about how Kevin Hart initially took no responsibility for having posted disgusting homophobic tweets years ago that resurfaced when [...]

  • Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Industry Execs

    Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Industry Execs Sign Anti-Brexit Letter

    Annie Lennox, Chrissie Hynde, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Paloma Faith, Ed Sheeran manager Stuart Camp and Grammy/Emmy award-winning film composer David Arnold and several leading UK music industry bodies are among the signees of a letter drafted by the new organization Music4EU, stating that Brexit “represents a significant threat to the UK’s music industry” and [...]

  • Kevin Hart Oscars Gay Tweet Controversy

    What Public Figures Should Learn From the Kevin Hart Oscars Debacle (Guest Column)

    When social media erupted over Kevin Hart’s anti-gay tweets from years ago, many in the media and the entertainment industry believed he would immediately apologize, LGBTQ people would critique but ultimately accept his mea culpa, and the comedian would go on to host the Academy Awards. If offenders make a commitment to do better, their [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content