Barry White did not invent the erotically charged love song. But starting with his 1973 hit, ”I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby,” White — who died in Los Angeles of kidney failure July 4 at the age of 58 — simultaneously raised the bar for all subsequent bedroom ballads and changed the rules of the game for the R&B love men who sang them. Indeed, the burly, Galveston, Tex.-born singer/arranger/producer/songwriter with the impossibly deep voice virtually created an entirely new genre — call it the extreme love song. His distinctive blend of richly orchestrated music, intense romantic passion, and simmering, barely contained lust yielded a potent potion that made his records a must for would-be Casanovas and priapic playas.
Though White’s heyday was unquestionably the mid-’70s disco era, recent years saw the Sultan of Seduction making a surprising reemergence. His 1994 comeback album, The Icon Is Love, sold more than 2 million copies, his image and music were featured on TV’s The Simpsons and Ally McBeal, and his instantly recognizable booming basso profundo lent some gravelly gravitas to commercials for Apple, Arby’s, and AT&T. ”Barry White’s music had a huge presence in Ally McBeal,” says creator David E. Kelley. ”Bigger than life, he was a legend who made us all smile.” ”I’m simply a man who writes with love, for love and lovers of all faces, races, creeds, and beliefs,” wrote White in his 1999 autobiography Love Unlimited. Speaking for romantics everywhere, we send him the best of our love. — Tom Sinclair with additional reporting by Kimberly Reyes
1973 ”I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby” 1974 ”Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” 1974 ”You’re the First, the Last, My Everything” 1977 ”It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me”