Singer Barry White dies at 58. The make-out music maestro with the bedroom bass voice suffers kidney failure in Los Angeles

By Gary Susman
Updated August 01, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT
Barry White: Rick Mackler/Rangefinder/Globe Photos

Legendary R&B crooner Barry White, whose rumbling bass voice and lushly orchestrated ballads provided the soundtrack to millions of listeners’ make-out sessions over the past three decades, died Friday morning at a Los Angeles hospital, the Associated Press reports. He was 58 and had suffered kidney failure from years of high blood pressure, for which he had been hospitalized since last September.

Everything about White was oversized — his girth, the deep pitch of his voice, the string-laden arrangements of his Love Unlimited Orchestra, and the brazenness of the spoken pillow talk that often began his songs of seduction. He hit it big in the 1970s with tunes like ”Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe,” ”Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up,” ”You’re the First, the Last, My Everything,” and ”Love Serenade.” His libidinous lyrics were reportedly inspired by Glodean James, who sang with the White-produced trio Love Unlimited and was his wife from 1974 to 1988.

White’s career hit a dry patch during the 1980s, but he was rediscovered in the 1990s, finding new audiences with albums like ”The Icon Is Love” and his Grammy-winning ”Staying Power,” as well as with TV guest appearances on ”The Simpsons” and ”Ally McBeal.”

White had been a love guru since age 14, as he detailed in his 1999 memoir, ”Love Unlimited: Insights on Life and Love.” While promoting that book, he told Entertainment Weekly, ”What women want to hear is no mystery, baby. Be honest and open and let her explain how she feels. ‘Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus’ — that’s idiotic s—. We all come from the same place.” Of the role his music had played in the world’s population boom over the last 30 years, he said, ”For people to care that much about what you do, to wanna bring it into their bedrooms… oh yeah.”