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R&B Singer Barry White Dies

Aired July 4, 2003 - 19:18   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Sad news tonight from the world of entertainment. R&B singer Barry White has died.
For decades, his baritone voice and smooth lyrics were renowned for setting a romantic mood.

Ann McDermott has more on the man and his amazing music.


ANN MCDERMOTT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): OK, maybe he never looked the part of a sex symbol, but to millions Barry White was the love machine, with that deep, growly voice and sensual songs.

BARRY WHITE, SINGER: Erotic. Sexy. Yes.

MCDERMOTT: His biggest successes came in the disco days of the '70s with hits like "I'm Going to Love You Just a Little More, Baby," the song he called "my anthem."

WHITE (singing): I'm going to need you every day. I want you every way.

MCDERMOTT: But he never stopped singing and composing and ultimately became a pop culture icon, revered by the spandex kids of the '80s.

And revered by the Simpsonites of the '90s.

WHITE (singing): Girl, I don't know, I don't know why I can't get enough of your love, baby.

MCDERMOTT: How did he do it?

WHITE (singing): I've got staying power.

MCDERMOTT: Staying power and a distinctive style. He wrote the songs and he produced the music.

WHITE: I sleep music. I eat music. I'm never without it. I'm never without music. That's my first lady.

(singing) Staring into sunlight turning daytime into night

MCDERMOTT: Nearly 25 years after he first hit the charts, Barry White still stood for love and lust as the producers of Ally McBeal found out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's he doing?

MCDERMOTT: The man knew how make an entrance, but insisted that he was a homebody, happiest in his home studio.

WHITE: I am passionate, I am romantic. I am thrilled throughout my soul to be creating music when I'm creating.

MCDERMOTT: And thanks to his creations he put millions in the mood.

WHITE (singing): Never going to give you up

MCDERMOTT: White, who was married and divorced twice, leaves eight children.


COOPER: Well, Barry White was the grandfather of soulful music you could depend on to set a romantic mood. His death leaves a big gap, to say the least, in the music industry.

Joining me now with more on White's musical impact is R&B expert David Nathan.

David, thanks for being with us. Tell us about the first time you ever saw Barry White perform.

DAVID NATHAN, MUSIC JOURNALIST: The first time I ever saw Barry White perform was in London in 1974. And I remember well, he came out in front of this massive orchestra, which was the London municipal orchestra. And for those of us who had really grown up on pop music and R&B it was the first time we'd ever been in a setting where there was a large orchestra like that.

And this guy comes out with this interesting hair style and this big guy starts conducting the strings and it was just an amazing moment.

COOPER: You know the joke Barbra Streisand's voice is like butter. But Barry White, his vocals are buttery smooth. to say the least. This guy was, you know, renowned for sort of sexually charged lyrics. I mean, he would also, a lot of his songs he even purred.

How do you think he's going to be remembered?

NATHAN: Well, I think people will remember him most as the love man, the love man in music.

One of the things that always struck me in my conversations him as a music journalist was his references to music as like his spiritual wife, and I think he has this understanding of women. He really understood what women liked in music, what women liked in person, and he tailored his music to, really, to a female audience.

COOPER: And in your interviews with him over the years, you say a very nice, very decent guy?

NATHAN: Very, very -- the thing that always struck me about Barry White was he was very authentic, very real, very straight ahead, no pretense. I mean, just would be really a straight talker and very humble.

That was the thing I always noticed about him when he would be backstage, say, meeting a fan, and I happened to be around, I would see how he would always be really grateful. I mean, it was a genuine gratitude when someone would say, "You know, Barry, I really love your music or your music helped me have a baby." He was really a baby making machine.

COOPER: Well, I'm sure there are many people, many little boys out there maybe named Barry in honor of him for being conceived listening to Barry White.

David, appreciate you coming in and talking about him on this day...

NATHAN: Absolutely.

COOPER: ... of his passing. He's been in the hospital for many months now, probably in a lot of pain, and he's certainly out of pain tonight. But he will definitely be missed.

Thank you.

NATHAN: A big loss, yes.

You're welcome.


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