Tuesday, 15 September 2015

What A Voice : An Ode to Barry White

If you have been having a look at our covers you may have noted the many words or adjectives usually used to describe a voice. Chuckled, you would have, when several of them were more than familiar and part of the regular vocab. And then comes this one called Barry White and the first thing you call out half shrieking and half choked, running out of the shower half-clothed - What a voice!
The romantic songs of Barry like “Just a Little Bit More” “Ecstasy (When You Lay down Next to me)”Your Sweetness Is My Weakness) among many others were the chosen ones of all those who once thought they were in love. His voice was rich, fresh and boom! Wickedly, he quite knew it, always-when very young.
Like most ambitious and self made talents he never wanted to be just a singer.”You get into trouble and the voice is not enough,” he had also always realized within and feared. He furthered his knowledge and skills of the studio by perfecting his writing and arranging skills and went on to become a successful producer. He learnt to play many instruments. Imagine him, yet, to be so vulnerable: the voice raved to be “thunder and silk”! People adored him; awards and recognition were too many to be remembered. So were his names from Dr Love to the Prince of Pillow Talk. He was the Lord of Discos in the 70’s to the Slow Jam king of 90’s with the deep- bass- velvet- feel voice of his.
Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata had swept him off his feet after the early lessons from the age of four he had received from his Mama and the phonograph, on sonatas, symphonies and melodies. He had begun to play the piano too and then as juvenile he went to jail. He came out as a man, as her Mama said and the school boy treble voice of Barry had changed forever to that of a heavy bass, male. His struggles took him to succeed finally with his group Love Unlimited. He had a way with women and knew a thing or two about sex though not very successful with marriages. Modesty was certainly not one of his strong points either.
You hear the Disco of Donna Summers or Abba or the Bee Gees. You dance. You hear Barry. You want to make love. His lyrics were direct: kind of face to face talking with another in a voice that seduced and made you swoon. Adrion Doovey was quoted in Jet thus “When he sings, strong men tremble and ladies are transported up the stairway of unparalled ecstasy,” and children “they say are often conceived that very night”. But the seventies Disco was to wither away and Barry knew it and through the eighties he mastered technology and getting ready to create a new sound. The drum should not sound like one. And so the piano, he had once famously prognosticated. He poured into synthesizers, computers, new fangled drum machines and programmers with piles of books. He mixed with and welcomed the new kids of the block filtered their anger and violence to produce a layered sound of slow raps over hip hop beats.R&B had found a new champion who was perhaps a shade bit ahead of the prevailing culture of the time. He was corpulent and huge, yet a highly sexualized figure in the age of disco,who just as easily morphed to become the god of Soul !
Sue Caroll gushed once upon seeing a man seated Buddha-like in a black velvet track suit… then the voice.”It starts as a rumble in his chest, it growls at the back of his throat, and then erupts like a volcano. It’s deep. It is dark. It is “Come to bed honey. Turn off the lights. It’s why this man-no oil painting- was called ,the King of Seduction “ Using his vocal chords, like instruments of sexual pleasure he does not so much sing as groan and moan his way through lyrics until finally, he explodes into a frenzy of passion and ooh..Lurve “

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