His voice is unmistakable, and the impact that singer Barry White had on the world of R&B, undeniable. With his seductive grooves highlighted by smooth baritone vocals, White turned up the heat with such memorable songs as "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe" and "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me." In the world of cinema, the good-humored actor/musician scored numerous films in addition to utilizing his voice to striking effect in Ralph Bakshi's Streetfight (1975) and a pair of appearances on the enduring animated sitcom The Simpsons. A native of Galveston, TX, who developed affection for gospel music in his youth, the self-taught pianist later moved to South Central Los Angeles with his mother. As a teen living in California, White began singing with his church choir, later experimenting with recording while working with various independent record labels around the city. Briefly jailed for stealing tires at age 16, White heard Elvis Presley's "It's Now or Never" and decided to get his life in shape and focus on his career as a singer.
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From the early '60s on, White was elevated to legendary status following a series of stratospheric hits. Though regarded as a unflinchingly serious man, White is often credited with sparking the carefree disco craze, and his film work shows that he did indeed have a sense of humor regarding his public image. White's score for the 1974 film Together Brothers proved a solid introduction to the film world, though most of his music would be featured in such 1990s efforts as Dead Presidents (1995) and Love Serenade (1996), in addition to contributions to the hit television series Ally McBeal. Plagued by such health problems as kidney failure due to high blood pressure in his later years, White was forced to cancel tour dates in 1999 due to exhaustion. In September of 2002, he was hospitalized due to kidney failure and subsequently underwent dialysis, but a stroke in May of 2003 further debilitated him. On July 4, 2003, legendary crooner Barry White died in a Los Angeles hospital as a result of his health problems. He was 58. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi