Pitch, mind you, is not just aesthetic. As proven on The Simpsons – or, to be precise, the "Whacking Day" episode – Barry's subterranean basso has primal powers to seduce. In the show, Bart et al. are out in Springfield whacking snakes. Lisa tries, unsuccessfully, to lure critters to safety with her puny, high squeak. Then Barry White appears on the scene. He commences crooning, and ... ta da. The ground goes aquiver, and the reptiles (which can't exactly hear) start slithering shamelessly to his 90-hertz voice.
Now then, as any girl worth her lipstick can tell you, snakes aren't idiots. Mr. B sounds way way more charming than Lisa S. Why? It's a tenet of evolutionary biology. Extreme secondary sex characteristics – huge peacock tails, deep voices, whatever – show picky XX partners that some stud or another is a stronger, more virile mate. Take, as I did, from Nancy Etcoff, a neuropsychologist at Mass General and a specialist on the science of beauty. Women – particularly human women – prefer voices that are low, slow, and smooth.
"The Barry phenomenon make sense when you look at the rest of the animal world," she said. "In toads and birds of paradise" – Aves Passeriformes paradisaeidea, not that spiky plant- "pitch correlates smoothly with size. The largest males tend to have the deepest voices. They also ten to dominate other males and take their pick of mates."
She went on to discuss the allure of mucosal voices – raspy from excitement and phlegm- and the stomach-churning question of what Barry would be like as a tenor. Then, in closing, she offered: "Myself, I like Al Green. But maybe I should give Barry another shot. I can imagine what would happen."
Reason two: Barry is a master of oratory
If you think the Maestro can sing, you should listen to him talk. David Letterman last year hosted the man for "The Top Ten Words That Sound Romantic When Spoken By Barry White" - an enunciation showcase that is now Paul Schafer's all-time favorite segment.
Admittedly, to the casual ear, Barry may sound unusual only that he talks about as fast as you imagine him running, and modulates within the range of his conceivable vertical leap. But to the trained auricle, like that of UV Santa Cruz linguist Jason Merchant, Barry White's diction smacks of genius.
"Barry repeats sectors – say, 'I don't know why, I don't know why, I don't know why, I can't get enough of your love, babe' in triadic turn, much like Cicero," Merchant told me. "Further, his rhymes, such as, 'Take off that brassiere, my dear,' or 'Girl I never want to be alone/ It's like ice cream without a cone,' work in a conversant manner, not unlike Lyle Lovett's 'Put down the fly swatter/And get me some ice water.'"
But that's not all. Not even half. When it comes to onomastics – the science of naming – Barry is just brilliant. He knows when to say girl and when to say babe. He alternates between ya and you. And diction-wise, stand back. White even draws out his ahhhhhs and yessssses for maximum lulling effect – which, I'm told, rhetorically speaking, is about as sexy as it gets.
Reason three: Barry is street