Marvin Gaye one commented that Barry White had the perfect mix of seductive and street. White's lingo proves this true: "I know you're in love with me." "Believe me girl, you've got everything right here." "Shit, I can't lose with what I use."
To understand White's bravado-as-seduction technique, you have to understand his history. The man grew up in Compton. He rioted at Watts. He quit school at 16 and had a string of ugly jobs: flipping burgers, scamming welfare, roofing the LA Forum. In his gang phase, he burglarized at noon. In 1983, his brother Darryl got shot through the heart.
Social anthropologists find that such rough experiences tend wither to drain a soul of self-esteem or to pump up ego to outsized measure. And over the years, White's made some claims to blow your ears off. Asked about his skills with a bullwhip, he's said, "Yes Jesus, I could pick a fly off a dog's ass." Asked about mixing tracks for surf bands, he's said, "I surfed with 'em." Asked about his mentor, Larry Nunes, he's said, I'd take three bullets for him. Asked about love, he's said, "I don't fall in it."
And asked about singing mood tunes, he's said, "Now I don't make love to music. I don't need Barry White or anybody else. I can make love with the TV on, in daylight, anywhere Mama's ready&ldots;"
Such overblown language has surely caused many to wonder if White makes good on his word – if he, as he sings, is actually "qualified to satisfy you," and such. Though this question makes interesting gossip, in terms of research, who cares? The man is a recording artist, not a brain surgeon. Prowess needs to sound plausible. It doesn't have to be true.
Reason four: Barry is all anticipation
Soft-porn though Barry may be, he never gets into the nasty. He just tells you what he's going to do. He says, "Just lay there and let me unwind a little." He pleads, "Please don't take off your panties. Let me take them off for you&ldots;slowly."
All this coyness, predictably, is annoying to some. But it's also highly effective. Flip through Growing Up Brady (Harper Collins, 1992). Barry Williams, a/k/a Greg, used BW tunes to get Maureen McCormick, a/k/a Marcia, into bed.
How is this possible, you ask – Marcia being a babe, Greg being a dork? "White primes the imagination, which is very, very key to seduction and arousal, all of those states that lead to orgasm and ecstasy," says psychologists Gina Ogden, author of Woman Who Love Sex (Pocket Books, 1994). "You see, when an artist gets graphic, that lessens the impact. But White keeps cool. He makes use of the fact that the brain's the biggest sex organ. And this makes the listener, or in this case, Marcia, an active partner."
Seems reasonable – right along the lines of Psycho's being scarier than Natural Born Killers. Still, for an earthier, less erudite critique, I dialed up Kim Aires, founder of the women's erotic boutique Grand Opening.
At the mere mention of BW's name, Aires was cooing, "Oh I love Barry. It's the perfect girl-masturbation music. He's always been great for me. You keep expecting the sound to break, to climax, but it never does. Barry's coming to town next week, right? Maybe I'll try to slip a vibrator into the show."