Reason five: Barry sings dream pop
T account for White's pacing, his lushness, his sound, you need to consider White's genre. The man's a '70's wonder. He sold 100 million units in the decade, $16 million in '73 alone. He hit is big in three ways: with his girl group, Love Unlimited; his rack of solo hits ("Love's Theme" went number one); and his Love Unlimited Orchestra.
"It was a beautiful time," Barry himself has said. "There was Barry White contests in discos everywhere – who looked the prettiest, who dressed the sharpest&ldots;"
White's celebrity status seemed enough to make any woman woozy. Yet, once I started sifting through music history, it became unclear whether White is honestly the godfather of disco he's made himself out to be. "The suburban public associated White with disco because they heard him on the radio," Phoenix dance-music critic Michael Freedberg schooled me. "But White has much to do with disco as Sagittarius has to do with the center of the universe. If you're standing way outside and you look back, Sagittarius looks like it's at the heart of the galaxy – even though it's about 19,000 light years away."
Wow, I thought, how embarrassing. But then – out of truth and kindness, I don't know – Freedberg granted me, and Barry, this face saving, lust worthy tribute: "Never mind disco," he counseled. "What White pioneered was bedroom music. White is the godfather of dream pop."
Reason six: Barry's not fat – he's phat
White is "nineteen hundred pounds of pure lumbering animal" – that's what the great rock critic Lester Bangs said. When White goes on tour, he goes with four buses, two semis, a chef, and a kitchen. When he steals tries off cars (which he did in his youth), he steals Dual 90s off Caddies, $600 a pair. When he takes his kids swimming, they swim for nine hours. When he watches his fish tank, which holds 500 gallons, he watches all day. In interviews, White refers to himself in the third person ("for clarity's sake"). In the recording studio, he sports a blue-velvet leisure suit. He hums whole symphonies. He can't read or write music. He's put out 41 LPs.
But that's just the start, just a quirky batch of facts. White's been singing exclusively about love, and the urge to make it, for well over 20 years. His All Time Greatest Hits includes "Baby, We Better Try To Get It Together," I'm Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby," "Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe" (not the same song, I don't think) , Don't Make Me Wait Too Long," "I'm Qualified To Satisfy You," "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me," "Your Sweetness Is My Weakness."
Now, of course, BW's got a whole new album of luscious masterpieces, Love Is the Icon, and for the occasion of his second coming the Maestro is back on tour. The set for his show is a gigantic black-and gold bedroom. An ocean-like bedspread sprawls from the orchestra box down onto the floor. The Love Unlimited Orchestra plays in silk pajamas. And the Love Unlimited Dancers, by turns, lounge on day beds, rub themselves with lotion and squirm around in five-foot-tall champagne glasses.