top of page
Search
  • Staci Sweet

The Black Brilliance of Barry White

I was scrolling through my feed and a video of Barry White and ‘Love’s Theme’ [1] pops up. I come back and say, the Barry White. But not only Mr. White but his entire 40-piece Love Unlimited Orchestra[2] …which I had never seen before. Why? I don’t know especially since I was born in 1970 and am a huge Barry White fan...of his music and clearly not the man but I digress.


Here was this big Black man, conducting an orchestra, in the 70’s. I was in awe. And he wasn’t conducting the orchestra in a tuxedo either. Nah, Mr. White dawned a fresh press and curl with a rhinestone studded jacket as he stood there unapologetically, waving a conductor’s baton. It was absolutely beautiful.


The more I watched, the more I realized how historic this was. I mean the mere fact that a Black man was conducting an all white, predominantly male, orchestra during a year that had been marked as the year the civil rights movement died, was simply fascinating. [3]


And though his all Black band tried to contain their ethnicity, towards the crescendo, their blackness began to shine. At first, these musical geniuses were frozen and stoic but as the horns and harps began to bellow, these beautiful Black men begin to bob their majestic heads in a way that only Black men can do, and ladies, it was bomb. There on the stage sat a 40-piece white and Black orchestra being led by Barry White. #mymymy


As the camera panned the stage, you could sense the racial tension of the day, but the bravado of Mr. White reminded you that you were in the presence of greatness. The way the white violinists tickled their Stradivarius’® while the Black bassist plucked an all too familiar cord was something you would have to see to believe. That's when I realized that not only was I witnessing Black history, but there sat two white women in a predominantly all male orchestra which meant these women were history makers as well.


For each of them, along with their classically trained male counterparts, to come under the leadership of a brilliant Black man spoke volumes about their character but even more so, of their courage.


The Limitlessness of Love


What got me the most was that this orchestra was birthed and named after Mr. White’s wife’s group, Love Unlimited.


Love Unlimited consisted of Linda James, Diane Taylor, and of course, Mrs. Glodean White, who all sang background for the legendary Mr. White. [4] Their love so inspired him that he formed a group, a 40-piece orchestra, and dedicated several albums to the incomparable Mrs. White.