BARRY WHITE, SAVED MY LIFE. Did he really, really ?
Well not my life, nor the life of anyone I actually know, but we’ve heard of the redemptive quality of music, all read how it has lifted our soul, opened our heart. Lifted spirits from the depths of depressions all too dark. Lifted us from distant and desperate places. I am sure music’s done that for some. Already there are studies of music helping with Alzheimer’s, unlocking memories, recalling delights, in what had been a dark dimmed and confusing place. Good to see simple, easy to support therapies for those facing such challenges, some of whom may be you, me, lovers, and families and some of the readers here today in decades ahead.
But back to Barry ‘Walrus of Love’ White, yeah remember him from youth, in the UK in the 70s, a tribal time. Football, neighbourhood, and of course, music. Barry firmly in the Soul Boys, suede-headed, post skinheaded, tonic suited, loafer shod, stay-press trousered guys and gals, crombie coated, and Locarno nights. Me? I was with the “real music” brigade. The Suedes may have had the best clothes; We ALL KNOW cheesecloth, tie dye, afghan, and flares, were not the same league, and for us, denim clad, long haired, John Peel listening, Top of the Pops hating, tribe, Barry White was a nowhere man, and the idea then of him saving a life - - well it weren’t gonna happen.
Fast forward a life to, another Toon, another time, another place, it’s a pissing down with rain Sunday, a random CD chosen; Fun Loving Criminals, yeup that’s them the ones with Huey ‘6music’ Morgan and the Love Unlimited. Never really listened to this song, it was the groove that mattered. But this dismal day, relief seeped out of the song, a long slow clouded, silver burn to reveal deft wit, insight and a slice of humour and insight into music, and love’s power.
Just the lines
Barry White saved my life,
And if Barry White saved your life,
Or got you back with your ex-wife,
Sing Barry White, Barry White, it’s alright.
And of course, it IS alright, freed from the tribal teens’s pressure to conform, stay loyal to music, I can testify at long last to liking Barry White, and his deep soul voice, and he did record some of what now sound like magnificent classics… Explore them all over the platforms, or ferret out in UK Charity shops, or Stateside thrift stores, he wrote songs that touched so many.
The song like me, is told looking back, lines talk of catching Barry, being better than smoking a pipe, never done that, but love’s gotta be better than momentary pleasure of a crack rushes, and if Big Barry gets you in the mood, or floats memories, or raises inspiration, it’s better than the empty explosion of Coke, or insulation of Smack. Not too sure of Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ usage, habits, or drug views, or indeed Mr White’s. Not that they matter, it’s one artist citing, name checking another or is it more, an echo to their past, their youth, pangs and preferences, prejudices and secrets, perhaps, or a life’s commemoration.
There’s chatter on the Pips, and hymns sing alongs, redemption or a clever rhyme? Not that it matters, a great song with great sentiments. Only visited NYC twice, tourist spots only, Manhattan, Brooklyn, books, bands, coffee and beer sips, lower numbered streets. No elevated subway ride, Bronx or Queen, mean side, south side for me. But the song captures long, long, distant Tourist imagery of Saturday nights, slight desperation, and sense of looking for style in wasted, washed up, hung out to dry, times, but returns to Barry, apartment, hi-fi, vinyl, 33 or 45 lovers songs, Sunday mornings for lovers.
Lines drift and rhyme, in touch and outta time, the Criminals loving NY and it’s sleazy side, JP Getty gets a name check, the rich and famous, infamous and fabulous, wealth and taste, then it’s down to Saturday night, and coins and parking, and Barry being alright, and for me that’s all too true, Barry is alright in the day, evening or night.
The refrain that Barry White saved a life, returned love to wife, and he’s alright, too right, a cool insight to alternatives, lonely lives, laid bare, give up the drugs, find love and dig Barry White, and even if you don’t, Barry White, he’s right and he’s alright, right?
I’d have Barry saving me every time, “last night a DJ saved my life with a song”, but there’s nothing ‘In Deep’ there. The Criminals set humour and song in a tough place. It’s time to recognise the unfashionable, celebrate the life of a soul superstar, for too long disrespected, and disparaged, but on reflection, me and my tribe were wrong, and Barry is long overdue his place on the shelf of musicos everywhere, His time’s come, resurrected, celebrated, inspiration in a song of the Fun Lovin’ Criminals.
50 years ago I’d stayed tribal loyal, despised the art of the man and his songs, now grown up matured, stepped outside the tribe, it’s loyalties, it’s rigours and rituals, and learnt to stand in the light, and love the music that moves me. Though I’d taken the steps, chosen my own music, and my own tunes, this song was a reminder, I need to keep ears, and soul open to the future and the past. Is that a life saved from insular prejudices, and narrow mindedness, or broadened, whatever, listened to Barry and in the words of the ‘Godfather of Soul’
“I feel good - yeeeeee- ooooo- ahhhhhh”
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