Barry White, or “The Maestro” as he was appropriately dubbed, made some of the classiest, most romantic albums in music history. It has often been said that many children were being created while White’s albums played on the stereo.
White’s debut album I’ve Got So Much To Give, which was released in March 1973 and showcased him on the album’s cover holding four beautiful ladies in his hands, laid the foundation for his soulful crooning and “pillow talk” which became his trademark. That album was a smash, peaking at number one on the soul charts for two weeks and number 16 on the pop charts, going gold.
Stone Gon’, White’s second album which came out in October 1973, was released at a time when recording artists were releasing at least two or sometimes three albums a year. White was extremely popular at this time as a new artist on the horizon and it seemed everything he touched, or sang, turned to gold.
White’s music, as with the music of other male artists of that period such as Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, and Al Green, was classy. He sang the type of songs women wanted to hear, songs of romance and seductiveness–not the lustful, provocative and profane lyrics that sadly dominate a lot of music today.
As with his previous and many of his future albums, White wrote, produced and arranged all of the songs on Stone Gon’ when it was rare for most artists of that time–particularly for a new artist–to have that much power and control over their material.
Stone Gon’’s album cover showcased White deeply engrossed in playing a tune on his piano. The hand of a woman with long fingernails (his future wife, Glodean James) was pressed on the piano as well as a half-full glass of wine. The background setting was in a snowy white glacier type environment, giving the effect that White’s music can keep you warm.
The gatefold included White’s handwritten poem which read: “Nothin’ can ever change my dear, the way I feel about you. Cuz’ if I didn’t have you here, I’d be lost without you. And so I take time and place to give this card to you . . . and pray that we will always be together, strong and true.”
Stone Gon’ contains five songs, all centered around romance and love. Whereas today when many artists put an average of about 15 or more songs, some of which are meaningless and pointless, artists back in the seventies had an average of 10 songs or fewer. It was all about the quality of the songs, not the quantity.
The album opens with a deeply romantic tune entitled “Girl, It’s True, Yes, I’ll Always Love You.” It begins with White rapping to his woman in his sexy seductive baritone voice stating, “There’s that look again. You know what I’m talking about. It’s in your eyes. The look that says does he really love me and need me as much as he says he do?” It then slides into White singing and reassuring his woman that he will love her forever. Indeed, the perfect wedding song.
The next tune is one of White’s most underrated tracks, an uptempo, danceable track entitled “Honey Please, Can’t Ya See,” in which White sang in an aching, pleading voice of his undying love and affection for his woman. It’s a great track, one worthy of wider play and recognition. Of interesting note is that this track was one of the early harbingers of disco as it received considerable airplay in discotheques across the country.
The last tune on side one is “You’re My Baby,” which contains another of White’s smooth love raps before it segues into White declaring his happiness for having his woman in his life.
Side two begins with the intimate and sensual “Hard to Believe That I Found You,” which is predominantly White rapping about how much he loves his woman. He even gives the album a plug, singing, “Let’s dig this album because it’s all for you.”
The last song on the album is the outstanding track “Never, Never Gonna Give You Up,” which begins with a long, seductive instrumental intro capped by White’s heavy breathing and gentle crooning of “baby, oh baby” which climaxes into a danceable beat as White sings how we will never leave his woman, that he couldn’t live without her and was going to stay with her.
Two singles were released from the album. The first single, “Never Never Gonna Give You Up,” went to number two for two weeks on the soul charts in December 1973 and number six on the pop charts, becoming White’s second gold single. The follow up single, “Honey Please, Can’t Ya See” went to number six on the soul charts in April 1974 and number 44 on the pop charts. Interestingly enough, the A-side of the “Never Never Gonna Give You Up” contained the edited version of the song while the B-side contained the long version.
With much of today’s music being vulgar in both its presentation and lyrics, White’s music is reminiscent of a time of not only when the music was real, but tasteful and great ear candy. Nearly 40 years later, Stone Gon’, like all of White’s music, is still listenable and timeless.
Stephen McMillian is a journalist, writer, actor, filmmaker, dancer, Soul Train historian and soul music historian. He will be appearing in the play “My First Experience at the Garage,” based on the popular eighties club, on October 19 and 20 in New York City at Symphony Space. For more information visit, www.symphonyspace.org.