The Evolution of Sweetness – A Barry White Story

Barry WhiteAs science teaches us, all things in nature are subject to evolution. Is a song any different? From the time people stretched animal skins to beat with bones there has been a progression of sound. Each generation of a rhythm or melody building on what came before. Changing slightly, but usually revealing its genome in a trill, a texture, or a telling transcribing. Within every song, there is a lineage. The aboriginal peoples of Australia call them “Songlines” and if you follow them, they will often take you to new and interesting places.

The year is 1969 and a young up-and-comer in the record business is looking for new opportunities when the record label he works for folds. Now called Mustang and Bronco, the labels have hits like “I Fought The Law”, not to mention US and UK hits for one aritst directly under his management, Felice Taylor. With his career temporarily on hold, he agrees to write and produce a theme song for the Hanna-Barbera children’s TV series ‘The Banana Splits’. As is true to this day, music used in film or television can be very lucrative and the song “Doin’ The Banana Split” kept him in a positive cash flow for some time.

Prior to his work at Mustang/Bronco, he played drums and keys for an artist named Jackie Lee, touring on the strength of a song called “The Duck”. The two grew tight on that tour and when Jackie needed a new single he knew exactly who to call.

Jackie Lee - Your Sweetness Is My WeaknessIn 1970, Jackie Lee released the first ever recorded version of the classic “Your Sweetness Is My Weakness” written by none other than Mr. Barry White. That recording has never been re-released and can be found only on a 7″ vinyl single, played at 45 revolutions per minute. This version of the song was a Billboard “Soul Sauce” pick of the week in the October 10, 1970 issue along with the comment “Bound to be big”.

The name Jackie Lee was just a pseudonym conujured up by Earl Lee Nelson, whose wife’s name was Jackie. He also recorded under the names Earl Cosby, Chip Nelson and under the slightly more familiar moniker: Jay Dee. Jay Dee’s first album in 1974 called ‘Come On In Love’ was entirely produced by Barry White, and almost entirely written too. It included yet another recording of “Your Sweetness Is My Weakness”, this time with the songwriter himself at the helm to make it sound proper.

Jay Dee - Come On In LoveWhile producing the album for Jay Dee, Barry White’s solo career and his recordings with Love Unlimited were burning up the charts. His debut album ‘I’ve Got So Much To Give’ and its lead single “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More, Baby” went Gold. His recording of the instrumental “Love’s Theme” by Love Unlimited and re-released as The Love Unlimited Orchestra climbed to No. 1 on the USA charts and top 10 in twenty-five countries around the world. Barry White even married Glodean James of Love Unlimited, making 1974 a very big year for “The Man”.

Between 1973 and 1979, 20 albums were released on 20th Century records under the name Barry White, Love Unlimited or The Love Unlimited Orchestra, almost all of which achieved at least Gold status in the USA. He sold $16 million worth of records in just 1974 alone and Barry White was deemed responsible for the ‘Baby Boom’ in the mid-Seventies as reported by the New York Times. “Not me personally,” he would joke, “but my music.”

Barry White achieved a long list of classics, with songs such as “Love’s Theme”, “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love Babe”, “Let The Music Play”, “What Am I Gonna Do With You”, and “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me” becoming a virtual soundtrack to the 70s era.

Barry White - The ManIn 1978 “The Man” would finally get his chance to record “Your Sweetness Is My Weakness” in what I suspect would be the way he first imagined it. With the release of the album “The Man”, a 12″ Disco single was distributed to DJs around the world featuring an epic 8-minute love-making eargasm of a song. As a single it climbed to #60 on the Billboard Hot 100, spending 9 weeks on the chart.

For your listening enjoyment, here are all three versions of my personal favourite Barry White lullabye. The ultra-rare Jackie Lee version (1970), the more widely distributed Jay Dee version (1974), and the eventual masterpiece by Barry White himself (1978).

God Bless Barry. We love you, baby.

Jackie Lee – Your Sweetness Is My Weakness

Jay Dee – Your Sweetness Is My Weakness

Barry White – Your Sweetness Is My Weakness