Late Balladeer Barry White Remembered

07/07/2003 at 08:50 AM EDT

"Maestro of Love" soul singer Barry White, who died of kidney failure Friday in Los Angeles at age 58, has been fondly remembered by those who knew him

Don Cornelius, founder of the "Soul Train" TV show, told the Associated Press that White, whose three decades of sexually charged R&B songs included "Love's Theme," "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "It's Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next To Me," was nothing short of "a true master."

According to Cornelius: "There was no match for Barry White. His music is just going to live forever. ... It's not limited to disco or soul or hip-hop or anything."

Sam Moore, of the 1960s soul band Sam and Dave, said of White: "He didn't have to do like the average, jumping all over the stage. He could just stand there with his big orchestra and he could just mesmerize."

Though White's heyday was the disco era of the '70s, rappers in the late '90s started showing their appreciation for his work. In addition, the singer and his music served as inspiration for one of the romantically challenged characters on FOX's hit series "Ally McBeal" in the late '90s. In 2000, his work was belatedly applauded with the presentation of his first two Grammys, for best male vocal performance and best traditional R&B vocal performance for the song "Staying Power."

Born in Galveston, Texas, to a single mother, White and a younger sibling, Darryl, spent most of their childhood in south central Los Angeles. His lifelong love of music, he said, began with his singing in a Baptist church choir.

As for his trademark deep baritone, White told Ebony magazine in 1990 that it simply developed overnight while he was a teen. "It scared me and my mother when I spoke that morning," he said. "It was totally unexpected. My chest rattled. I mean, vibrations."

White, who had suffered a stroke last September and battled high blood pressure, is survived by, among others, eight children and a companion named Catherine Denton.

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