Let the Music Play: The Barry White Story [DVD]
Eagle Vision USA (2/20/07)
Like most white men I have this illogical image in my head of who and what Barry White was. Like the life and times of Smokey Robinson, James Brown, Luther Vandross and various other African-American singers, they float around our white radios, playing only the most accessible hits, rarely if ever letting their personal lives and personalities effect our consciousness. That being said, I didn’t realize how little I actually knew about Barry White until I watched this film. Aside from his big hits like â€œYou’re the First, the Last, My Everythingâ€ and â€œCan’t Get Enough of Your Love Babeâ€ and his guest spot on The Simpsons, I actually knew nothing. I even completely forgot that he died just a little while ago. And the incidents surrounding his death are, not to be blamed on my ignorance but upon a lack of media attention, astounding and quite heartbreaking.
The first three quarters of the film run as basic introspection documentaries do. This includes: stock footage of the artist, interviews with friends, family, and co-workers (all three roles often crossing paths in many case throughout Barry’s life), and a voice-over with a detailed explanation of the artist’s awards and achievements. An interesting aspect of this film was that there was a narration provided by Barry White. Considering this film was made posthumously, the voice-over really, kinda creeps me out. The audio is too clear to be snippets of interviews over the years, so I can only assume it was recorded perhaps for a documentary that was being made while he was alive. It does give the feeling that the ghost of Barry White is watching these childhood photograph montages roll by and commentating on them. And if you think about it, the ghost of Barry White would be awesome to have haunting your house, especially if you have a lady over. The creepy tendency stays honest as we head into the last quarter of the film, which is the reason to love and loathe this film.
The last bit of the movie deals with the tragic situation behind Barry’s death. While in some aspects it is a story that deserves to be told and heard, it is also an exercise in horrible filmmaking and storytelling. What I gather is that around 1995 Barry started to get sick; I am not sure with what, as they just say sick. Then in 2005 he starts to get real sick. At this time Barry, for some strange reason, gives power of attorney to his new girlfriend (who claims to be pregnant with Barry’s babyâ€”and after he died it turned out NOT to be his) and his new manager. The girlfriend and manager lock the rest of Barry’s family out of the hospital and refuse to give them information about his condition. The film struggles here as a cast of characters are introduced and it slowly become a tangled web of plots and who-said-what’s only to leave the viewer with more questions than when they started. At a running time of only 73 minutes, the film should have spent more time explaining what happened to Barry. The filmmakers were so focused shaking the blame stick at the girlfriend and manager that they forgot to explain exactly what was going on. I give the benefit of the doubt, because I am sure it was a confusing time for everyone involved and therefore a clear story could not be formed. I assume the manager and girlfriend didn’t cooperate with the filmmaking process. Still, it just seemed very puzzling and rushed.
As a whole the film tries to cram this man’s entire life in a little over an hour. There is never any time to dwell on a specific moment before moving on. It isn’t like there is no material. It is worth seeing just to find out who Barry White is and where he came from. That and to hear that â€œCan’t Get Enough of Your Love Babeâ€ was written in the kitchen after Barry was done, as he put it, â€œbangin’ his wife.â€ The movie is filled with wonderful anecdotes like that and it makes it worth watching. He is a charming, wonderful man, who I am actually going to miss even though I never really knew him while he was here. His kids seem to adore him and even his ex-wife couldn’t say nicer things about him. It is really a tribute to an honest, hard-working, talented artist. The kind that are found so few-and-far-between in today’s entertainment society that one is forced to question, with the advantage that seems to have been taken of Barry in his last days, perhaps it doesn’t pay to be a righteous person anymore. But Barry wouldn’t want us to give up, I am sure he looks down on us today with that massive grin giving us sunshine on nice day and that rumbling voice giving us thunder on our dark days. Good night sweet prince, may a flight of sexy ladies sing thee to they rest.