I miss Glodeane. As Barry White’s muse and inspiration for a number of years, the Long Beach, California, native, along with her sister, Linda, developed their skills as vocalists in the church choir before meeting up with their third–Linda Taylor. Together, the girls worked as the Croonettes, making their way as best they could in a world where there was no shortage of black, girl singers, until providence arrived in the form of blue-suited, big-chested, and marcelled Barry White (1944-2003). The ultimate impresario signed them to a deal, and produced two of the most unforgettable soul records of the nineteen-seventies: “Walking In The Rain (With The One I Love),” And “I Belong To You.” It was the latter tune that inspired one of my first short stories, published in a Columbia University magazine called Upstart, where the narrator fell in love with Love Unlimited, as Barry christened the singers. The narrator of that story was also in love with a Jewish boy, but Glodeane was his star–she of the white halter, dangerously full hair, dangerously long, vividly colored fingernails curled about her hips. That image was emblazoned on Love UnLimited’s brilliant 1972 album, “In Heat.” One loved Barry not just because of his orchestrations–he was a kind of smushy Duke Ellington, but with a different brand of cool; mostly it was in his voice, and his serious schmaltz; he gave the world violins in soul music, and that helped spawn Chic, etc–but because he loved Glodeane, too. The couple married in 1974, and they were the precursor to Faith and Biggie, both oversized, and perspiring so memorably in white furs as they rolled around Beverly Hills, pressed. One album cover I looked at over and over again during those years featured Barry sitting at a white piano, with Glodeane leaning near him at the piano, looking as hot and subtle as an inspiration. One can hear a bit of Barry and a tad of Glodeane in what has become my summer jam: Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Closer.” I was only marginally interested in Rae when she came out with her first album in 2006. I wasn’t really much interested in how she was being packaged: as the very image of innocuous English multiculturalism, and on a bicycle, lethargically romping in a sun dappled world of butterflies and twisted hair. She didn’t make me want to “put my records on,” as her hit single commanded. Then I forgot about her. Indeed, I only became reacquainted with her singing when she performed with Al Green on 2008’s “Take Your Time.” I was living in a part of Massachusetts then where I needed something real. Then the snow thawed, and I forgot about Rae again until I heard “Closer,” on 98.7KISS FM several weeks ago. I sort of couldn’t believe it. For there, in the violins and syncopation, the little girl insinuation, was a singer who sounded as though she had somehow found herself in Barry’s archives, and managed to channel the feelings he had for Glodeane in his orchestrations, while getting at the root of what Glodeane gave Barry: her brilliant joy in collaboration, which is a less common form of intimacy.
– August 7, 2011