Leon Ware, R&B Singer/Songwriter, Dead at 77

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Leon Ware in the 1970s

Under his own name, Leon Ware was never a big seller: None of his albums—he recorded nearly a dozen between 1972-2008—made the Billboard chart and he placed only three singles on the trade publication’s R&B chart, none of them crossing over to pop. But as a songwriter his services were requested by the likes of Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, the Isley Brothers and Ike and Tina Turner.

Leon Ware died on Feb. 23 in North Hills, Calif. The cause of his death has not yet been revealed, although he was treated for prostate cancer several years ago.

Born in Detroit on Feb. 16, 1940, Leon Ware’s first music business experience was as a member of the R&B group the Romeos, but he  first found success as a songwriter. He co-wrote the Isleys’ “Got to Have You Back” in 1967 and six songs on Ike and Tina Turner’s 1971 album ’Nuff Said. That same year he co-wrote “I Want to Be Where You Are,” recorded by Michael Jackson for his Got to Be There album.

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As the ’70s progressed, Ware was recruited to write material for such R&B greats as Donny Hathaway, the Miracles and Quincy Jones, who cut Ware’s “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” (also covered by the Average White Band). Ware also provided vocals on Jones’ album Body Heat. In 1975, Ware had a hit with Minnie Riperton’s recording of his song “Inside My Love,” but his greatest success came in 1976, when Marvin Gaye had a #1 R&B hit with Ware’s “I Want You,” which also made #15 on the pop chart. Ware also co-produced Gaye’s album of the same title.

Leon Ware (r.) with Marvin Gaye

Ware began recording his own albums in 1972 with a self-titled set on United Artists, followed by albums on Motown, Elektra and other labels, none of which found commercial success. He continued to place songs with other artists, including Bobby Womack, Jeffrey Osborne, Teena Marie, Lulu, James Ingram, Melissa Manchester and, in 1996, he co-produced the debut by the singer Maxwell, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite.

Ware continued to record and perform into the 2000s.

Ware’s recordings were often sampled by hip-hop artists, including Tupac Shakur, Jay-Z and De La Soul.

Watch Leon Ware sing “I Want You” in 2001

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1 Comment so far

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  1. Mike Lenowsky
    #1 Mike Lenowsky 24 February, 2017, 23:35

    Seems like we’re really losing so many greats every week nowadays. And I guess it’s just gonna continue as they/we are all aging.

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