November 1973: Barry White's Love Unlimited Orchestra Spins "Love's Theme"

Barry White on Soul Train, 1973
Photo Credit
Soul Train via Getty Images

Barry White was known the world over for his deep bass vocals - but the first single he guided to the top of the charts got there with no words at all.

"Love's Theme," the lush instrumental credited to his backing ensemble, The Love Unlimited Orchestra, was released as a single in November 1973 and topped the Billboard Hot 100 the week ending February 9, 1974 - right before Valentine's Day, appropriately enough.

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The Love Unlimited Orchestra was part of a unique, multi-pronged approach to the charts Barry White commenced that year. In 1972, White made his mark on the music business as a writer and producer, overseeing debut album by female trio Love Unlimited. Their "Walkin' in the Rain with the One I Love" became a Top 20 pop hit, setting the scene for more success ahead.

White dove into his work headfirst in 1973, releasing not only another Love Unlimited album, Under the Influence of Love, but his first solo album, I've Got So Much to Give. White, by his own admission, was reluctant to step into the spotlight. "I never felt that it was right for me to sing until last year, September," White said on a 1973 radio promo disc. "We always knew when the time was right, we had a hell of a chance of getting over, instead of just doing it because there's nobody else to record or just wanna get on an ego trip." Nonetheless, by that summer, he had a bona fide smash: "I'm Gonna Love You Just a Little More Baby," which reached No. 3 on the Hot 100.

The seeds of the Love Unlimited Orchestra were sown on Under the Influence of Love Unlimited: White's 40-piece backing orchestra kicked the album off with "Love's Theme," a sublime instrumental overture built on swirling string lines and wah-wah guitar. It was White's soulful, romantic essence in a nutshell.

More of White's sumptuous instrumentals were captured to tape and released as Rhapsody in White at the beginning of 1974. By that point, White's second solo single, "Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up" was sitting pretty in the Top 10 of the pop charts. "Love's Theme" soon took the top spot, and never really left pop culture. It was used by various news and sports programs as a music bed; moreover, its style majorly influenced the growing sound of disco music.

Love Unlimited did take advantage of a set of words written by lyricist Aaron Schroeder to release their own vocal version of "Love's Theme" in 1974. Of course, by that point, Barry White was a solo star thanks to the chart-topping album Can't Get Enough and a string of sensuous hits that would continue throughout the 1970s.

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