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Leon Ware

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Leon Ware
Background information
Born(1940-02-16)February 16, 1940
Detroit, Michigan, U.S.
DiedFebruary 23, 2017(2017-02-23) (aged 77)
Marina del Rey, California, U.S.
GenresR&B, soul, disco, funk, jazz
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, record producer
Instrument(s)Vocals, piano, keyboards
Years active1967–2017
LabelsGordy, United Artists, Fabulous, Elektra, Expansion, Stax, P-Vine

Leon Ware (February 16, 1940 – February 23, 2017)[1] was an American songwriter, producer, composer, and singer. Besides a solo career as a performer, Ware was best known for producing hits for other artists including Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Maxwell, Minnie Riperton and Marvin Gaye, co-producing the latter's album I Want You.

Early life[edit]

Ware was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, United States.[1] His mother was a minister[2] and a pianist for their local Baptist church[3] and his father worked for Ford Motor Co. on the assembly line.[3] Ware was the youngest of ten siblings.[3] He was blind for two years after he had an accident with a slingshot when he was five years old.[3] Despite being only blind in the right eye, his left eye was covered as well.[3] Ware said that, "They [presumably his family] worried that if my left eye wasn’t covered, it would be too strong if my right eye regained its vision." Subsequently, he was sent to the Michigan School for the Blind.[2] In his teens, he was a key member of a vocal group, the Romeos, with Lamont Dozier and Ty Hunter (later of the Originals).[4]


Early career[edit]

Ware worked at ABC Records as an arranger and songwriter before he joined Motown as a songwriter in 1967.[4] He had co-written songs for the Isley Brothers, Martha & the Vandellas, and the Jackson 5 during his early years at Motown.[5]

Early major songwriting success: 1971–1973[edit]

In 1971, Ware collaborated with Ike & Tina Turner, co-writing six songs on their United Artists album 'Nuff Said. The album reached the #21 on the Billboard R&B chart and also appeared on the Billboard 200. This led to a contract as a solo artist on United Artists where he released his self-titled debut album in 1972.[6] Around this time, Ware began collaborating with Arthur "T-Boy" Ross, younger brother of Diana Ross. One of the songs they wrote together was "I Wanna Be Where You Are," recorded by Michael Jackson for his 1972 album Got To Be There.[7] The single reached number-two on the R&B charts and peaked at #16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.[8] Ware wrote for numerous artists during this period including Donny Hathaway[9] and The Miracles.[10]

Subsequent success: 1974–1976[edit]

In 1974, Quincy Jones booked Ware as songwriter and performer for two songs on Jones' Body Heat album.[11] The song "If I Ever Lose This Heaven" hit the R&B chart in September of that year[12] and was covered by the Average White Band.[11] Ware had worked with Minnie Riperton on Jones' album, and they collaborated again on Riperton's album Adventures in Paradise,[11] composing Riperton's R&B hit, "Inside My Love," and the two collaborated yet again on Ware's second album, Musical Massage.[13] Ware and Ross worked on demos for Ware's second album, this one to be issued on Motown and also for Ross to win a deal.[7] One of the demo recordings, "I Want You," was heard by Berry Gordy, who decided the song would be a good fit for Marvin Gaye.[7] Gaye heard the other demos and decided to record much of it on what would be his next album, I Want You.[7] Buoyed by the number-one title track, the album peaked at number-one on the R&B chart and it reached the Top Ten of the Billboard 200 and sold over a million copies.[14]

Recording, songwriting, producing, and later career: 1976–2010s[edit]

Having given away the material for his album, Ware began again on a solo effort for Motown's Gordy label. The result would become his second album, Musical Massage, released in September 1976.[7] The album was a commercial failure due to poor promotion.[11] However, it became a cult hit among soul music fans that were intrigued by Gaye's I Want You album and the songs from Ware himself.[15] After his brief stint as a recording artist at Motown, Ware decided to focus on writing and producing for other artists, and he wouldn't release another album until 1979.[11] He finally achieved chart success when he released his third album, Inside Is Love, via Fabulous Records in 1979. It reached the charts along with its single, "What's Your Name," establishing him as a recording artist for the first time.[11] After recording for Fabulous Records, Ware signed with Elektra Records,[11][16] and he released his fourth album in 1981, titled Rockin' You Eternally,[17] which spawned two R&B singles chart entries, "Baby Don't Stop Me" and the title song, but the album itself did not reach the charts.[11] Elektra financed a follow-up, and Ware's fifth album, Leon Ware, was released in 1982.[11][18] Unfortunately for Ware, the label dropped him when the album failed to sell many copies.[11] In 1987, he signed with Slingshot Records and released his sixth album, Undercover.[11]

Some of the artists that Ware had written and produced for in between and after those periods include Shadow,[19] Teena Marie, Jeffrey Osborne, Loose Ends, James Ingram, Melissa Manchester, Krystol, Bobby Womack, and Lulu, co-writing the latter's European hit, "Independence."[11]

In the 1990s, his earlier work became a source of samples in hip-hop music.[11][20] William Ruhlmann of AllMusic wrote, "Such success didn't increase Ware's exposure as an artist, but it substantially increased his publishing income. At the same time, he was being discovered as a soul music progenitor, particularly in England, where the Expansion label began reissuing his solo albums."[11] Ware then released his seventh album, Taste the Love, on his own Kitchen Records label in 1995 to help his cause.[11] He also contributed to singer Maxwell's 1996 debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite by co-writing "Sumthin' Sumthin'." The album is considered one of the landmark albums of the neo-soul genre.[20]

Throughout the 2000s, Ware continued to release several albums, which are Candlelight (2001), Love's Drippin' (2003), Deeper (2004), A Kiss in the Sand (2004), and Moon Ride (2008).

In the 2010s, Ware was featured in several projects by current artists, such as Cherry Bomb by Tyler, the Creator, Vibes by Theophilus London, and Love in Beats by Omar.[21] In 2019, after two years of his death, a posthumous album, Rainbow Deux, was released.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Ware was married four times.[22] His second wife was Susaye Greene,[22] whom he married in 1974 and would later divorce in the same year.[2][22] He was married to Carol Ware from 1980 until his death.[1] Their wedding took place on September 5, 1980 in Malibu, California.[23]

Illness and death[edit]

As of 2009, Ware was recovering from treatment for prostate cancer, and credited his friend and fellow songwriter Adrienne Anderson with directing him to appropriate medical care.[24] He died in Marina del Rey, California, on February 23, 2017, from complications of prostate cancer. He was 77.[1][25] At the time of his death, he was survived by his wife, his sons, his granddaughter, and his brothers.[1]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album Chart positions[26] Record label
1972 Leon Ware (1972) United Artists
1976 Musical Massage Gordy
1979 Inside Is Love 62 Fabulous
1981 Rockin' You Eternally Elektra
1982 Leon Ware (1982)
1987 Undercover Sling Shot Records
1995 Taste the Love Expansion
2001 Candlelight
2003 Love's Drippin P-Vine
2004 A Kiss in the Sand Kitchen Records
2008 Moon Ride Stax
2014 Sigh P-Vine
2019 Rainbow Deux Be With Records
"—" denotes the album failed to chart

Charted singles[edit]

Date Title US R&B
1979 What's Your Name 42
1981 Baby Don't Stop Me 66
Rockin' You Eternally 74

Songwriting credits[edit]

Ware wrote and co-wrote dozens of songs for various artists, some of his credits include:


  1. ^ a b c d e Sandomir, Richard (March 2, 2017). "Leon Ware, Producer Who Worked With Marvin Gaye, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c "Leon Ware Page". www.soulwalking.co.uk. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d e Myers, Marc. "Interview: Leon Ware (Part 1) - JazzWax". www.jazzwax.com. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Not Forgotten", Record Collector, No. 466, May 2017, p. 142
  5. ^ Beta, Andy (February 24, 2017). "9 Songs Showcasing Leon Ware's Incomparable Soul Touch". Pitchfork. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  6. ^ Rys, Dan (February 24, 2017). "Renowned Soul Singer and Songwriter Leon Ware Dies at 77". Billboard.
  7. ^ a b c d e Leon Ware (1976). Musical Massage (Motown Classic Albums re-issue). (CD liner notes). Motown Records. B0000789-02
  8. ^ "Michael Jackson". Billboard. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  9. ^ Donny Hathaway (1973). Extension of a Man. Album credits. Atco Records. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  10. ^ The Miracles (1973). Renaissance. Album credits. Motown Records. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Ruhlmann, William. "Leon Ware Biography". AllMusic. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  12. ^ "Quincy Jones US singles chart history". allmusic.com. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  13. ^ Leon Ware (1976). Musical Massage. Album credits. Motown Records.
  14. ^ David Ritz (2003). I Want You. Deluxe edition liner notes, pp. 8–10. UMG Recordings, Inc. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  15. ^ Sutliff, Amileah (February 21, 2021). "Leon Ware's Sensual Masterpiece". Vinyl Me, Please. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  16. ^ Betts, Graham (June 2, 2014). Motown Encyclopedia. AC Publishing. ISBN 978-1-311-44154-6.
  17. ^ Leon Ware (1981). Rockin' You Eternally. Elektra Records. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  18. ^ Leon Ware (1982). Leon Ware. Elektra Records. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  19. ^ Billboard September 12, 1981 Page 79 Billboards Recommended LPs Continued from page 74
  20. ^ a b Tsioulcas, Anastasia (February 24, 2017). "Leon Ware, Songwriter Behind Several R&B Powerhouses, Dies". NPR.
  21. ^ "Leon Ware | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved January 15, 2023.
  22. ^ a b c Michael J. Edwards (2004). Leon Ware: Love's Endless Servant. Retrieved 2023-01-15.
  23. ^ "Billboard". September 27, 1980. Retrieved January 15, 2024 – via Google Books.
  24. ^ Interview With Leon Ware Archived 2010-05-04 at the Wayback Machine: "Still Riding High", published March 6, 2009; www.souljazzandfunk.com.
  25. ^ Spice, Anton (February 16, 1940). "Soul legend Leon Ware dies aged 77". Thevinylfactory.com. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  26. ^ "Leon Ware US albums chart history". allmusic.com. Retrieved May 29, 2011.
  27. ^ "Leon Ware Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved October 12, 2019.

External links[edit]