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Rest In Harmony, Leon Ware (1940 - 2017)

Rest In Harmony, Leon Ware (1940 - 2017)

Rest In Harmony, Leon Ware (1940 - 2017)

Photo of Leon Ware taken by Kalamu ya Salaam.

It is with a solemn heart that we report that Leon Ware, the celebrated songwriter behind The Isley Brothers‘ “Got to Have You Back” and Michael Jackson‘s “I Wanna Be Where You Are” has passed on at the age of 77.

A Detroit, Michigan original, Ware was imbued with the spirit of Motown running through his veins. He began his career as a songwriter alongside Ivy Hunter and Steve Bowden in 1967. From that point on, he would never look back at his old life, as he would collaborate with the infamous (Ike & Tina Turner) to the divinely famous (the aforementioned Michael Jackson) to spin-offs like Shadow.

Most know Leon Ware’s name as being a songwriter and performer on Quincy Jones‘ Body Heat album and a collaborator on Minnie Riperton‘s Adventures in Paradise album, but it was a little known demo recording heard by Berry Gordy that would help to cement his place among the greats. As legend would go, Leon was working on a cut with T-Boy Ross that was meant to be issued on Motown Records and win T-Boy a deal. Gordy, who heard them working on “I Want You,” thought it would be a good song for Marvin Gaye.

The rest, as they say, was history.

Gaye would use that plus other demos which would become the foundation of his album, I Want You, would go on to be a No. 1 hit on the R&B charts and a top 10 single on the Billboard 200. Ware would continue his songwriting and producing career well into the 20th century, writing for and working with James IngramBobby WomackTeena MarieJeffrey Osborne, and even help to produce Maxwell‘s debut album, Urban Hang Suite.

It’s also no secret that hip-hop benefitted from his funky rich soulful sounds, as 2Pac (“How Do U Want It”), Das EFX (“They Want EFX”), Curren$y (“Crawfish”) and De La Soul (“Foolin'”) were just a few to sample Leon Ware as a heavy source. A few years ago in 2009, Ware was recovering from treatment from prostate cancer. While we’re yet to know the reason behind his passing, the musical community has already begun to sing Leon Ware’s praises in remembrance of the giant we shall forever miss.

We will update this story as soon as more develops. Our sincerest condolences go out to Leon Ware’s family, friends and fans.


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