Leon Ware Dies

Johnny Burgos Slider

Artist, songwriter, producer and all-round soul legend Leon Ware has died. He passed away on Feb 23, at the age of 77.
Whilst Ware’s biggest commercial successes came for his work behind the scenes as both songwriter and producer – he wrote and co-wrote many hits in the sixties and seventies, including Michael Jackson’s I Wanna Be Where You Are and Minnie Riperton’s Inside Your Love, and famously co-produced Marvin Gaye’s I Want You after having ‘donated’ his work on his own solo album to the Motown superstar – he was also something of a cult figure amongst soul fans for his artist albums, especially those he released during the 1970s.
Ware started his career as a songwriter in 1967. He co-wrote, with Ivy Hunter and Steve Bowden, The Isley BrothersGot To Have You Back. In 1971 he co-wrote six songs on Ike & Tina Turner’s top 40 R&B album, Nuff Said. Later the same year Ware began collaborating with Arthur “T-Boy” Ross, younger brother of Diana Ross. [I Wanna Be Where You Are was one of theirs, which reached No. 2 R&B and No. 16 pop in 1972. It led Ware to an artist contract with United Artists.] Around this time, Ware wrote material for several artists, including Donny Hathaway and The Miracles. In ‘74, Quincy Jones featured Ware as songwriter and performer on two songs on his Body Heat album. The song, If I Ever Lose This Heaven, made the R&B charts in September of the year and was later covered by the Average White Band. Ware worked with Minnie Riperton on Jones’ album and then on Riperton’s album, Adventures in Paradise, creating Riperton’s R&B hit, Inside My Love. It was while Ware and T-Boy Ross were working on demos for Ware’s second album, to be issued on Motown, that Berry Gordy heard their song I Want You and suggested it for Marvin Gaye, then in something of a creative rut. Gaye heard the other demos and decided to record a lot of the material on what would become his next album, I Want You. It sold over a million copies and went No. 1 R&B.
Having given away the material for his album, Ware began again on his own solo album, Musical Massage. Released in September 1976, it didn’t sell too well but did cement his reputation in soul circles. He continued his songwriting and producing career while also releasing solo albums between 1979 and 2008. During that period, he wrote for an array of acts, including Teena Marie, Jeffrey Osborne, Loose Ends, James Ingram, Melissa Manchester, Krystol, Bobby Womack, Billy Griffin, Chaka Khan and Lulu. Ware also produced some of Maxwell‘s debut, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, released in ‘96, the success of which sparked sampler interest in his earlier work.
In latter years Ware had treatment for prostate cancer. His most recent work to surface was on Omar’s album, Love In Beats, where he collaborated on the song Gave My Heart.