Barrence Whitfield (born Barry White, June 13, 1955) is an American soul and R&B vocalist and best known as the singer of Barrence Whitfield and the Savages in the 1980s.
Born in Jacksonville, Florida, White's family moved to East Orange, New Jersey when he was a child, and he began
singing in a local gospel choir. While attending West Side High School he also sang and played drums in local rock and funk bands. In 1977 he went to Boston University to study journalism. There, he also worked in a local record shop, where his singing was heard by local musician Peter Greenberg of The Lyres. White adopted the stage name of Barrence Whitfield to avoid confusion with the other Barry White and began performing with Greenberg and other former members of the Lyres as Barrence Whitfield and the Savages.
The band gathered a strong local reputation for their stage performances, described as "raucous and rough, in high gear from the moment they hit the stage." Whitfield himself was described as "a soul screamer in the spirit of Little Richard, Wilson Pickett, Solomon Burke, and early Don Covay." In 1984, the band released their self-titled debut album, mostly comprising cover versions of obscure soul songs, to good critical reviews. The following year, they released a second album, Dig Yourself, on Rounder Records. Their music was heard by English radio DJ Andy Kershaw, who taped a Boston performance for playing on air in Britain, and took them to the UK to tour.
Whitfield released a third album, Call of the Wild, in the UK in 1987, featuring a new line-up of his band; an expanded version, retitled Ow! Ow! Ow! was later issued in the US. He toured widely in Europe, and won supporting slots on US tours by artists including Bo Diddley, Tina Turner, George Thorogood, Robert Cray, and Solomon Burke. This was followed by seven Boston Music Awards. A live album recorded in 1987-88 was followed by the album Let's Lose It, produced by Jim Dickinson and first issued in France.
In the 1990s, Whitfield contributed tracks to Merle Haggard and Don Covay tribute albums, and recorded two albums with country music singer-songwriter Tom Russell. His final album with the Savages, Ritual of the Savages, was released in 1995. In 1997, he began working with a New Hampshire-based jump blues and rockabilly octet, The Movers. As well as continuing to perform in the UK and Europe, Whitfield has also contributed to film scores, including the 2007 film, Honeydripper.
In December 2010 Barrence reunited with original Savages Peter Greenberg (DMZ, Lyres, Customs) with Andy Jody (Gazelles!, Pearlene, Oxford Cotton, Long Gones) and Tom Quartulli on sax to perform two live shows and record a new Barrence Whitfield and The Savages record.
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