The music world lost another of its bright stars in Leon Ware last Thursday, but the songwriter has left behind one of the richest legacies in the industry. As a songwriter and producer, Ware was behind some of R&B’s biggest hits and lent his pen to many a musical legend.
Ware was born on February 16, 1940 in Detroit, Mich. His career as a songwriter began in 1967, joining fellow songwriters Ivy Hunter and Steve Bowden in working on The Isley Brothers‘ “Got To Have You Back” track. In 1971, Ware began working extensively with Ike and Tina Turner for their Nuff Said album. Ware and Diana Ross’ younger brother Arthur “T-Boy” Ross, eventually worked together on Michael Jackson’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are” from the Got To Be Here album.
The success of Jackson’s record helped land Ware a recording deal of his own with a self-titled album seeing a 1972 release. This led to Ware writing for a bevy of artists, including the late Donny Hathaway and R&B group The Miracles. In 1974, Ware was recruited by Quincy Jones for the legendary producer’s Body Heat album. Ware then began working alongside the late Minnie Riperton for her Adventures In Paradise album, which featured the classic hit “Inside My Love.”
1976 was another fruitful year for Ware after a demo recording landed into the hands of Marvin Gaye. Though the demo was material Ware was intending to release for his second solo project, the track “I Want You” would go on to inspire the renowned Gaye album of the same name that year.
Ware focused on songwriting and producing after a less than stellar reception for his solo projects. Artists such as Teena Marie, Jeffrey Osborne, Loose Ends and James Ingram all benefited from Ware’s pen during a busy period between 1979 and 2008.
In 1993, Ware co-produced and co-wrote on Maxwell’s debut album, Urban Hang Suite, considered one of the classics of the neo-soul era. Ware wrote the album’s big hit, “Sumthin’ Sumthin’.”
Ware was 77.
PHOTO: Stax Records, Jae Feinberg