Beloved Soul Songwriter & Producer Leon Ware Has Passed Away
Songwriter and producer Leon Ware has passed away. The Detroit, Michigan native was a musical wizard to produced hits for such icons as Marvin Gaye and Michael Jackson throughout his 50-year career. Over the course of that half century, he gifted R&B, Disco, Funk, and Jazz with masterpieces, but it was in Soul music that his status as an architect really stands tall.
In his 20s, Ware joined Motown Records as a songwriter, where he co-wrote songs for such artists as The Isley Brothers (“Got to Have You Back”) and a young Mike (“I Wanna Be Where You Are”). With 1976’s co-writing and o-producing credits on Gaye’s I Want You album, a 36-year-old Ware was already a songwriter’s songwriter. The ’70s brought him into the studio with Donny Hathaway, Quincy Jones (including the oft-sampled “If I Ever Lose This Heaven”), The Miracles, Minnie Riperton, as well as the launch of his solo career with his ’72 self-titled debut. As music began to evolve, so did Ware, and he would eventually go on to work with Maxwell on the Neo-Soul progenitor of an album, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite.
Heads know Leon Ware’s work well, even f only subconsciously. Tupac’s 1996 hit record featuring K-Ci & Jojo, “How Do U Want It” features Quincy Jones’ “Body Heat,” a record that would not exist without Ware’s creative input. De La Soul’s “Foolin’,” Mobb Deep’s “Temperature’s Rising,” Ras Kass’ “My Apology,” Royce 5’9’s “I Promise,” and Dave East & Nas’ “Forbes List” are just some of the Hip-Hop cuts built atop samples of songs Ware wrote, co-wrote, or produced. A deeper dig will reveal even more Ware fingerprints in classic Hip-Hop, such as those which sample the Ware-penned Ripperton record, “Inside My Love” (these include A Tribe Called Quest’s “Lyrics to Go,” ‘Pac’s “Me Against the World,” Slum Village’s “Look of Love [Remix],” and and others.
Ware spent the 2010s suffering from prostate cancer. He passed away yesterday (February 23) at 77. Ambrosia for Heads extends condolences to the Ware family and to all of those whose lives his music touched.