BARRY WHITE HAS HELPED MILLIONS OF PEOPLE get laid in the span of his 30-plus-year music career. He started in A&R, but from his first solo album, 1973's I've Got So Much to Give, to this year's Staying Power, White has encouraged us all to slip into something a little more comfortable.

White's deep baritone is virility-as-sound-waves, with bass you couldn't feel more if you were cradling a sub-woofer. Which is critical, 'cause no one else could get away with such trashy lyrics and cheesy production. But Barry White is a seductive throwback to the libertine '70s. He sings about a man just wanting to make sweet love to a woman. That he writes without winking, without the South Park hipster irony, is an accomplishment to be explored. With that in mind, I took to the streets armed with the following quotes from the first single, "Staying Power," a standard R&B tune over which White spreads his lyrical love potion:

My mission's clear

It's more than love

That keeps you here

I've got

Staying power

Just when you think it's over I'll come

Right back again

Tease me

With your emotion

Soon we'll share nature's

Body lotion

Maureen, 28

What does this mean to you?

Can I see that again?

Sure. [Maureen's blushing.] Are you familiar with Barry White at all?

Only a little bit.

What do you think he means by staying power?

Um, I'm assuming he's talking about, um... sex?

How do you feel about "nature's body lotion" as a turn of phrase?

It's a little bit gross [laughs].

Would you ever say that to someone, or sleep with someone who used that phrase with you?

Maybe if they were joking. I would never sleep with them because they said that.

Do these lyrics get you in the mood?

No, not at all. It kinda sounds like a detergent commercial. Maybe it has to do with his singing or his personality. Maybe Barry White can say anything and turn you on, I don't know.

Do you agree that when you're in a relationship there needs to be something more than love to keep you there?

In my mind, yeah, it's probable. It seems to work for a lot of people. In the '50s, however, you know -- like, my grandparents I'm not sure have sex. And they've been happily together for a very long time.

Mike, 26

Are you familiar with Barry White?

Can't get enough of his love, baby.

Okay. Do you have the new album?

No.

I'm gonna read you some lyrics [reads from "Staying Power"]. What do you think Barry is trying to say here?

I think he's talking about his new order of Viagra that just came in from his Mexico Internet connection. And he's talking about one of his recent conquests while using this new product.

New product? Is that nature's body lotion?

Well, nature's body lotion is uh, what is referred to in the modern day as jizz or come. I think the technical term would be semen.

I thought he might be referring to his career, since he's had such staying power, with all his platinum records, but no, it's an anatomical reference, isn't it?

Yes it is, similar to what you would hear from such crass bands as 2 Live Crew or Eazy-E and NWA, and don't forget the Compton Posse.

I won't. Now, do you think he's right, that in a relationship there needs to be something more than love keeping you there?

Well, I'm not gonna go that far into Barry White's lyrics. I think Barry White is more of a comical songwriter, and he knows it. The things he says are about makin' love and sharin' love and bein' in love, and I don't think that's such a bad thing.

You think he's joking?

I think Barry White is in his own little world about lovemaking, and just writin' songs about love and bumping uglies.

How do you feel about the phrase "nature's body lotion"?

I think it's a pretty good term for semen or come. It's nature's body lotion; it's good for the skin; it's high in protein.

Does this get you in the mood?

If I was cuddled up warm by a fire, listening to Barry White, I could get in the mood. It may give me that need to squirt my nature's body lotion.

[As I get up to leave, he says, "Now, if you want to ask me some questions about a musician that really means something to me..." and places a photo of Kid Rock under my nose.]

Okay, what exactly does "Bawitaba" mean?

Nothing. It's just a warm up.

Michael, 41

What do you think Barry's talking about here?

I think he's just talking about faithfulness. Just that he's there for the long haul and he's just gonna stay with his woman.

How do you feel about the phrase "nature's body lotion"?

Fine. It's the '90s.

What do you think he's referring to?

It could be a variety of different things. I don't wanna interpret what he means, so I'd rather leave it alone.

Is this something that you'd put on in a romantic situation?

I don't know if it's a ballad or a dance song --

It's a ballad.

Possibly.

Do you find that Barry White is good mood music?

He's a little deep in the voice for me, but other than that he's okay.

Ginger (refused to give her age, but looks to be in her 30s)

What do think Barry's trying to tell us?

Bottom line: I think it's about sex, obviously. Straight to the point, he doesn't really beat around the bush. I've heard those lines.

You've heard lines like these?

Oh yeah, going out in bars, various things.

Do you think he's trying to say there needs to be good sex for a relationship to work?

To me, the lines don't really mean relationship, but I like that interpretation better. It's refreshing to think that somebody else thinks it's about relationships, but I think all his songs are about doing it.

How do you feel about the phrase "nature's body lotion"?

Um, that's fine; he's talkin' about the Big "O."

But nature's body lotion could also be sweat.

Yes, or maybe they were outside and they got sunburned, and they need to put aloe vera on, and they're taking it from the aloe vera plant.

Ruben, 21

What do you think he's talking about here?

Sex. Every song he makes is about sex.

You're familiar with Barry White?

Yep, my mother listens to every CD he's got. Just listen to the lyrics on each song. They're all about sex. Actually, I think he's easing his way into some woman's panties. Every guy has used some line like that.

Have you?

No.

So, then every guy except you has used lines like that?

Well, I've got parents that taught me a little better. And it's not every relationship that's based on sex.

But your mom was the one listening to Barry White.

He's a great singer, like Isaac Hayes and Otis Redding. They all sing about sex, you've just gotta listen to the words. Every lyric is the same; they're all talking about the same thing: how to take some woman that's about 26 or 27 years old and make her have an orgasm. That's it. I think nature's body lotion is, well, sweat.

I think so, too.

What's the point of having sex? To sweat. It's good exercise.

Since your mom listens to Barry, I don't suppose he puts you in the mood these days?

Who, me? I don't need no music to put me in the mood. I figured it out myself how to get in the mood.

Kimo, 35

What do you think?

It's definitely a Barry White song.

How about "nature's body lotion"?

Don't know. Nature's body lotion? [Pauses.] Ha. I'll leave that one alone.

It's confusing, because he says they'll share it, so that implies an exchange of bodily fluids....

It certainly does!

But it could just be sweat.

Sure, we'll go with that one.

The clean interpretation, huh? What do you think his message is here?

It's about sex.

What about sex?

Having an orgasm.

And staying power?

Means he can outlast most of us.

What about "It's more than love that keeps you here"? Do you agree with that?

Not always.

When?

Well, she's probably just as horny as he is.

Ruth, 65

What do you think this is about?

Well, it's not very subtle.

No, it's not. Are you familiar with Barry White?

I know the name. I don't listen to that music, though.

How do you feel about the phrase "nature's body lotion"?

Is this how you want to make your living?

Mark, 33

What do you think he's saying?

Ah, I see Barry's come into the '90s, literally. I think they're trying to make it very subliminal, but of course it's about sex.

You think it's subliminal?

Well, when people are listening to music, most of the time, they'll get the undertone of it. I've been DJ-ing since '81, so I know a lot about the musical undertones that people use.

Do you agree with the statement, "It's more than love that keeps you here?"

I think so, 'cause its gotta be the heart, the head, the body.

And then, "I'll come right back again"?

Well, the main word there, of course, is "come." But it's got good lyrics. I think it's bragging to write about having staying power, as in sexual.

Then he says, "Soon we'll share nature's body lotion."

Oh please, that's bodily fluid, I mean, duh. Well, it's a combination actually; in their context, they're probably thinking of human sweat.

Is that what Barry's thinking?

I think Barry thinks a lot of things, as many women as he's probably had!

How many do you think he's had?

Not as many as Magic Johnson.

Or Wilt Chamberlain!

Exactly. Well, those guys are tall; they have to have twice as many.

Do you think it's good mood music?

The lyrics are decent; they have a good flow to them. It depends on the musical hook. If the music's not phenomenal, the lyrics have to stand out all the more. You have to really be able to relate to them.

Do you relate to these lyrics?

Anybody is gonna relate to this; it's all about sex. Anybody who doesn't have sex....

Does this get you in the mood?

Depends on the background of the music. For something like this, you'd have to have something that's probably house. I don't know about it for a slow song, 'cause it's a little too blunt.

It is a slow song.

Like I said, you can get stuff by people however you want to.

Ever used a line like this?

No, I don't use lines. And that's a long line for someone to remember. Guys are so stupid -- they couldn't think of a long line like this. They can only use one-liners, 'cause a guy's brain power is about as long as his lasting power.

So Barry's lines are longer 'cause he's got staying power?

Yeah, that's what he's claiming! MUSIC

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