leon ware

*For a lot of people, Leon Ware‘s name won’t instantly ring a bell .. if at all. But you HAVE listen to and danced to his many, many hits over the years whether you know it or not. Ware, who worked with musical icons Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson among others, has passed away at age 77.

Ware’s death was confirmed by his manager. As of this posting the cause of death was not revealed, it’s known that Ware was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the mid-’00s.

A Detroit native, Ware’s first success came as a Motown songwriter. Back in the day, he also crafted hits for artists such as the Isley Brothers and Donny Hathaway. He really found his groove, so to speak, with Marvin Gaye’s I Want You project on which he produced and co-wrote every song. He also wrote hits such as Michael Jackson’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are” and Minnie Ripperton’s “Inside My Love.” Both songs were huge sellers and signature tracks for both artists.

In the late 90s, Ware collabo’d with Maxwell on “Sumthin’ Sumthin'” from Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite. His work has been sampled by Jay Z, Tupac, A Tribe Called Quest, Brandy, and countless others. In 2014, Ware worked on Theophilus London’s album Vibes, and in 2015, Ware appeared on “OKAGA, CA” on Tyler the Creator’s album Cherry Bomb.

leon ware album cover

Here’s more about Ware from Soul Tracks:

By the late 70s, artists outside of Motown were clamoring for Ware’s help, and over the next 20 years he wrote dozens of wonderful cuts that became hits for artists such as the Average White Band (“If I Ever Lose This Heaven”), Peabo Bryson (“Lovers After All” with Melissa Manchester), the Main Ingredient (“Rolling Down a Mountainside”), Jeffrey Osborne (“Forever Mine”) and Maxwell (“Sumthin’ Sumthin'”). His work as a producer and backing vocalist also continued with artists such as Bobby Womack, El DeBarge, Teena Marie, Billy Griffin, the Isley Brothers, Omar, and Michael McDonald.

Unfortunately, while he was making hits for others, Ware’s own singing career often suffered. Despite recording a handful of critically acclaimed albums for Motown and Elektra during the 70s and 80s, he remained criminally underappreciated by many outside the music industry.

Get MORE on the life and legacy of Leon Ware at Soul Tracks.

Watch his performance in Amsterdam: