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Leon Ware (1940 - 2017)

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Leon Ware (1940 - 2017)

Leon Ware, a soul singer-songwriter and producer, died Thursday, Feb. 23, 2017, according to multiple news sources. He was 77.

Ware’s death was confirmed by his manager, but no cause was given. He had previously undergone treatment for prostate cancer.

Although he was a recording artist, Ware found that his songs achieved their greatest chart success when others performed the tunes. His demo of “I Want You” captured the attention of Motown founder Berry Gordy, who was looking for material for singer Marvin Gaye.

Gaye recorded “I Want You” and several of Ware’s other songs on the 1976 album “I Want You.” Ware also co-produced the album. The single topped the R&B chart and reached No. 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album marked a departure from Gaye’s previous style, incorporating disco grooves, but it became very influential with a future generation of neo-soul artists.

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Other notable artists who recorded his songs included Ike and Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, and Minnie Riperton. Quincy Jones also recorded two of his songs on the jazz album “Body Heat.” Maxwell’s 1996 album, “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite,” was co-produced by Ware, who co-wrote the hit “Sumthin’ Sumthin'.”

Born Feb. 16, 1940, in Detroit, Ware began his songwriting career in 1967 with Motown. He wrote for the Isley Brothers, Martha and the Vandellas, and the Jackson 5.

As a solo artist, he recorded several albums including “Musical Massage,” which was released in the same year as Gaye’s “I Want You” and shared a similar style and themes.

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