Multi-faceted Nashville entertainer Lari White has died at age 52.
She is best known for her string of RCA hits of the 1990s, including “That’s My Baby” (1994), “Now I Know” (1994), “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love)” (1995) and “Ready, Willing and Able” (1996). White was also a stage and screen actor, a songwriter, a record producer and a label owner.
In addition to co-writing most of her hits, she also had her songs recorded by Tammy Wynette, Rebecca Holden, Patti Page, Danny Gokey, Sarah Buxton and Pat Green, among others.
Her vocal collaborators on disc included Rodney Crowell, Toby Keith, Hal Ketchum, Trisha Yearwood, Shelby Lynne, Travis Tritt, Vince Gill, Faith Hill and Radney Foster.
White was born in Dunedin, FL and was a performer from childhood on. She began singing and playing piano in her family’s band at age 4, wrote her first song when she was 8 and had toured performing pop, gospel, rock and soul by the time she reached her teens.
She majored in audio engineering in college and launched her solo career singing ad jingles and studio backup vocals. Lari White came to Nashville in 1988 to compete, and win, on the TNN TV talent contest You Can Be a Star.
This led nowhere, so she became active in Nashville theater. White acted in the play Crimes of the Heart and in the musical Fiddler On the Roof in those days. As a songwriter, she signed with Ronnie Milsap’s publishing firm, then with Almo-Irving. She also briefly sang with the Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra.
In 1990, she unsuccessfully auditioned to become the lead singer of Highway 101. She then became Rodney Crowell’s backup vocalist on a 1991 tour. The star produced her 1993 RCA debut LP Lead Me Not, which led to her nomination as the ACM’s Top New Female Vocalist of the year. The album’s song
“What a Woman Wants” became the first country video to be filmed in Rome, Italy.
In 1994, White had a major role in the CBS-TV movie XXX’s And OOO’s. White’s second RCA album, 1994’s Wishes, made her a country star. It became a Gold Record and yielded her first top-10 hits. She branched out from country sounds to incorporate more of her musical influences on 1996’s Don’t Fence Me In.
Her 1997 Best Of Lari White CD included her hit duet with Travis Tritt “Helping Me Get Over You,” which they co-wrote. After being dropped by RCA, she bounced back by singing the title tune of the Grammy winning Amazing Grace LP, performing on the NFL Country album and placing her recording of “Power in the Blood” on the soundtrack of Robert Duvall’s acclaimed movie The Apostle.
She signed with Disney’s Lyric Street label and returned to the country hit parade with her 1998 performance of “Stepping Stone,” the title tune from her CD for the company.
Lari White returned to acting via a plumb role in the 2000 Tom Hanks movie Cast Away. Then she was featured in the Kate Jackson indie feature of 2004, No Regrets.
White formed her own label, Skinny Whitegirl Records to market her later albums. She and husband Chuck Cannon also founded the Nashville Underground label to distribute the works of their fellow singer-songwriters. They built their own recording studio, The Holler.
She issued her r&b effort, Green Eyed Soul, in 2004, and it became especially successful in Great Britain. She also produced the Billy Dean hit “Let Them Be Little” that year.
In 2006, she starred on Broadway in the Johnny Cash-themed musical Ring of Fire. This led to her debut appearance at Carnegie Hall and a concert with Marvin Hamlisch and The Nashville Symphony.
White co-produced Toby Keith’s 2006 album White Trash With Money and its hits “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” and “A Little Too Late.” She was also behind the star’s “Mockingbird” duet with his daughter, Krystal Keith. In addition, she began producing Mac Davis in 2006. These efforts led to a flurry of articles about women breaking through in Nashville as record producers.
Lari White issued My First Affair as her second Skinny Whitegirl CD in 2007. She launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund her 2016 double album Old Friends New Loves. One CD contained re-recordings of her hits and the other compiled her new songs.
She passed away Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018.
Lari White is survived by her husband, Chuck Cannon, by daughters M’Kenzy Rayne and Kyra and by son Jaxon.