It’ll be a happy homecoming for Leon Ware this weekend. The veteran performer and songwriter, best known for cowriting the Marvin Gaye’s sultry 1976 hit “I Want You,” will receive the UO Soul Elder Award at the annual Urban Organic UOFest.08 in Detroit. He’s honored — but, truth be told, he’d rather be singing and spreading what he calls a “ministry” of pillow talk that continues on “Moon Ride,” Ware’s first album in five years.
“From the time me and Marvin got together ’til now I’ve been in love with the message of romance and sexuality, and I’ve continued that,” says Ware, 68, now a Los Angeles resident whose writing credits also include hits for Michael Jackson, Ike & Tina Turner and the Isley Brothers as well as the “Body Heat” soundtrack with Quincy Jones and material for the Miracles, Maxwell, Dwele, Jeffrey Osborne and others.
“I write songs and lyrics totally aimed for arousal, temptation, the allure of romance. I always tell the audience I hope they brought a towel with them! My work has been responsible for a lot of babies — I’m also very proud of that.”
Ware is most proud, however, of the course he took while going up in Detroit. “When I grew up, there was music, cars and pimpin’,” he says, and after winning a talent contest at the Duke Theatre when he was 3 1 /2 years old (“My sister took me there, and she got a whuppin’ for it.”), Ware was able to avoid the less savory of those options.
“I was very blessed with a gift; that gift, the music, was the magic that saved me from the streets,” says Ware, a high school drop-out who’s currently working on a novel about ghetto life called “Environmental Trap,” as well as a children’s book.
“I always say to younger people that the one premise I’d like to remind them of is what the love of music and the love of art itself does. I followed a dream, and I can only say I’ve been truly blessed, and I’m thankful for it.”
Urban Organic’s UOFest.08 takes place Friday through Sunday (Nov. 14-16), mostly at the N2Art and Performance Complex, 52 E. Forest St., Detroit. Performers include N’Dambi, West Felton, John Bibbs, L’Renee and Doc Holiday. For information visit www.urban-organic.net.
Send your thoughts and comments to