Saying ‘goodbye’ to a free spirit...
By: Gina Kay Singerhouse
Navigating through life is a lot like walking through an aboriginal forest. Amongst this forest you see lots of trees; each so different in size and shape. Through your travels you will get tangled in the brush and get scratched by the thorns of hatred filled with evil.
But on your path, through your travels, you find a feather. This delicate gift from above is pure, real and authentic. It is gentle and soft; but full of love. It is this feather that you hang on to—so that you may revisit it while you are walking through the thorns of shadows and darkness. This feather gives you hope and renews your spirit. It is an illumination of all things good…
Very few times in our lives do we come across a person who is much like that feather. When we do, we welcome them with open arms and cherish their soft and gentle ways. We may even place them high upon a shelf, as a reference to whom we want to be.
One of the hardest things to do in my job is to write an obituary on an entertainer. Sure I can go into the statistics of their career, but it really doesn’t relay the message of who and what kind of person they were in life. It has taken me this long to gather my thoughts about Lari White as I do not know how to relay the message of what kind of person Lari really was. First and foremost, I did not know her on a day-to-day personal level. But, I did know her as an artist and can only share with you that understanding.
In gathering my thoughts about Lari, a memory from this past summer keeps coming to mind. I was outside in my yard with my husband when a feather fell in a circular fashion down to earth. We both knew it was a precious gift from one of our feathered friends, whom we feed.
Lari White was and is just that. A feather, a gift, from a higher source.
I first met Lari on June 18, 1995, at a festival that she was performing at. First and foremost, there were only a few of us backstage with her. Looking back, I find that unbelievable as this was towards the height of her recording career. As we visited, she explained to me her name…
“It is pronounced like starry Lari.” she smiled as she humbly said.
I never forgot that or those humbling brief moments that I shared with her, backstage on her tour bus.
Many believe that Lari’s career began in 1988, when she made her first public appearance during the Nashville Network’s talent show You Can Be A Star. Which she won. Nonetheless, she always claimed that her musical endeavors began as a child while she performed alongside her parents and siblings in the family band. At the time, she was enamored with the movie The Wizard of Oz and was often found singing the song “Over The Rainbow” during live performances. She had always visioned herself leaning against a pile of hay, while singing; much like Dorothy did in the movie.
“I started performing in a trio with my parents at age four. Music was such a part of the family that I was singing harmony out of the womb.” shared Lari. “Mom and Dad always had all kinds of music in the house. We sang as a family, along with my brother and sister...close gospel harmonies and rock-n-roll. All through high school and college I had bands of my own. I’m grateful that I make my living doing what I love most...writing and performing.”
In reminiscing about Lari, what I find so unbelievable is the lack of radio attention. Sure she had some well known hits with “That’s My Baby,” “That’s How You Know (When You’re In Love),” and “Now I Know.” Nonetheless, she was authentic, elegant, accomplished and brilliant. More so, she was real!
Lari was a master craftswoman as a songwriter. She could take the most simplistic ideas and turn them into the most emotionally-rich, exhilarating and fine tuned songs that would touch your soul.
Lari’s style was enigmatic. She was like the wind, as she contained within her music various styles that created a sense of mystery. She was not country, she was not rock-n-roll, nor was she pop. She was...Lari White.
Lari was not driven by ego. In fact she was driven by her passion to create. I do not know how many songs she wrote in her life, but I do know that each of the ones I have heard are some of the best I in the music industry.
If you take a look at her career, you will find that she was a co-writer with many other songwriters including her husband Chuck Cannon. The two of them were so passionate that they were like the yin and the yang of songwriting.
When her musical career wasn’t taking off like it should, she took her passion for creating to acting. In 2000, she starred in the movie Cast Away along side Tom Hanks. I remember talking with her about that and how I was so struck at how she toned down her experience to honor Tom for his talents rather than highlighting her own acting. She was more honored by being an original cast member of the Broadway musical Ring of Fire, that was running in New York City.
Perhaps her greatest career achievement was being the first female producer of a male recorded album. In 2006, she was the producer on Toby Keith’s hit album White Trash With Money.
Ultimately, her greatest accomplishments in life were her marriage to Chuck and the creation of their three children.
Lari White was the entertainer whom every entertainer wanted to be. She was passionate and had poise. Her vocals were pure, elegant and soulful. She could create masterpieces that were envied and cherished by all. But, she was also the entertainer with a career that no one wanted. For radio did not believe and still does not believe in authentic and honest talent.
Twenty-two years after I had first met Lari, I was once again speaking to her via telephone. In fall of 2016, it was announced that Lari would release a new album. It had been thirteen years since her last album. In spring of 2017, Old Friends New Loves was released.
The album quickly became a favorite around our office, especially with new renditions of her classic songs “Eden Before The Fall,” “Now I Know,” and “That’s My Baby.” But it was the new songs that proved that Lari was still an incredible singer and songwriter. To this day, we still enjoy the psychotic melody of “Maybe It’s Love” and the elegance found in “Champagne.”
During the interview, Lari shared many beautiful stories behind her new album. Together we reminisced as we laughed over various tales. Later, Lari and Chuck did an episode of our radio show—Around The Campfire, as we featured a cut-by-cut of her new album. Again, we laughed as we enjoyed the tales behind the music.
As a person, Lari was real as real could possibly get. What you seen as an entertainer, was what you really got as a person. I can not stress this enough, she was driven by her passion to create than her ego. So much so, I believe that she had locked her ego in a box and buried it somewhere at her place in the holler.
Very few people knew that in September of 2017, Lari was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called peritoneal cancer. It was finally leaked to the public in early January 2018.
On January 15, 2018, I was honored to announce that the staff and I were honoring Lari with the 2018 Spirit Award’s President’s Choice Award with the additional claim of the Best Well Written song of 2017 for her song “Champaign.” I strongly regret that I did not have the honor of presenting this well deserved award to Lari.
Shortly after the Spirit Awards show, it was publically announced that Lari White had entered hospice. On January 21st, she was moved from the hospital to her home in what she called the holler. She had two requests… she asked for a sunny day and a rainy day. That Sunday she received her sunny day. Then on January 23, she received her second wish.
Lari was a soul who loved rainy days and would often take walks in the rain. Something that she would call her ’rain walks.’ And as the sound of the rain hitting the roof of her home, Lari White took her final rain walk.
Photo used with permission.
Very few times in our lives do we come across feathers. When we do, we need to pick them up and cherish them for their pure and elegant beauty.
(Released and printed on this website on February 18, 2018.)
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