This Day in Black History: April 11, 1980

Barry White receives an honorary degree from UCLA.

Posted: 04/11/2014 12:00 AM EDT

Praised for his deep bass vocals, sultry soul ballads and romantic disco hits, Barry White once a high school dropout received an honorary degree from UCLA's Faculty Club in Recording Arts and Sciences on April 11, 1980.

As a young man growing up in South Central Los Angeles, White and his brother engaged in gang and criminal activity. But after serving seven months in jail at the age of 16 for robbery, the budding performer vowed never to return again. 

A few years later, White dropped out of high school in his senior year to support his high school sweetheart, Betty Smith, with whom he would have four children and, ultimately, divorce. 

It was not until 1972, that the up-and-coming songwriter received his first real break in the music industry: a recording contract with 20th Century Records. White would continue on to pioneer the burgeoning disco genre, winning two Grammy awards, achieving 106 gold and 41 platinum albums worldwide and selling more than 100 million internationally in the process.

His extensive discography, which includes the famous hit singles "You're the First, the Last, My Everything" and "Can't Get Enough of Your Love," has been heralded by critics and the public.

By the time of his death on July 4, 2003, White had reached a near-universal acclaim and popularity that few artists achieve and even fewer within their own lifetime, according to Ed Hogan of AllMusic.

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(Photo: David Corio/Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)

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