Most Wanted! Michael Wycoff – Looking Up To You (RCA)
The second track in order of appearance from Michael Wycoff‘s 1983 ‘Love Conquers All’ album. ‘Looking Up To You’ most likely stands among its highlights along with the boiling hot ‘Still Got The Magic (Sweet Delight)’.
Co-written by Leon Ware and Zane Wallace Grey, it counts as one of Webster Lewis‘ best productions ever. Strangely enough, it only got to a wider recognition years later when Zhané sampled it back in 1993 on the memorable ‘Hey Mr DJ’ produced by Naughty By Nature. Therefore gaining big value on the second hand market.
– Born on Jan. 01, 1956 in Torrance, CA, Michael Wycoff attended Wilmington, Jr. High and Phineas Banning High Schools in Wilmington, CA. There, he played keyboards and sang in the school’s talent shows where he started makin’ himself a reputation.
He collaborated with a whole bunch of luminaries, from Yarbrough & Peoples to Gwen McCrae and Bobby Womack. Not to mention Stevie Wonder, singing backup on his 1976 released ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ album.
He came to sign a record deal with RCA back in 1980, releasing his debut-LP – ‘Come To My World’ – with production work by the likes of Steve Tyrell. He nevertheless would reach the next level two years after along with producer Webster Lewis on his ‘Love Conquers All’ long player. An album which features the classics ‘Still Got The Magic (Sweet Delight)’ and ‘Looking Up To You’ which is probably his most famous song. His third and final album for the label – ‘On the Line’ – also produced by Webster Lewis getting him to reach his higher ranking in the charts Stateside. (*) A performance which he scored with ‘Tell Me Love’ (U.S. Black Singles #23, U.S. Club Play #23) (* Wikipedia)
Wycoff eventually switched to Independent label Valley Blue Records where he released ‘I Wanna Be Loved By You’ in 1984 and ‘Gonna Chase You (Till You Catch Me)’.
Alas and like many of his alter egos at the time, he succombed to addiction to drugs and alcohol. The consequence for him therefore happened to be immediate. He lost his career and family, eventually becoming homeless for some time.
– A native of Detroit, MI, Leon Ware has left some indelible trace in the history of contemporary music. This, as a songwriter and/or composer. But also as an artist on his own rights, in a period that covered no less than five decades. From the early 70’s to the 2010’s.
Crafting music was just in Ware‘s DNA as a matter of fact. With the latter appearing as a member of vocal group the Romeos in his teens. Meanwhile sharing the bill with Ty Hunter, who was to become a member of The Originals, and Lamont Dozier.
After a short period at ABC Records, he started his career as a songwriter for Motown back in 1971. Co-writing ‘Got To Have You Back’ for The Isley Brothers. Then collaborating with Ike & Tina Turner on six songs for their United Artists ‘Nuff Said’ album. Coming to work with Diana Ross‘ younger brother T-Boy that same year, one of the songs they wrote – ‘I Wanna Be Where You Are’ – got eventually picked up by Michael Jackson on his ‘Got To Be There’ album.
Ware wrote for countless artists, and eventually setting up a bigger reputation for himself as an author/composer than an artist. This despite an obvious sensibility. Among the ones he came to collaborate with, Quincy Jones (‘If Ever I Lose This Heaven’). But also Minnie Riperton (‘Inside My Love’). Not to mention Marvin Gaye with the memorable ‘I Want You’. A song Ware initially thought to be included on his second album which sadly flopped.
Ware most likely focused on his activities as a songwriter during the 80’s. Providing material for a whole bunch of luminaries. From Teena Marie to Michael Wycoff (‘Looking Up To You’). But also Loose Ends, James Ingram and Bobby Womack to name a few. The second half of the 90’s seeing him contributing to Maxwell‘s debut-album, ‘Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite’. Itself considered as one of the landmark albums in the then burgeoing Neo-Soul genre. Remember ‘Sumthin’ Sumthin”? With this bringin’ extra interest to his earlier works by the likes of the Hip-Hop scene.
By 2009, Ware was recovering from treatment for prostate cancer. One of his latest releases was ‘On The Beach’ back in 2011. A jewel he created near his Malibu home with the attitude of Summer with a lyric that continues Leon‘s sensual and romantic allure. No to mention a(nother) top class remixing work courtesy of Atjazz. Meanwhile, he more recently appeared along with Brazilian singer Lucas Arruda. This on the 2015 released phonky cool ‘Melt The Night’ with an XL Middleton remix.
Leon Ware sadly died in Marina del Rey, CA on Feb. 23, 2017 from complications of the disease. He was 77.