Lari White, a songwriter, singer, producer and actor, died Tuesday morning. She was 52 years old, and had been diagnosed with advanced peritoneal cancer in September 2017. Last week, she entered hospice.
“Gutted by this news,” Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of Broadway phenomenon Hamilton” wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon. “Taught alongside (White) in the ASCAP Songwriters’ program one summer – you’ve never met a kinder, more talented songwriter.”
White was born in Dunedin, Fla., on May 13, 1965, to Yvonne and Larry White.
“From the beginning, we knew that she was ‘something special,'” Yvonne White posted online on Jan. 19. “(Wise) and funny, intelligent and super-talented … so loving, kind and compassionate … with a heart as big as all of Heaven.”
As a toddler, White began singing with family band The White Family Singers, and before she was a teenager, she had written her first song.
White graduated from the University of Florida, and after stints singing in studios and clubs in Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago, she moved to Music City in 1988. Not long after coming to town, she won first prize on the Nashville Network’s talent competition You Can Be a Star.
“By the time I’d moved to Nashville, I’d been singing for so long, but I wasn’t comfortable enough on the stage between songs,” White told The Tennessean in 1994. “So I started taking acting lessons.”
She landed a number of parts in local productions before deciding to focus on her music again.
In the early 1990s, she got a job as a backup singer for Rodney Crowell. After RCA signed White to a record deal, she, Crowell and Steuart Smith co-produced her 1993 debut album, Lead Me Not. The album’s most successful single, “What a Woman Wants,” peaked at No. 44 on the country charts.
It was White’s next album, 1994’s Wishes, that became her breakout release. Three singles from that project, That’s My Baby, That’s How You Know (When You’re in Love) and Now I Know, were top 10 country hits, and the record was certified gold. That year, the Academy of Country Music nominated her for the Top New Female Vocalist Award.
After her deal with RCA ended (her last release for the label was a greatest hits project in 1997), White continued to record, releasing Stepping Stone on Lyric Street Records in 1998 and a handful of projects on her own label, Skinny WhiteGirl. Her most recent release was the 2017 double EP Old Friends, New Loves.
Her songs were recorded by Travis Tritt, Pat Green, Lonestar and many others. She co-produced Toby Keith’s 2006 album White Trash with Money (making her one of the first and only women in country music to produce a major label act) and several songs on Billy Dean’s Let Them Be Little.
Three albums White contributed to, two volumes of Amazing Grace: A Salute to Country Gospel and the soundtrack for the film The Apostle, won Grammy Awards in the Best Southern, Country or Bluegrass Gospel Album category.
White also continued to act. Her film credits include Cast Away and Country Strong. She starred in Ring of Fire, a Broadway musical based on the music of Johnny Cash, as well.
A GoFundMe campaign was launched in January to help with White’s medical bills and household expenses. In 12 days it raised over $90,000. According to the campaign organizers, the “campaign goes on in Lari’s honor as the need continues.”
White is survived by her husband of more than 23 years, Chuck Cannon, their three children M’Kenzy, Kyra Ciel and Jaxon, parents Larry and Yvonne White, sister Natasha and brother Torne.
Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time.