Some may have questioned Barry White’s judgement when, in the autumn of 1978, he covered a song from only 12 months earlier which was already on its way to becoming an easy listening classic and double Grammy-winner.
But the soul man’s instincts were spot on. Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” was the sort of gem that would adapt perfectly well to an R&B interpretation. On December 16 that year, White’s version, released as a UK single from his album The Man, entered the charts and went on to be the second-longest-running hit he ever had there.
The cover opened at a modest No.61, but became Barry’s 13th Top 40 UK hit in just five and a half years, climbing steadily over the holiday and new year period. It landed at No.12 in late January, its 12-week sales span only outdone in his chart life there by the 14 weeks logged by his 1974 No.1 “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.”
Unusually, too, that international success outstripped the domestic performance of White’s “Just The Way You Are.” The US single made the R&B chart in January 1979, but only reached No.45 and failed to cross over to the Hot 100.
Joel’s song attracted at least 15 other cover versions in 1978 alone, including interpretations by everyone from Johnny Mathis to Grover Washington Jr, Engelbert Humperdinck to Ray Conniff and from Dionne Warwick to Isaac Hayes. Dozens more would accrue in the ensuing years, for a number that was named both Record of the Year and Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards of 1979. “Just The Way You Are” was even granted the honour of an interpretation by Frank Sinatra, on his Trilogy album, released in 1980.
Buy or stream “Just The Way You Are” on Barry White’s The Man album.