He will be remembered as the driving force behind one of black music's most influential and enduring acts
sad news today: Maurice White, founder of legendary funk, soul and
disco band Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away at his home in Los
Angeles on Wednesday. He was 74 years old and had been suffering from
Parkinson's disease for many years.
in Memphis, Tennessee in 1941, White was a childhood friend of Booker
T Jones (of 'and the MGs' fame). He started out in music as a session
drummer for iconic blues and soul label Chess Records, working with
the likes of Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Muddy Waters and The Dells, as
well as playing bass on Fontella Bass's soul classic Rescue Me. By
1966, he'd become a full-time member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio,
playing drums on northern soul fave Wade In The Water and recording
nine albums with the Trio in total.
formed Earth, Wind & Fire in 1969, and the band would go on to
have a string of hits in the 1970s and 80s, including Boogie
Wonderland, Let's Groove and September. The band took their name from
the 'elemental triplicity' of White's star sign (Sagittarius), and
their album covers often reflected astrological and Afrofuturist
themes. His worsening Parkinson's disease meant White had to stop
touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994, but he still retained
'executive control' over the band, which has been led since 1994 by
his younger brother Vernon. They are still touring today.
a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, White was inducted into the Rock
and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and the
Songwriters Hall of Fame, and received six Grammy Awards,
four American Music Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Earth, Wind & Fire have also been sampled in countless hip-hop, R&B, house and drum & bass tracks over the years.