Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire Dies
Maurice White, the founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, has died.
White died at home in Los Angeles on Wednesday, according to his brother, Verdine White.
He was 74.
White founded the legendary band in the late 1960s. The group went on to sell more than 90 million albums worldwide, thanks in part to their flashy and eclectic musical style that incorporated White’s influences from growing up in Memphis and working at the influential Chicago music labels Chess and Okeh.
The band’s many hits included “September,” ”Shining Star,” a cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You into My Life” and “Boogie Wonderland.”
Earth, Wind & Fire won six Grammys and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
A former session drummer, White started the band Salty Peppers in the Chicago area in the late 1960s and had some modest success in the Midwest. After relocating to Los Angeles and ditching all of the band members except Verdine, he renamed the outfit Earth, Wind & Fire after the three elements in his astrological chart.
Bailey’s bright falsetto defined many of Earth, Wind & Fire’s hits. “We experienced pure magic together,” Bailey said during the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, standing next to White.
The band’s early sound was jazzy, but evolved into an exuberant, horn-driven mix of jazz, funk, gospel and Big Band music. Their appeal wasn’t just on records but on stage, their concerts a whirl of dancing, fog machines, multi-colored lights and glittery costumes. Earth, Wind & Fire performed everywhere from the Super Bowl to the White House.
Maurice White also had a substantial side career producing other artists, including Barbra Streisand and Cher. In the 1970s, he co-wrote and co-produced the Emotions’ No. 1 hit “Best of My Love.”
White was born in Memphis in 1941, the son of a doctor and grandson of a New Orleans piano player. He showed musical gifts at an early age, studying at the Chicago Conservancy. During the 1960s, he backed Muddy Waters, the Impressions and others and worked as a session drummer in Chicago.
The band performed in the movie, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” and had hits with the ballad “After the Love Has Gone,” ”All ‘n’ All,” ”Let’s Groove” and “Fall in Love With Me.” The band took a four-year hiatus in the 1980s and then returned, its primary success then on the road.
“We live in a negative society,” White told Newsweek at the height of the band’s success. “Most people can’t see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine.”