Earth, Wind, & Fire’s songwriter, producer, frontman and the band’s guiding musical and spiritual force, Maurice White, died on Wednesday, February 3rd, at home in his sleep from the effects of Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 74. White had retired from the road in 1994 when his battle with Parkinson’s rendered him unable to travel and perform, but had remained firmly in control of the band. The Associated Press reported White’s autobiography — Keep Your Head To The Sky: My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire — will be published on September 13th. White is survived by a wife and two children.
The power of the music that White helped create with Earth, Wind, & Fire (EWF) in the last half of the 1970’s and into the early-’80s cannot be overestimated, with the best of it on par with Stevie Wonder’s classic ’70s run and a precursor to Michael Jackson’s work with his brothers on 1978’s Destiny and 1981’s Triumph — along with Jackson’s watershed solo albums, 1979 Off The Ground and 1982’s Thriller.
EWF bassist and Maurice White’s brother Verdine White told the Associated Press on Thursday:
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep. While the world has lost another great musician and legend, our family asks that our privacy is respected as we start what will be a very difficult and life changing transition in our lives. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.”
EWF posted a message on Twitter saying:
“Our brother Maurice White passed peacefully in his sleep this morning. The light is he, shining on you and me.”
Maurice White will forever be remembered for either co-writing and producing such timeless R&B/pop classics as 1975’s “Shining Star” (#1) and “Sing A Song” (#5); 1978’s “Got To Get You Into My Life” (#9) and “September” (#8); 1979’s “Boogie Wonderland” (featuring the Emotions) (#6) and “After The Love Has Gone” (#2); and 1981’s “Let’s Groove” (#3). White also co-wrote and produced the Emotions’ 1977 chart-topper “The Best Of My Love.”
All told, Maurice White’s work earned seven Grammy Awards and on February 15th, The Recording Academy will bestow EWF with the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award at the 58th annual Grammy Awards. EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and its members into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.
During a recent chat with Verdine White, he recalled the start of EWF with his beloved brother: “He started this band in the late-’60s, y’know? ’68, ’69, when he was still (a drummer) with Ramsey Lewis, and he had an idea about starting a band that could do everything. Y’know, it morphed into quite an amazing thing — and don’t forget at that particular time, I was like 17, 18-years-old, and he brought me out to L.A. to be in this band, y’know? And it was an amazing thing, ’cause, don’t forget, it was a lot of fun, too. ‘Cause I’m like 17, 18-years-old, I’m working with my older brother — we’re going for it, man.”
Photo Courtesy of CBS