Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, whose soul band sold more than 90 million albums and made hits like “September”, “Shining Star” and “Boogie Wonderland”, died on Wednesday 3 February 2016 at his home in Los Angeles, his brother Verdine said.
White, who was 74, suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had retreated from the public even as the band he founded kept performing.
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep”, Verdine White, also a member of the band, told The Associated Press on Thursday 4 February 2016.
“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”, Verdine concluded.
Earth, Wind & Fire, a nine-piece band that featured the two White brothers, singer Philip Bailey and the distinctive horn section, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
The band’s most successful period started with the 1975 album “That’s The Way of The World”, and continued through the rest of the decade. Other hits included “Serpentine Fire”, “That’s the Way of the World” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life”.
White, a former session drummer, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1992, when he was still in his early 50s and he was forced to stop touring three years later. However he remained involved in the band despite this.
Born in 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, White began singing in the church choir at the age of just six. In high school, he took up the drums and later studied at the Chicago Conservatory Of Music.
After becoming a studio percussionist at Chess Records in Chicago, he played with stars such as Booker T Jones, Etta James and Muddy Waters.
He founded a band called the Salty Peppers in 1969, but soon changed the name to Earth, Wind & Fire after the three elements in his astrological chart.
“I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before,” White once said.
“Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music…which somehow ended up becoming pop.
“We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ spiritual content”.
White, whose band won six Grammys, put their success partly down to his spiritual beliefs.
“We live in a negative society,” he once told Newsweek magazine. “Most people can’t see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine”.
TNT Entertainment Yasin Chinembiri