Maurice White, best known as the driving force behind Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away on Wednesday after a lengthy ordeal with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 74.
White began his musical career as a session drummer in the early 1960’s. You can hear White on drums on Fontella Bass’ “Rescue Me”.
White had a long standing association with jazz legend Ramsey Lewis. He would join the Ramsey Lewis Trio as its drummer in 1966 after Isaac Holt and Eldee Young left the group to form Young-Holt Unlimited. After three years with Lewis, White left to form what would eventually become Earth, Wind & Fire.
At the height of Earth, Wind & Fire’s success, White would reunite with Lewis in the mid-1970’s to co-produce three of his albums – Sun Goddess, Don’t It Feel Good and my personal favorite Salongo.
White also worked with Deneice Williams and The Emotions.
But Earth, Wind & Fire was White’s baby. The band blended rock, soul, funk, jazz and even disco seamlessly. He was the band’s main songwriter, co-lead vocalist (with Phillip Bailey), producer, arranger and handled the band’s business affairs. Parkinson’s would force him to retire as a performer by the mid-1990’s, but he remained involved in Earth, Wind & Fire’s day to day activities as they remain a viable concert attraction.
Earth, Wind & Fire’s two biggest hits were “Shining Star” and “September”. I have posted a video of the latter. With more than 40 million views on YouTube, it is pretty clear why this song is still as enormously popular as it was when it was first released more than 35 years ago and much if that has to do with the creative genius of Maurice White.