Remembering Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire

LOS ANGELES TIMES

Maurice White, co-founder and leader of Earth, Wind & Fire, died at his Los Angeles home on Feb. 3 at age 74.

“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Earth, Wind & Fire co-founder Verdine White said in a statement released to the press. “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.”

The source for a wealth of hits in the 1970s and early ’80s, including “Shining Star,” “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” Earth, Wind & Fire borrowed elements from funk, soul, gospel and pop for a distinctive sound that yielded six double-platinum albums and six Grammy Awards.

Parkinson’s diagnosis
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and although White had ceased touring with the group since a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in the ’90s, the group had continued to tour.

Born in Memphis, Tenn. on Dec. 19, 1941, Maurice White sang in his church’s gospel choir at an early age, but his interest quickly gravitated to the drums. He earned his first gig backing Booker T. Jones before the organist founded the MGs. He moved to Chicago in the early ’60s and studied composition at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and eventually found work as a session drummer for the Chess and OKeh labels.

After also backing jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis in the ’60s, White moved to Los Angeles in 1969 with a band called the Salty Peppers. White changed the group’s name in 1971 to Earth, Wind and Fire, which reflected White’s spiritual approach to music.

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