Soul Innovator: Maurice White, 1941-2016

Maurice White, the founder of iconic soul group Earth, Wind & Fire, has died.

Singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger, and bandleader are just a mere few words to describe the prolific Maurice White.

A supreme innovator, the Memphis-born virtuoso was the founder of the iconic band Earth Wind & Fire and also the older brother of current member Verdine White, and former member Fred White. Maurice served as the band’s main songwriter and record producer. He was the co-lead singer (along with Philip Bailey).

White was inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame, Vocal Group Hall of Fame and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, and individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame along with Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Larry Dunn and Al McKay.

Also known by his nickname Reese, he worked with several famous recording artists including Deniece Williams, Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand.

A band that has spanned a plethora musical genres including R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, Latin and African, Earth Wind & Fire are one of the most successful bands of the 20th century.

Founded in Chicago by White in 1969, members of the iconic soul group have included Phillip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, Al McKay and Andrew Woolfolk.

Known for the dynamic sound of their massive horn section, elaborate stage shows, and the interplay between the contrasting vocals of Philip Bailey’s falsetto and Maurice White’s tenor, Earth Wind & Fire dominated the 1970s and early 1980s, with countless hits, including “Shining Star”, “Devotion”, “Reasons”, “Sing a Song”, “Getaway” “Fantasy”, “September”, “ After the Love Has Gone” and “Let’s Groove” to name a few.

Out of 14 nominations, the band has received six Grammys as a group with White and Bailey winning individual awards. In addition Earth, Wind & Fire have won four American Music Awards, and Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (2002), NAACP,( 1994) and the BET Awards (2002). To date, Earth wind and Fire has sold over 100 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.

Due to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in the late 1980s, White stopped touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994. However, he retained executive control of the band and remained very active in the music business, producing and recording with EWF and other artists. From time to time he appeared on stage with Earth, Wind & Fire during his retirement including the 2004 Grammy Awards Tribute to Funk, and alongside Alicia Keys at Clive Davis‘ 2004 pre-Grammy awards party where they performed the band’s 1978 hit “September”

On February 3, 2016, Maurice White died in his sleep from the effects of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Los Angeles, California. He was 74. He leaves behind his family, devoted friends, and a musical legacy that will remain unmatched.

Rest in eternal peace Mr. White you will always be missed.

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