Saturday, February 6, 2016

MAURICE WHITE (1941 - 2016)

2016 is proving to be a really tough year in music as we have lost yet another great performer. Maurice White, founding member and creative force behind the soul & funk super band, Earth Wind & Fire, has passed away on February 4th. He had been struggling with Parkinson's disease since the late 1980's.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, White first began his musical career as a session drummer for Chicago's Chess Records in the 1960's playing on recordings for Etta James, the Impressions, Buddy Guy, Fontella Bass and Ramsey Lewis. In 1966, he joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio and played drums with the jazz band for several years and appeared on nine albums. By 1969, White decided to form his own soul group with friends Wade Flemons, Don Whitehead and brother, Verdine. They originally called themselves "the Salty Peppers"  but after getting a recording contract with Warner Bros. Records, White decided to rename their act "Earth, Wind & Fire", which refers to the elements in his astrological chart.

EWF's first two albums brought them attention but not much radio play. Clive Davis, then head of Columbia Records, saw the band perform and was quite impressed. He was impressed enough to buy out their recording contract and sign them to his label in 1972. Earth Wind & Fire didn't find instant success at their new home but their 1975 release, "That's the Way of the World" was a major breakthrough. The album had three hit songs; the title track, "Reasons" and "Shining Star" which reached number one on the pop and soul charts. More hits followed including "Serpentine Fire", "Fantasy", "Sing a Song" and "Boogie Wonderland".

White also managed to find time to work with other artists. He produced the debut albums for Deniece Williams and Broadway star, Jennifer Holiday, worked on records for Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow and co-wrote and produced the Emotions' 1977 number one smash, "Best of My Love". In 1985, White released his only solo album which became a modest hit that included a cover of Ben E. King's "Stand By Me".  Listen to a few of my favorite songs by Earth Wind & Fire featuring the voice of the great Maurice White:

"After The Love Is Gone" - Earth Wind & Fire (1979) mp3

"Let's Groove" - Earth Wind & Fire (1981) mp3

And here is the music video for one of EWF's biggest hits, "September":


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