Maurice White, the founder, chief songwriter and producer, and co-lead vocalist of legendary R&B/funk/soul band Earth, Wind, and Fire, passed away in his sleep yesterday at the age of 74. He had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease for nearly three decades.
“The light is he, shining on you and me,” the band wrote on their Twitter account, accompanied by a photo of White walking towards the Egyptian pyramids. Verdine White, Maurice’s brother and EWF’s longtime bass player, posted on Facebook, saying, “While the world has lost another great musician, visionary and legend, our family asks that our privacy is respected as we start what will be a very difficult life changing transition in our lives.”
Maurice White founded Earth, Wind, and Fire in Chicago in 1969. The band’s move to Los Angeles in the early 1970s was a catalyst for success, and they had their commercial breakthrough with the landmark 1975 album That’s The Way Of The World, which spawned the hit song “Shining Star.” They followed that up with a number of other enduring songs through the ‘70s and early ‘80s, including “Sing A Song,” “September,” and “Let’s Groove,” all of which were co-written by White.
In addition to his work with Earth, Wind, and Fire, White also co-produced R&B singer Deniece Williams’ debut album, produced girl group The Emotions’ number one single “Best Of My Love,” and did work with Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow over the course of his career.
White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the late ‘80s and retired from touring in 1994, though he remained involved with Earth, Wind, and Fire. Last month, it was announced the band would receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys, a ceremony that will now take on more emotional gravitas.
Above, check out a recording of Earth, Wind, and Fire performing “Devotion” live in 1974, and check out a few more songs from the same set in the Paste Cloud here.