music / News

Earth, Wind & Fire Founder Maurice White Passes Away

February 4, 2016 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas

The founder of legendary funk-soul band Earth, Wind & Fire has passed away. The band announced on Twitter today that Maurice White died today at the age of seventy-four:

White began his music career as a session drummer for Chess Records as a teenager, playing on records for the likes of Etta James, the Dells and Muddy Waters. He joined the Ramsay Lewis Trio in 1966 as their drummer and played on nine of their albums, including 1966’s Wade in the Water from which the group earned a Grammy for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental for the track “Hold It Right There.”

White left the group in 1969 and formed a songwriting team with Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, initially calling themselves The Salty Peppers. White eventually moved from Chicago to to Los Angeles, where he added singer Sherry Scott, percussionist Yackov Ben Israel and his brother Verdine as a bassist. The group changed their name to Earth, Wind & Fire based on Maurice’s astrological chart; Maurice served as the group’s primary songwriter and producer.

Earth, Wind & Fire would go on to become one of the most successful musical acts of the twentieth century with twenty Grammy nominations and six wins, as well as over 100 million records sold. White was inducted into the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame, the NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, while the band received a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction in 2000.

White’s health declined recently as a result of his long battle with Parkinsons disease, which he had been fighting since the 1980s. He stopped touring with EWF in 1994 due to his struggles with the condition.

On behalf of 411, our condolences to the family, friends and fans of Mr. White. He will certainly be missed.