Maurice White, the singer, songwriter, musician, producer, and founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire, died in his sleep Wednesday night at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74.
His brother and band mate Verdine White confirmed the news on the EWF Facebook page, calling White “my brother, hero and best friend.” He added, “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.”
White, who battled Parkinson’s disease for several decades, was a driving force behind Earth, Wind & Fire. He helped compose such hits as “September,” “Shining Star,” and “Let’s Groove,” and won six Grammys with the band. He also picked up a seventh on his own, for arranging “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as a member of EWF, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame as an individual.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Maurice “Reese” White studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music and got his professional start as a session drummer in the early 1960s. He formed his own band, the Salty Peppers, in 1969, but changed the name to Earth, Wind & Fire and switched up the lineup after making his way to Los Angeles. Verdine White joined the group as a bassist, and their brother Fred White also worked with the band in the ’70s and early ’80s.
Incorporating elements of R&B, jazz, funk, soul, pop, and African music, EWF would go on to sell more than 90 million albums worldwide.
White publicly revealed he had Parkinson’s in 2000, after being diagnosed eight years earlier.