The Late Maurice White: His Life Before And After Earth, Wind & Fire

Maurice White passed away on February, 4, 2016, in Los Angeles from Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 74. As an African-American living in the projects, his life wasn’t always easy. BBC News reported that Maurice’s love of music gave him a reason to dream, to step out and believe in himself and his talent. Even though Maurice had hardships, he pressed on and blessed the music world with songs that will last generations.

Verdine White posted a message via Twitter.

On December 9, 1941, Maurice White was born in Memphis, Tennessee, a major city with a history, deep in the music industry. He lived in the south Memphis projects with his father Verdine, who was a doctor, his older brother, Verdine, and a friend of the family, Booker T. Jones. When he was a teenage boy, the family moved to the South Shore section on the south side of Chicago. After Maurice graduated from high school, he attended Crane Junior College, and as his love of music grew, he went to the Chicago Conservatory of Music.

Maurice White received his first lucky break into the music world when he was asked to fill in as a drummer in a session with Betty Everett. It was during that time that he played for some of the greatest R&B, blues, and jazz artists around. Mr. White joined major, big name groups like Etta James, Buddy Guy, The Impressions, The Dells, Chester Burnett, Little Milton, Fontella Bass, Sonny Stitt, and Billy Stewart.

Mr. White was making a name for himself in the music industry, so in 1966 he joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio and they released hits including “Wade in the Water” and “Maiden Voyage.” Although Maurice started out with the drums, he also played a kalimba on the song “Uluru.” This instrument is like a little thumb piano and it is believed to have originated in Africa. The group released nine albums while he was a member, but then Maurice decided it was time to form his own group. He left the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1969 and founded the group, Salty Peppers.

The Salty Peppers, which included Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, had the hit song, “La La Time” and shortly after that, Maurice White and the rest of his band members left their homes in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles. However, the group did not survive long after that and the Salty Peppers went their separate ways.

Mr. White did not let that bother him as he quickly formed another group, which carved their names in music history. Maurice and his brother Verdine White came up with their group’s name by basing it on the elements of his star sign. Sagittarius, thus, Earth, Wind, & Fire were born.

Maurice White co-wrote and produced many of Earth, Wind & Fire’s songs that topped the charts including “Evil,” “Shining Star,” “Wanna Be With You,” and “Sunday Morning.” It was when they released their song, “That’s the Way of the World” in 1975 that their career as a band took off.

In the late 1980s, Maurice discovered he had Parkinson’s disease, but he did not let that stop him from singing, writing, and being a vital member of Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice stayed with them until 1994, but he was forced to resign because of health complications and tiredness. USA Today reported that in an interview Maurice had with Rolling Stone in 2000, he gave the reason why he disappeared from the music scene.

“I just got tired of not talking about it. I had pretty much disappeared from the scene; a lot of people had not seen me in a long time, and they started wondering what was happening.”

Maurice White and his band excelled in the music industry as they combined different styles of music, including jazz, soul, R&B, funk and even a bit of disco into their songs. Their style was uniquely all their own and the beat was so catchy and springy, few people could resist the desire to tap in time with the music.

In 2000, Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2003, the group was inducted into the Hollywood Rock Walk and in 2010; Maurice was inducted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Verdine White, member of Earth, Wind & Fire, and brother to Maurice, announced the passing of the groups founder, on Facebook.

“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep. 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.”

“Our brother Maurice White passed peacefully in his sleep this morning. The light is he, shining on you and me”

Our thoughts and prayers go out for Maurice White’s family, friends and fans that he leaves behind.

[Photo by Phil McCarten/AP Images]

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