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.

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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.