Maurice White, founder of legendary group Earth, Wind & Fire, has died at the age of 74. News reports said he had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
His brother Verdine White eulogized him 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,” he said.
Earth, Wind & Fire sold more than 100 million records and were famous for hits such as Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star and September. They were also known for their colorful stage show, which included a nine-piece band, dancers, fog machines and glittery outfits.
Maurice White told The Associated Press in a 2000 interview the band believed in putting on a show for their fans and trying to motivate them.
“That was the whole objective, to try to inspire young people to believe in themselves and to follow through on their ideas,” he said. “We’ve touched so many people with these songs.”
Born in Memphis, Tenn. in 1941, White moved north to study at the Chicago Conservatory. He found work as a session drummer and also performed with Muddy Waters and the Impressions. White initially formed a group called the Salty Peppers, but scrapped the band and moved with his brother Verdine to try and make it in Los Angeles. White formed Earth, Wind & Fire in the 1960s and named the group after the elements on his astrological sign.
According to The AP, the band’s original sound was jazzy, but they developed a style that included funk, gospel, disco, Latin and Big Band music. Over the years, the band performed everywhere from the Super Bowl to the White House. Apart from leading Earth, Wind & Fire, White developed a side career as a talented producer. He worked with Cher and Barbra Streisand and co-wrote and co-produced the Emotions’ no. 1 hit Best of My Love. The group received several honors, such as a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and Lifetime Achievement awards from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the NAACP and the BET Awards. Two Earth, Wind & Fire songs, Shining Star and That’s the Way of the World, were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. During the induction, White revealed he had Parkinson’s, but the disease had begun to take its toll before then. White had to stop touring with the group in 1995, because he found it too physically demanding.
White’s autobiography, Keep Your Head to the Sky: My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire, is scheduled to be published on Sept. 13. Earth, Wind & Fire will be honored at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 15.