Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, whose horn-driven band sold more than 90 million albums and made hits like “September,” “Shining Star” and “Boogie Wonderland,” has died at his home in Los Angeles.
White, who was 74, suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had retreated from the public even as the band he founded kept performing.
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night [Wednesday] in his sleep,” his brother Verdine White, also a member of the band, told the Associated Press on Thursday.
Earth, Wind & Fire, a nine-piece band featuring the two White brothers, singer Philip Bailey and the distinctive horn section, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. The band’s most successful period started with the 1975 album “That’s the Way of the World” and continued through the rest of the decade. Other hits included “Serpentine Fire” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
White revealed he had Parkinson’s at the time of the band’s Hall of Fame induction, but he had shown symptoms of the neurological disease back in the 1980s. He stopped touring in 1995 because of road weariness combined with his health problems.
A former session drummer, White founded the band Salty Peppers in the Chicago area in the late 1960s and had some modest success in the Midwest. After relocating to Los Angeles and ditching all of the band members except Verdine, he renamed the outfit Earth, Wind & Fire after the three elements in his astrological chart.
Bailey’s bright falsetto defined many of Earth, Wind & Fire’s hits. “We experienced pure magic together,” Bailey said during the band’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction, standing next to White.
Maurice White also had a substantial side career producing other artists, including Barbra Streisand and Cher. In the 1970s, he co-wrote and coproduced the Emotions’ No. 1 hit “Best of My Love.”
White was born in Memphis in 1941, the son of a doctor and grandson of a New Orleans piano player.
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