Earth, Wind & Fire soul band founder Maurice White dies

The founder of soul group Earth, Wind & Fire, Maurice White, has died in the US, his brother has said.


White, 74, died in his sleep in Los Angeles on Thursday morning. He suffered from Parkinson’s Disease.

His band had a series of hits including September, Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star and After the Love has Gone.

The singer-songwriter was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1992 but his condition was reported to have got worse in recent months.

Earth, Wind & Fire were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and Maurice was individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.

Popularly known by his nickname of Reese, he worked with various well-known recording artists such as The Emotions, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Neil Diamond.

Earth, Wind & Fire have sold more than 90 million albums worldwide.

“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine White, also a member of the band, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

“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.”

Earth, Wind & Fire

  • A nine-piece band centred around the two White brothers and singer Philip Bailey
  • The band’s most successful period began with the 1975 album That’s The Way of The World
  • They remained prominent in the charts for at least a decade afterwards
  • White publicly revealed he was suffering from Parkinson’s at the time of the band’s Hall of Fame induction
  • He stopped touring with the band in 1995 because of a combination of tiredness and health problems

White said in an interview with the Associated Press news agency in 2000 that he wanted Earth, Wind & Fire’s music to inspire people rather than just entertain 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.”

A former session drummer, White formed a band called Salty Peppers in the Chicago area in the late 1960s.

He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, disposing of all of the band members except Verdine, The band was renamed Earth, Wind & Fire after the three elements in his astrological chart.

Many of the group’s earlier hits were characterised by Bailey’s bright falsetto voice.

The band is perhaps best known for its exuberant, horn-driven mix of jazz, funk, gospel and Big Band music played at concerts where they performed in glitzy costumes underneath multi-coloured lights. They played at many top venues including the Super Bowl and the White House.

“We live in a negative society,'” White informed Newsweek at the peak of the band’s success. “Most people can’t see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine.”