This week, millions mourn the passing of MAURICE WHITE, drummer, songwriter, arranger, singer, producer, and co-founder of the influential group, Earth, Wind & Fire. We share just a bit about his life….
Maurice “Reese” White was born December 19, 1941 in Memphis, Tennessee, the son of a doctor. Like many young boys, “Reese” found his first audience in his family, who encouraged his interests. At the age of six, he began singing in the church with a group of other young singers. And then, after viewing a drum and bugle corps marching down the street, Maurice White was inspired to take up the drums, and it helped to set the course for his life.
After high school, Maurice White moved to Chicago, Illinois, to attend the Chicago Conservatory of Music. Chicago was a major hub for music and White went to work for Chicago’s Chess Recording Company. For five years, he mastered many styles of music, playing on sessions for greats such as Etta James, Fontella Bass, The Impressions, The Dells, Little Milton, Chester Burnett and Billy Stewart. Maurice White left Chicago to tour with The Dells as their drummer, and later, White became a member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio.
A deeply spiritual man,Maurice White had always had a plan to play his own music, music that would lift the consciousness of the listeners, to give them pride, a sense of belonging…to bring an awareness of the magnitude of pure love. Then, in the 1970’s, together with his brother, Verdine White, he formed his dream band, Earth Wind & Fire.
Their band was an incredible amalgam of African and African-American styles – particularly jazz and R&B. Their positive energy and deft blending of the musical styles of many cultures appealed to the broadest range of listeners, and they bridged the gap between black and white music. “I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before,” Maurice explained. “Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music…which somehow ended up becoming pop. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ our spiritual content.”
Earth Wind & Fire became one of the largest crossover bands in history, reaching both black and white markets. They were the first black performers to receive Madison Square Garden’s Gold Ticket Award for selling more than 100,000 tickets. Earth Wind & Fire also had the distinction of being the first black performers to receive the Columbia Records Crystal Globe Award for selling more than five million albums in foreign markets.
Later in life, Maurice White was advised to stop touring with Earth, Wind & Fire, due to the limitations of his health. Always creative and open, he branched out in his career, writing and producing artists that he enjoyed, such as Ramsey Lewis, Deniece Williams, Freddie Ravel, Barbra Streisand, the Emotions and Neil Diamond – still sharing his massive talents and influencing popular music.
Maurice White has been honored with many awards. He is an inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Vocal Group Hall of Fame, and he is represented with his own star on The Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The greatest measure of his success, Maurice White holds a place in the hearts of millions. His pure message of love reaches people of all backgrounds and races — as he knew it should, as he knew it would. Enjoy that “ride in the sky,” Maurice. You are so greatly loved.
Here, Maurice White with Earth, Wind & Fire, a song he co-wrote with Freddie Ravel, “Honor the Magic” ~
– Robin Laurie Stewart