RIP: Maurice White (1941–2016)

The Earth, Wind & Fire bandleader was seventy-four years old.

On Wednesday night, Maurice White—the main songwriter and co-lead singer of Earth, Wind & Fire—passed away in his sleep after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The legendary musician was seventy-four years old.

With his brothers, Fred and Verdine, White formed Earth Wind & Fire in 1971—an internationally beloved R&B and soul band that released smash hits like “September,” “Shining Star,” and “Mighty Mighty” and sold over 90 million records since their inception. White was the sole leader of the group, writing and producing most of their albums. His musical direction was responsible for the band’s complex grooves and crossover success; he also wasn’t afraid to incorporating new sounds like a horn section and the marimba into Earth, Wind & Fire’s genre-blending sound. Earth, Wind & Fire won six Grammys and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

Beyond his massive success with EWF, White was a talented and celebrated songwriter and producer for other artists including Barbara Streisand (Emotion), The Emotions (“Best of My Love”), Neil Diamond (Headed for the Future), and Barry Manilow (“Only In Chicago”) among others. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.

White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late ’80s and stopped touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in the early ’90s, but he was still very much involved with the band until his death. He is survived by his brothers and will be remembered by the music community forever.

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