Maurice White, the iconic drummer, singer, bandleader, and founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, has died. The legendary musician passed away in his sleep last night at the age of 74, according to his brother and fellow band member Verdine.
White had been battling Parkinson’s disease since the 1980s, according to Billboard, and stopped touring with the band in 1995 due to complications from the disease.
One of the most influential bands of its age, Earth, Wind & Fire’s genre-bending sound inspired countless musical evolutions with influences delving into rock, funk, soul, jazz, pop, disco and more. The nine-piece power band was loved worldwide for horn-driven grooves mixed with highly singable melodies on songs like September, Boogie Wonderland, Fantasy, Shining Star, and countless others.
The band has sold tens of millions of albums worldwide, was nominated for 20 Grammys (with 6 wins), and was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammys in January alongside Run-D.M.C.
White founded EWF in 1969, bringing his well-sculpted session skills from his time at Chess Records, where the talented artist had worked with acts like Etta James and Fontella bass.
So named for the three elements in White’s astrological chart, EWF quickly evolved after White moved the band to LA and convinced brother and bass player Verdine to follow. Together, the two held down the rhythm foundation of what would become a creative explosion that twisted and turned through multiple members and a rainbow of genres throughout the next three decades, until White was sidelined by his health issues in the ’90s.
In what has been a trying few weeks for music fans, White’s death closely follows the recent passing of two other icons of their respective musical genres, including Eagle’s Co-founder Glen Frey, and, of course, the great David Bowie.
Following his brother’s passing, Verdine White made the following statement to the Associated Press:
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine told the AP. “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.