Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty ImagesMaurice White, co-founder of the pioneering funk-soul band Earth, Wind & Fire, died Wednesday at the age of 74 after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. Maurice’s brother and band mate Verdine White confirmed his passing in a message posted on the group’s official Facebook page.
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine writes. “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.”
After serving as a session drummer for Chess Records and playing with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Maurice founded Earth, Wind & Fire in 1969 in Chicago. He was the group’s leader, shared lead vocal duties with Phillip Bailey, and co-wrote and produced most of the band’s hits.
Earth, Wind & Fire is acclaimed for blending funk, soul, R&B, pop and rock with elements of Latin and African music, and also became one of the best-known horn-driven bands in pop history. Among the group’s many well-known tunes are “Shining Star,” “Sing a Song,” “September,” “Boogie Wonderland” and “After the Love Has Gone.”
Maurice was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late 1980s and complications from the disease forced him to retire from touring with the band in 1994. Over the years he won seven Grammy Awards, and in 2000 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire.
Earth, Wind & Fire is due to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy this spring. Ironically, Jefferson Airplane, another band that’s due to receive that same honor, lost not one but two of its founding members last week: guitarist Paul Kantner and singer Signe Anderson.
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