The music of Earth, Wind & Fire is forever a part of my soundtrack of life! The loss of Maurice White, founding member, still leaves me with a hole in my heart. I'm sure many of us feel the same way. Paying my respects, here is a reprint of my tribute; which appeared on Vinyl Radio when the world suffered the loss of a this great man.
This last week, another icon in music left this world. I can’t help but feel that this season, we’ve lost more artists / musicians than at any other time. This year has not started off very well, folks.
As most of you might have heard, Maurice White, who founded Earth, Wind & Fire passed away on February 3rd. He was 74 years old. Maurice had been ill since the late 80’s when he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. For myself, I was not surprised by the news. But it hurt nonetheless.
Maurice’s brother and founding member, Verdine White broke the news by posting on the group’s Facebook page with a simple and beautiful tribute: “My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep. 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.”
Fellow founding EW&F member; Philip Bailey wrote a beautiful tribute to Maurice, ending with; “So many Melodies, so many Memories.” YES, so true.
Fans all over the world were affected by the news. Social media has blown up with tributes of pictures and favorite songs adding thoughts on his passing.
Those in the music world who knew and or worked with Maurice also went to social media to post their sadness over this loss. From Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Nile Rodgers to Julian Lennon and more!
Steve Lukather of Toto, who not only knew these guys but worked with them, was terribly saddened by the loss, posting on his Facebook page the following tribute: Maurice White. We lost another great...I was honored to have known and worked with him and the EW+F family. My prayers are with you all.”
I reached out to Steve who is currently on a European tour with Toto and he told me exclusively; “'Reece was a genius and a kind man. I had great times with with him and all of EW+F on the “I AM” and the “Faces” albums! I don't really have any amazing stories to tell. Rather than to say he was wise, kind and I was honored to work with one of the best bands of all time. Timeless music! God Bless him.”
I also reached out to famed drummer John ‘JR’ Robinson, known for his work with, Rufus, Chaka Khan, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones and MANY more. Considered the most recorded drummer in music; John told me exclusively, he was saddened by this great loss adding, “He had so much influence on me. God’s arms couldn’t be more open.”
My friend, Casey Young, also known for working with Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones, Michael Sembello & more, had this to say; “He was the best and the driving force of EWF. He was the man.”
Not wanting to leave this guy out; I contacted Nathan East, bassist extraordinaire of the jazz group “Fourplay,” known for working with the best in the business, including the above mentioned and including, Kenny Loggins, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Phil Collins, Daft Punk and Nathan had this to say to me; “Their music is definitely the soundtrack to my life. They are all dear friends and I had the honor of playing on one EWF album called “Touch The World.” Maurice (my Sagittarius Brother) use to call me for his productions and he was amazing to work with! Magical, Mystical Majestic Maurice! His influence on me is immeasurable and I will miss him dearly. We will NEVER forget the man, Maurice White. May he rest peacefully in Paradise.”
Nathan is right on the mark when he mentions that EWF was the soundtrack to his life. Mine too!! My youth was full of EW&F tunes. Being a 60’s child, I was old enough to know exactly who they were and recognized their music from the moment I heard them on my AM transistor radio, while riding the bus to and from school.
Junior high, songs were - “Evil,” “Shining Star, ” “That’s The Way of The World,” and “Sing A Song”
High school tunes were - “Getaway” and “Can’t Hide Love.” And then my life changed when “Serpentine Fire” from the “All 'N All” album was released in 1977. I had just been hired as a seasonal worker at our local dept. store, across the street from my high school. Soon after, I was moved to the little music dept. A DREAM JOB for a 16 year old! I used to set aside LP’s and 45’s that I would buy on the next payday.
“Fantasy" had been released in early 1978 and that was it. . . .I WAS HOOKED!! I had to have the album. So when it came in to the store, I set aside a copy for payday. And I still have that album to this day.
At that time, I was in choir and our teacher, Mr. Richard Reed had created an 4 part arrangement of “Fantasy.” So wish I had kept that arrangement. It wasn’t too bad, either. It was a current song and as a choir, we were happy to sing it. : )
I cried to the love songs. . . “Be Ever Wonderful” and “Love’s Holiday.” Wishing and wanting to be love just like the girls I knew in high school. But I was more like the girl Janis Ian sang about in “At Seventeen.” The girl who waited by the phone, but that’s another story for another time. : )
And being from Palm Springs, we only had one radio station and it was KDES 92 AM, so when we bought albums, we listened to the whole album. Was it because the album was good or because we had just what we had and didn’t “waste,” if you will? I think it was both. But I’ve always loved those deep tracks. As a teenager, my world was opened up with the “All 'N All” album. I was exposed to R & B, Funk and Jazz. “Runnin’” was my favorite!!! It stands to reason that “Runnin’s” core was Jazz. Maurice White said on their website, “we were basically jazz musicians.”
What was it about EW&F that made them so good? They were a group that all ages could enjoy because their songs were so addicting and catchy! With horn arrangements that were off the hook FUNK and those funky baselines!!! And the vocals!!! Oh my gosh, those vocals. Phillip Bailey’s beautiful falsettos. I can remember standing by my Panasonic stereo singing along to the latest EWF tune, I would work so hard to emulate him. But it was Maurice’s voice that could bring tears to my eyes, when I listened to his love ballads or could get me moving with songs like “Magic Mind,” “September,” “Jupiter,” “Fall In Love With Me” just to name a few.
Casey Young told me, and to which I agree, “I think EWF was one of the best bands in the world. All time.”
I wanted to know why.
So I asked Steve Lukather what he thought set them apart from other groups of the day and today? He had this to say; EW+F “touched ALL musicians of all styles and NON-musicians as well. They blazed a trail of intelligent R+B crossover-fusion music incorporating so many Pop-funk-rock styles in their OWN way!”
John “JR” Robinson, added; “Maurice White and EWF are referred to in the music industry as ‘The Bible’ of contemporary music.”
“Greatest group of all time!” says Nathan East. Why? Because, “I believe Maurice single-handedly had one of the most influential impacts on pop music as we know it. A true visionary, great to hang with and absolutely a creative genius.”
It is true, they crossed all the musical boundaries, breaking the rules and stamping tunes with their signature sound. When the RSO soundtrack “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band” album came out in 1978, I absolutely fell in love with “Got To Get You Into My Life,” which was arranged by Maurice White. What a great song!! The listener can tell it’s a Lennon & McCartney composition, but it’s all Earth, Wind & Fire. Just like when Stevie Wonder rearranged another L & McC tune, “We Can Work It Out.” The integrity of the songs are there, but their style is all their own. And I love that!!
In 1985 Maurice, said in a interview with The Chicago Tribune that he “learned that music helps a lot of people survive” That people “want songs that can give them something” Ending with, “I guess you could call it hope.”
Thank you so much Maurice, for putting forth your desire to give people, such as myself, hope to face their problems, a new day or just to move and to groove. There will never be another you.
Yes, Earth, Wind & Fire will continue on. Maurice set this band on a firm foundation of Funk, Pop & Soul. And they will continue to move and wow music lovers all over this world.
For me, I have my prized albums, 45’s, 8-tracks, cassettes, CD’s, mp3’s and the internet. : )
It was an honor to take this selfie with the great Verdine White!
Perhaps we can do it again, sometime!