Photo by Chris Hakkens via Wikimedia Commons.
Photo by Chris Hakkens via Wikimedia Commons.

Maurice White, co-founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, died in Los Angeles following a battle with Parkinson’s disease, his brother announced Thursday. He was 74.

“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine White wrote on his brother’s Facebook page. “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.”

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Maurice White began singing in church at age 6, but he was inspired to pursue a career in music while watching a drum and bugle corps as a child. According to his online biography, watching the corps “touched his soul and gave him a vision for a new life.”

He began playing with bands as a teenager, and after graduating high school, he moved to Chicago, where he eventually worked at Chess Recording Company and developed into an in-demand session drummer. He recorded with artists including Chuck Berry, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Boy Williams and Buddy Guy.

He joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio in the mid-1960s. He left the group three years later and teamed up with friends Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead to create a group called The Salty Peppers. They moved to Los Angeles in 1970 and juggled the membership, changing the name to Earth, Wind & Fire.

The band won six Grammys and was inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. White was individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. The group is being honored this year by The Recording Academy with a lifetime achievement award.

“Maurice was the guiding force behind the group’s success and helped create hit songs such as ‘Shining Star,’ ‘September,’ ‘After the Love Has Gone’ and so many memorable others,” Recording Academy President Neil Portnow said. “His unerring instincts as a musician and showman helped propel the band to international stardom, influencing countless fellow musicians in the process. While he will be greatly missed, Maurice’s contributions to music will live on.”

— City News Service 

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