Earth, Wind and Fire – celebrating the legacy of founder Maurice White, who passed away today at the age of 74, following a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.
When Earth, Wind and Fire first came on the scene, they weren’t your average horn-based Soul band – they were a lot more. They were a remarkable blend of Soul, Salsa, Rock, R&B, Funk and Jazz. And under White’s guidance became one of the most potent and successful bands of the 70s (and beyond); crossing over and selling some 90 million albums as the result and walking away with some 20 Grammy nominations. Of their work, Rolling Stone once described them as “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing” and declared that the band “changed the sound of black pop”.
Over the years, Earth, Wind and Fire have had numerous personnel changes – but it was the guidance along with the songwriting and producing skills of Maurice White that kept the band at the top for so many years, making them, among other things, the first African-American act to sell out Madison Square Garden. Their incredible string of hits stayed that way until White, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the 1980s, finally had to relinquish his place in the band and retire from performing.
As a reminder of how great the band was, even early on, I found this episode of the milestone NET (pre-PBS) TV series Soul! which featured Earth, Wind and Fire, recorded on January 10, 1973. It makes for a wonderful tribute to a musician and musical guide who helped change the landscape, and whose contributions, not only to the band, but to his numerous side projects as producer and writer. Truly a gift and truly a loss. Without Maurice White, Earth, Wind and Fire may have sounded a lot different and had a different story.
Enjoy the show – RIP: Maurice White (1941-2016)