February 5, 2016, - 5:17 pm

Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire Founder & Musical Genius, RIP

By Debbie Schlussel


Can’t let the day go by without noting the passing of one of my favorite singers and the founder of one of my absolute favorite groups: Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, who died yesterday at 74. He’s the singer (and writer–in the case of “Let’s Groove”) of several of my favorite songs–songs which I consider part of the soundtrack of my life.

Those songs–“September,” “Let’s Groove,” and “After the Love Is Gone”–are part of my workouts, part of the music I play when I clean my apartment, and I’ve been singing and dancing to them since I was a kid. Again, they are part of the soundtrack of my life–from the bar and bat mitzvah parties I attended as a kid, to the parties I went to in high school and college (and after) with friends, and so on. I grew up and lived life listening to and enjoying Earth, Wind & Fire. Even the group’s sad songs are fun. And although EW&F is known for the falsetto leads of Philip Bailey (who is also great), the songs I liked the most were the ones starring White.

My Fave Earth Wind & Fire Songs (on All of Which Maurice White is the Lead Singer) . . .

September . . .

Let’s Groove . . .

After the Love Has Gone . . .

My late father taught me a love for Jazz and R&B, taking me to concerts and jazz festivals and playing me his records. And that appreciation for jazz translated into a love of EW&F, which melded Jazz, funk, disco, R&B, soul, and incredible horn sections on its mostly cheerful hits (which my dad enjoyed as well). Songs like “September” are still mainstays of parties and themes in movies to date because they are so well done and have such catchy, rhythmic, happy melodies and lyrics. It’s a unique sound that Maurice White dreamed up, and it changed pop (and even some rock) music forever. EW&F songs, though romantic, were relatively wholesome and hopeful, not the bitches and hos garbage that’s the lingua franca of today’s hip-hop crap (with apologies to the term lingua franca for using it in conjunction with hip-hop).

EW&F probably wouldn’t be successful today. Its sound would be “out” because cheerful melodies and jazz are “out” (except in hotel lobbies and restaurants–and don’t forget elevators and supermarkets!) and ranting and raving to loud beats is in. Real talent is out, pretentious BS-ing, a la Kanye, is in.

I’m sad I never got to see EW&F in person. My dad and I were going to see them back in the day, but we never got to it. As you can see from the videos of my favorite EW&F songs above, it looks like we missed a hell of a show. These guys were (and the surviving members still are) showmen extraordinaire with their glitzy space-age and African-inspired costumes and the props and backdrops. But the elements of show were one thing. The music stood on its own.

And trite but true, Maurice White’s music lives on with his many fans. To date, the VEVO September video on YouTube has been played more than 41 million times, and the group sold more than 90 million albums. Back in the days before DVDs and downloads and iPods, I wore out three cassette tapes of Earth Wind & Fire’s Greatest Hits on my Sony Walkman tape player while working out and jogging. Those songs energized me, and they still do.

White didn’t just create a terrific sound, but also produced other hit artists, including Cher and Barbra Streisand and the Emotions’ “Best of My Love” (which he wrote). He also wrote songs for the movies “Coming to America” and “Undercover Brother.”

First, David Bowie. Now, Maurice White. Both men who created tremendous music I listened to when I was growing up and which I continue to enjoy listening to, today. Both men who had tremendous influence and created unique sounds that changed everything . . . for the better. It’s hard to see so many talented guys leaving us. And leaving us wanting more we’ll never get.

Maurice White, Who Gave Me a Lot of Happy Times With His Great Songs, Rest In Peace.

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10 Responses

You have excellent taste in music, Debbie.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on February 5, 2016 at 11:29 pm

Great music and memories from my childhood too.

Karen on February 5, 2016 at 11:39 pm

Dear Debbie Hi Thank you so much for these wonderful songs! Beautiful! RIP Maurice White!i love those 3 songs that you placed! (September) (Let`s Groove) (After the Love has Gone)i agree totally with you and you have beautiful taste in music Dear Debbie!So sad …..myself especially in Miami Florida i was listenning to his beautiful songs! Thanks so much for sharing these 3 beautiful songs with us! His music will live forever God Bless you Dear Debbie! Sincerlly! Tirdad.

Tirdad Gharib on February 6, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Real talent is out, pretentious BS-ing, a la Kanye, is in.

How true.

DS_ROCKS! on February 7, 2016 at 2:06 am

The funny thing about “Best of My Love” was, White was actually the second person this year to die, who had co-written a song with that title. A few weeks before White’s death, Eagles co-founder Glenn Frey – who co-wrote an entirely different song with that same “Best of My Love” title (and had hailed from Detroit a.k.a. what is now referred to as “Detroitistan” around here) – had also passed away, an ironic coincidence if ever there was one.

With the spirituality inherent in EW&F’s lyrics (thanks to White), it could be argued that their music was a different kind of “deep soul” than the usual connotations of that term (which was usually shorthand for Southern soul). I’ve quite a few of EW&F’s 45’s, myself, from their first very big hit “Shining Star” up to “Let’s Groove.” One of their other records in my collection is a 45 edit of their collaboration with Ramsey Lewis, “Sun Goddess.” Lewis’ short work of the Fender Rhodes keyboard on that one is every bit as riveting as EW&F’s groove (and “way-o” vocals from White and Bailey).

And it’s not just what was referred to as “pretentious BS” as exemplified by Kanye; much of today’s R&B could be charitably referred to as “shallow soul,” which is every bit as empty and hollow as those perpetrating it. At least David Bowie had the decency to admit he didn’t have that much talent, unlike Kanye, although he did very well with what he did have.

ConcernedPatriot on February 7, 2016 at 3:37 am

Interesting note, CP. Having been a big Eagles and Earth, Wind and Fire fan, your “Best Of My Love” discovery is very cool. 45s, wow, those were the days. All that great soul music.

I could start with my favorite groups and artists, like The Four Tops, The Temptations, Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions, James Brown, Brook Benton, and go on from there. It would be a VERY, VERY long list in that genre. Martha Reeves and The Vandellas, anyone? I’m not trying to start a Heat Wave here, . . .

just reminiscing.

Alfredo from Puerto Rico on February 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Well, Jennifer Lopez is performing in Israel…

Barry Popik on February 7, 2016 at 6:39 pm

I saw EWF a few years back, Maurice was no longer with the group due to illness. Still put on a great show. Also, my wife saw EWF perform with Chicago, a great show.

Here is the show she saw, I was out of town on business, I was so bummed I missed this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pqi3WOIwjA8

DaveC on February 8, 2016 at 1:48 pm

I saw EW&F with Maurice White perform in a theater on the west coast many years ago and they rocked the house filled with people of all ages, with even the ushers were dancing in the aisles. After the show, there was a meet and greet opportunity with Maurice White. Though aging and showing some signs of sickness then, music was such an important part of his life that he seemed genuinely happy. I had a similar experience later on the east coast listening and meeting with Les Paul. They were one of a kind and they will be sorely missed.

Ralph Adamo on February 8, 2016 at 2:27 pm

I would be remiss in not bringing up that prior to founding EW&F (from certain aspects in his astrological chart, showing that spirituality was in the band’s DNA from the outset), White was a session drummer for Chess Records in Chicago. Among the many records he’d played on was Fontella Bass’ classic “Rescue Me.”

But it saddens and troubles me (as I presume it would others who frequent this site) to think we’ve gone from the positive, uplifting music provided by White and EW&F, to such tripe as Beyonce’s “Formation.”

ConcernedPatriot on February 10, 2016 at 12:58 pm

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