Maurice White - RIP
Another genius passes away. Thanks for the memories - RIP Maurice
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Born December 19, 1941
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Origin Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died February 4, 2016 (aged 74)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Maurice White was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1941 to a father who was a doctor and occasional saxophonist. He grew up in South Memphis, where he lived with his family in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones. In his teenage years, he moved to Chicago and found work as a session drummer for Chess Records. While at Chess, he played on the records of artists such as Etta James, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Stitt, Muddy Waters, The Impressions, The Dells, Betty Everett, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Buddy Guy. White also played the drums on Fontella Bass's "Rescue Me" and Billy Stewart's "Summertime". In 1962, along with other studio musicians at Chess, he was a member of the Jazzmen which later became The Pharaohs.
By 1966, he joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio, replacing Isaac "Red" Holt as the drummer. Holt would go on to be a part of the Young-Holt Unlimited and bassist Eldee Young was also replaced by Cleveland Eaton. As a member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Maurice played on nine of the group's albums, including Wade in the Water (1966), from which the track "Hold It Right There" won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental in 1966. Other albums by Lewis that featured White included The Movie Album (1966), Goin' Latin (1967), Dancing in the Street (1967), Up Pops Ramsey Lewis (1967) and The Piano Player (1969). While in the Trio he was introduced in a Chicago drum store to the African thumb piano or kalimba and on the Trio's 1969 album Another Voyage's track "Uhuru" was featured the first recording of Maurice playing the kalimba.
In 1969, Maurice left the Trio and joined his two friends, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, to form a songwriting team who wrote songs for commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol Records and called themselves The Salty Peppers. They had a moderate hit in the Midwest area with their single "La La Time", but their second single, "Uh Huh Yeah", was not as successful. Maurice then migrated from Chicago to Los Angeles, and altered the name of the band to Earth, Wind & Fire, the band's new name reflecting the elements in White's astrological chart.
With Maurice as the bandleader and producer of most of the band's albums, EWF earned legendary status winning six Grammy Awards out of a staggering 14 nominations, an NAACP Hall of Fame Award, a star on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame and four American Music Awards and the sale of over 90 million of the froup's albums worldwide. As a member of the band, Maurice was bestowed with such honors of being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, The Songwriters Hall of Fame and The NAACP Image Awards Hall of Fame.
Due to his diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease in the late 1980s, White stopped touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994. However, he retained executive control of the band and was still very active in the music business, producing and recording with EWF and other artists.