In Memoriam: Maurice White

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Master Of The Universe

There are a lot of people who make music, but there are few who create sounds that touch the souls of mankind that will last for all time. I am a diehard fan of Earth, Wind & Fire and have been from the first note that entered my ear-hole. I have every “album” and CD from their first to the last. If you follow my writing, you know I like to pay homage to my hero’s; those who have had a significant impact upon my life and the world.

Mr. Maurice White, founder and leader of the greatest band ever assembled – Earth Wind & Fire – I call the Master of the Universe because he was the divine spirit that created the musical legacy known as the elements of the universe. Although, medical concerns caused him to stop touring with Earth, Wind & Fire, he retains executive control of the band and remains active in the music business.

Reese, as he is called, is a singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger and bandleader. He has won seven Grammys and has been nominated for Grammys twenty-one times in total. White was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, and he was individually inducted in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.In addition, he’s worked with many famous recording artists: Deniece Williams, The Emotions, Ramsey Lewis, Barbra Streisand, and is sought after by many of the “New Jack Artists” as a producer.

3He has a pedigree unrivaled. He was a childhood friend of the one and only 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 JamesRamsey LewisSonny StittMuddy WatersThe ImpressionsThe DellsBetty EverettSugar Pie DeSanto and Buddy Guy. Reese 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.

In 1966, he joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio, replacing Isaac ‘Red’ Holt as the new drummer. Holt would go on to be a part of the Young-Holt Unlimited. 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 Voyages 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 and got a recording contract with Capitol Records and called themselves The Salty Peppers. He then migrated from Chicago to Los Angeles and altered the name of the band to Earth, Wind & Fire, and the band’s new name reflecting the elements in White’s astrological chart.

2With Reese as the bandleader and producer of most of the band’s albums, EWF has earned legendary status winning six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards, and selling over 90 million albums worldwide. As a member of the band, he has been bestowed with countless awards. As an innovator, he is responsible for incorporating the sound of the Kalimba also known as the African thumb piano and adding the world famous horn section, the Phenix Horns into the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. He has appeared on stage with Earth, Wind & Fire since his retirement from the road from time to time.

In 1976, White, with the late great Mr. Charles Stepney co-produced Deniece Williams’, a former backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder, debut album, This Is Niecy, which was released on Columbia Records. The album was the first project for the newly formed production company Kalimba Productions formed by Maurice White and Charles Stepney in the same year. In a 2007 interview, Deniece says”I loved working with Maurice White” and “he taught me the business of music, and planning and executing a plan and executing a show.”

After Stax Records became embroiled in financial problems, the girl group the Emotions looked for a new contract and found one with Columbia Records on which their album Flowers was released in 1976. With Charles Stepney co-producing their album with Reese Flowers became certified gold in the US. After Charles Stepney death in 1976, Maurice took over the reins of producing the Emotions and it was with this combo that the album Rejoice was released in 1977. Rejoice peaked at number 7 and number 1 on the pop and R&B charts and spawned the singles “Best of My Love” and “Don’t Ask My Neighbors” which reached number 1 on the Pop and R&B charts and number 7 on the R&B charts respectively.

1Best of My Love won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single. “Best Of My Love” was also the third biggest pop single of 1977 and has been certified platinum. Rejoice was also the third biggest R&B album of 1977 has been certified platinum. He produced two more albums for the Emotions before they departed Columbia to record for Motown.

The list of singers and musicians White has produced or worked with is far too numerous to list in this writing. Frankly, I just don’t have enough space to list them all! Most call him “an innovator” and “someone who has had a profound impact upon the music industry as a whole” by such as Chaka Khan and Lalah Hathaway who believes that “his contribution as both a musician and a producer has been immeasurable”. He has been cited as a main influence by most artists in the last four score.

I don’t know how I rank, if at all, compared to the many great people who speak of him with such praise, but I am his most devoted fan. I can’t imagine what the world would be like without his genius. So I will just end by saying, “You’re a Shining Star” and “Keep Your Head To The Sky” and all is right with the universe. And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

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Welcome to Thought Provoking Perspectives a blog designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge to broaden the information base with those who share my passion for the written word and the empowerment of thought. View all posts by Thought Provoking Perspectives

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