LOS ANGELES, Calif., Feb. 4, 2016 (UPI) — Maurice White, the co-founder and leader of the funk/soul band Earth, Wind & Fire has died after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 74.
He had battled the disease for 24 years before his death at his Los Angeles home. His brother and the group’s bassist, Verdine White confirmed his death on social media, with a picture of his brother walking toward the pyramids at Giza, Egypt. African iconography was often incorporated into their album artwork.
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine wrote. “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. Thank you for your prayers and well wishes.”
White told Rolling Stone in 2000 of his illness because he said he had tired of keeping it a secret since he was diagnosed in 1992. After announcing in 1995 he would no longer tour with his band, rumors about his health began to swirl. When the band was about to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he decided it was time.
“I just got tired of not talking about it,” he told the magazine. “I had pretty much disappeared from the scene; a lot of people had not seen me in a long time, and they started wondering what was happening.”
White studied at the Chicago Conservatory of Music before becoming a session drummer for Chess and Okeh record labels. He formed Earth, Wind & Fire in 1969 and named it after his astrological chart.
With Earth, Wind & Fire, he co-wrote and produced most of the music. He also shared vocals with Phillip Bailey. White forged a horn-driven and pioneering fusion of funk, soul, jazz, R&B and rock, even incorporating elements of African and Latin music. The band eventually sold 90 million records and won six Grammys with hits like “Shining Star,” “Sing a Song,” “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” a cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life,” “Let’s Groove,” and “After the Love Has Gone.”
The band was already scheduled to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy this spring.