Maurice White (December 19, 1941 – February 4, 2016) was an American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger and bandleader. He was the founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. He was also the older brother of current Earth, Wind & Fire member Verdine White, and former member Fred White. Maurice served as the band’s main songwriter and record producer, and was co-lead singer along with Philip Bailey. White won seven Grammys, and was nominated for a total of twenty-one Grammys.
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 was also inducted individually into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Also known by his nickname “Reese”, he worked with several famous recording artists including; Deniece Williams, the Emotions, Barbra Streisand, and Neil Diamond.
White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the late 1980s, which led him eventually to stop touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994. However, White retained executive control of the band, and remained active in the music business.
In addition to his work with the Emotions and Deniece Williams, White collaborated with several other famous recording artists. For example, he played the drums on Minnie Riperton’s debut 1970 album, Come to My Garden, and contributed vocals to Weather Report’s 1978 album Mr. Gone.
White also produced Ramsey Lewis’ albums: Sun Goddess (1974), Salongo (1976), and Sky Islands (1993), Jennifer Holliday on her 1983 release Feel My Soul, Barbra Streisand on her 1984 platinum album Emotion, Atlantic Starr on their platinum 1986 album All in the Name of Love, and Neil Diamond on his 1986 gold album Headed for the Future. In addition he co-wrote the song “Only In Chicago” with Barry Manilow which was included on his 1980 platinum album Barry, the track “Tip of My Tongue” for the rock band the Tubes which appeared on their album Outside Inside, and contributed vocals to Cher’s 1987 self-titled platinum album.
White produced two albums by the jazz group the Urban Knights, released in 1995 and 1997. Urban Knights I featured Ramsey Lewis, Brazilian percussionist Paulinho Da Costa, and American jazz saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. and it went to number 3 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums charts. The group’s second album Urban Knights II featured appearances by Ramsey Lewis, Paulinho Da Costa, EW&F’s bassist Verdine White, singer-songwriter and guitarist Jonathan Butler, and jazz saxophonist Najee. It reached number 5 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums charts
White also produced on James Ingram’s 1993 Thom Bell inspired album Always You, notably the track “Too Much For This Heart”. White arranged for the British girl group Cleopatra on their 1998 album Comin’ Atcha!, which peaked at number 20 on the UK albums chart.
In 2000 White was the executive producer of the group Xpression’s album Power with San Francisco Bay area producer/vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, and educator Maestro Curtis whom White dubbed his protege and nicknamed him “the genius”. Their debut album, Power, was released the same year. On March 27, 2006 White was featured on the French jazz band Nojazz’s 2006 album Have Fun on the tracks “Nobody Else” and “Kool”. “Kool” marked the first time White collaborated with his friend Stevie Wonder.
White served as the executive producer of an Earth, Wind & Fire tribute album entitled Interpretations: Celebrating The Music Of Earth, Wind & Fire which was released in March 2007. Featured on the album were renowned artists including: Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, and Angie Stone. From the album Dwele’s remake of “That’s The Way Of The World” and Meshell Ndegeocello’s cover of “Fantasy” were both nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.
White was executive producer for jazz musician Brian Culbertson’s album Bringing Back The Funk which was released in 2008. The album features, among others, White, former EW&F member Larry Dunn, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, Ledisi, Musiq Soulchild, Maceo Parker, and Gerald Albright. Bringing Back The Funk went to No. 1 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Charts and stayed there for two weeks. Culbertson revealed in an interview that he is “…still in disbelief. I have learned so much from (Maurice) and he actually said that he learned a lot from me. It was incredible to work with him.”