Musicians and show biz folks from Gerald Albright to Aaron Carter, Martha Quinn, Nile Rodgers, Tavis Smiley and Keith Sweat are paying their respects to Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White, who died at his home in Los Angeles.
“My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep,” Verdine White, also a member of the band, told The Associated Press Thursday.
White, who was 74, had Parkinson’s disease and had retreated from the public life, while his groundbreaking, horn-driven band — which sold more than 90 million albums with hits like “September,” ‘’Shining Star” and “Boogie Wonderland” — continued performing.
The nine-piece group, fronted by the White brothers and singer Philip Bailey, joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Its breakout album was 1975’s “That’s The Way of The World.”
In 2014, Bailey talked about his connection to White with the San Francisco Examiner: “We had a multi-tiered type of relationship. He was kind of like a big brother, or a father figure, with more life experience. But we also were confidantes. I was the one person that Maurice could actually talk to; I wouldn’t tell him what he wanted to hear.”
Bailey and White had a rift in the 1980s, when White abruptly fired the band as its popularity waned. But they reconciled, and Bailey took White’s place as leader of the group. He adds, “Having had the reins of EWF for 20 years, I now have so much more empathy and understanding for him than I ever have.”
Bailey also said White was way ahead of his time with his vision, called “The Concept,” for EWF, which focused on universality, spirituality and ambitious, high-quality musicianship in a package that defied race and cultural categorizations.
The band’s exuberant mix of jazz, funk, gospel and Big Band music was a hit onstage as well, their concerts a whirl of dancing, fog machines, lights and glittery costumes.
White also had a substantial side career producing artists including Barbra Streisand and Cher.
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Actor Darren Criss is 29. … Soccer player Cristiano Ronaldo is 31. … Actor Michael Sheen is 47. … Singer Bobby Brown is 47. … Actress Laura Linney is 52. … Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh is 54. … Actor-comedian Tim Meadows is 55. … Actor-director-comedian Christopher Guest is 68. … Actress Barbara Hershey is 68. … Actress Charlotte Rampling is 70. … Baseball player Hank Aaron is 81.
— Staff, wire reports
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