R.I.P. Maurice White

Maurice White, founder and leader of iconic funk act Earth, Wind & Fire, has died. A few hours ago his brother and bass player Verdine White left the following note on the Earth, Wind & Fire Facebook page:

My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep. 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.

Yours Truly,
Verdine White

This is such sad news. Maurice brought so many positive notes into our lives. Earth, Wind & Fire played a huge role in my musical upbringing. When I was a teenager I loved dancing. And Earth, Wind & Fire was, and still is, one of the best bands to dance to. Their music made me emotional when watching the fantastic Intouchables movie. I am talking about the scene where the caregiver starts to dance for his disabled friend in the wheelchair on Boogie Wonderland. They are having fun because the music is so uplifting, positive and full of energy. It makes me wanna dance too. It still does. This music is so powerful, it instantly gives me fresh energy.

Let me go through some of my favourite tracks, not all of them of course, but just a few:

Fantasy – Listen how the grooves sets in after 13 seconds, with the lovely rhythm guitar of Al McKay, a great string section and resonant funky synths, plus the FANTASTIC Phenix Horns (Don Myrick on sax, Louis Satterfield on trombone, Rahmlee Michael Davis on trumpet and Michael Harris on trumpet). Hear how the horns play counterparts which the chords while Philip Bailey sings his high pitched opera like lines. Very epic but yet super groovy!

Can’t Let Go – This is such an uplifting track! With a bass drum on every beat of the bar (disco times!). Great horns and synths playing chord melodies in the background. And with super smooth twists in the modality.

Let Me Talk – Check that intro! It’s a synth arpeggio with a horn section on top of it. That tasty brass sound which never ever sounded beter than the Phenix Horns of this band. Great percussion too! And that lovely synth arp that is repeated a couple of times in the song. Really, really, really, really cool!

Turn It Into Something Good – Maybe my favourite EWF track. That roll in the intro with the Phenix Horns on top of it, man, totally KILLER! Chord wise this song is super interesting with harmonic, modal changes, which are super smooth. With additional jazz-like notes. No, this is JAZZ. Not improvised jazz, but smart jazz, like Steely Dan. But with a more danceable groove. And when Maurice is singing you can hear a counterpart melody in the background (flutes and strings) that is super nice. The horn section is also playing counterparts which are simply killer. Never done better than this. Played by human being. Man this grooves! And dig that Rhodes piano, those lovely vocals and that super warm 70s sound!

Let’s Groove – Dig that killer vocoder sound! The low end, like all of this EWF music, is so super nice, warm and tight. A fat funky synth is playing the bass lines in this track. Chord wise this is a more simple song, but there’s modal a twist when they take it to the bridge. Neat! And such a great boogie!

I’ve Had Enough – The song starts with a nice vamp. Great playing and great horns, as usual. But then the song has this super nice modulation which resolves itself into that fantastic refrain. Man, so nice, right On The Money! And so uplifting, so positive!

Thanks Maurice! I’ll keep on dancing!


Also published on Medium.

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6 Responses to R.I.P. Maurice White

  1. john February 6, 2016 at 7:47 pm #

    Nice one Marco. His life before EWF was really interesting too..went to high school as a class mate of Booker T in Memphis. Moved to Chicago and studied classical music, as well as doing jazz gigs..and out of that he became a studio cat at Chess. That was a real “wrecking crew”..Phil Upchurch, Pete Cosey, and Louis Satterfield (who played trombone in the P horns, but was also an electric bass player at Chess..played with Maurice on a lot of Howlin Wolf etc etc Chess records. Maurice also played with Ramsey Lewis for a time. The guy was simply fantastic, way beyond a normal human! He was also my inspiration to take up the Mbira, I loved his playing on the various EWF lp’s. One of my all time favorite shows was EWF opening for Sanatana and John McLaughlin at a huge arena in Chicago..4 hours of sonic mayhem. Soul Power on 11. That was 1974..

    Isn’t it amazing that 2 musicians like me and you, thousands of miles apart, 20 + years apart in age, would be so influenced by a him? Pretty cool if you ask me.

    • Marco Raaphorst February 6, 2016 at 7:56 pm #

      Didn’t know that much about him. Chess is great. Saw a nice documentary on that studioband.

      I love Howlin’ Wolf too. Music is a strong connector between us John. Distance, age and language is not a probem 🙂

  2. john February 6, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

    too true brother..hoping to meet up in late Summer/early Fall.

  3. john February 6, 2016 at 10:53 pm #

    we will..I even have a ride from a friend in London.

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