OBIT: Maurice White (1941-2016)

Once again a significant figure in the pop music world has passed to another plane, this time in the form of Maurice White, leader, songwriter, and force behind the dynamic Earth, Wind, and Fire.

My first real job out of college was spent as a social worker for the Housing Authority of the City of Oakland. That meant managing public housing units, and that meant my day was indeed spent on some of the city’s tougher ghettos.

I did always get on just fine in such circumstances, and though I was indeed into 801, Springsteen, and then punk when it arrived, I never backed away from soul, starting from the earliest days of Motown.

EWF, or “the elements” as my cool work mates referred to the group, were certainly a band at the time I really did like, but I probably would not have been exposed to White and crew in the same way had I not held my job.

But, my workmates turned me onto their Way of the World album, that featured the great Shining Star. And, though Shining Star is a killer cut, I chose the title track as my tribute to White, who passed this morning after suffering from Parkinson’s Disease at 74.

Way of the World is a love song that indeed features White’s strong melody and lyrical skills, his band at full skill, and this particular cut has a killer guitar solo, something we all love.

EWF are still the elements, and White is eternal. Sigh.


6 thoughts on “OBIT: Maurice White (1941-2016)

  1. My girlfriend is (almost literally) dragging me to a Chicago/Earth, Wind & Fire show at PPL Center in Allentown in April (please don’t tell anyone). The PPL Center is a big deal in Allentown since it was built a couple years ago as the feature of a big downtown renovation, but this will be my first time there. The staples are minor league hockey and acts I don’t give a shit about. The Eagles were the “big” debut show when it opened – enough said.

    I told her the show might be decent if they added just two caveats:

    1) Limit Chicago to material from 1972 and prior,

    2) Just have Earth, Wind & Fire dance to Chicago and not play at all.

    The things you do for love.

  2. I told a friend of mine earlier today, Berkeley High School grad: Earth, Wind, and Fire provided the soundtrack of our East Bay adolescence for a couple of years in the mid-1970s.

  3. May 16, 1974. I went to the Nassau Coliseum to War and Earth Wind and Fire, though me and my friends were there to see Kool and the Gang, who were still great at that pre-Celebrate point. Billy Eckstein was the opener, which was someone’s bad idea, a cabaret act in an arena. That didn’t go well.

    What we were surprised about was the low turnout of the white folks. Everybody loved this music on the radio, but the suburban kids didn’t turn out in numbers.

    Not much later, my friends and I would throw parties and I would make exacting mix tapes of dance songs with all the coolest UK imports and DJ mixes, but every party really got going when someone put this one (or Third World’s Now That We’ve Found Love, or the O’Jays Love Train) on the turntable.

    • Probably the only EWF song I have something for/another stupid story:

      Years ago, my ex-wife and I were out on a Friday night looking for something to do. We stumbled upon a good friend of mine from my local fantasy baseball league sitting outside (summer) at a table by himself at a bar. He explained that he’d been with a bunch of his friends and they had just left.

      It didn’t take long to realize he was already pretty wasted. We sat with him and had more drinks for a few hours. It was getting close to closing time when he said, “Hey, let’s go back to my house.”

      Tom lived in a row house in center city Allentown and at this point it must’ve been close to 2 AM. His wife, who had to work early the next morning, was sleeping upstairs, as was most of the neighborhood.

      So Tom fixes all of drinks and says, “Let’s put on some music.” Whereby he proceeds to put on “September” CRANKED TO THE MAX and starts singing and dancing by himself.

      Needless to say, a bat out of hell had nothing on his wife.

      It was an unforgettable moment of my life and surely I’ll never think of anything else when I hear this one.

  4. OK, since they’re all gonna die this year, I propose that we post RELATED artists as a wake. I’m not sure who was doing what first but there’s a lot of EWF in this one, or there’s a lot of this one in EWF. Some funky shit.

  5. I may have mentioned this before but I almost always prefer the studio version to live versions. There are of course exceptions but for starters the term “recorded live” is oxymoronic.

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