Maurice White, the founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, the band known for hits like “Shining Star and “Boogie Wonderland,” died in his sleep overnight. He was 74.
Verdine White posted the following message on the group’s 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.”
White founded the horn-driven band in the late 1960s. “The group went on to sell more than 90 million albums worldwide, displaying a flashy and eclectic musical style that incorporated his influences from growing up in Memphis, Tennessee,” The Associated Press reports.
One of the Earth, Wind & Fire’s most famous songs was “September,” a song that’s a go-to at wedding receptions everywhere. NPR Music wrote about the origins of the song in 2014.
“The story of the song begins in 1978. Allee Willis was a struggling songwriter in LA — until the night she got a call from Maurice White, the leader of Earth, Wind & Fire. White offered her the chance of a lifetime: to co-write the band’s next album. Willis arrived at the studio the next day hoping it wasn’t some kind of cosmic joke.”
It wasn’t a joke, and over the next month, the group wrote one of the happiest-sounding songs ever.
“The trigger for that yearning feeling, Peretz says, is the opening line. White asks, “Do you remember?” and we supply the memories. It’s a song that can bring all of the generations together, which makes it perfect for family gatherings. The true meaning is up to us — including, Allee Willis says, that strangely specific date.
“‘We went through all the dates: ‘Do you remember the first, the second, the third, the fourth … ‘ and the one that just felt the best was the 21st,’ Willis explains. ‘I constantly have people coming up to me and they get so excited to know what the significance was. And there is no significance beyond it just sang better than any of the other dates. So … sorry!’
“That’s OK, Allee. Maurice was right. It doesn’t matter what it means. When we hear it, it’s September 21st, and we are dancing again with our family, in a song that never really ends.”