Maurice White

Maurice White
Maurice White

Maurice White in Munich, Germany in 1975
Background information
Birth name Maurice White
Also known as Reese
Born December 19, 1941 (1941-12-19) (age 69)
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
Origin Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Soul, funk, R&B, jazz
Occupations Singer, songwriter, record producer, arranger, drummer, kalimba player
Instruments Vocals, kalimba, drums
Years active 1966–present
Labels Columbia, Kalimba
Associated acts Earth, Wind & Fire, Ramsey Lewis

Maurice White (born December 19, 1941) is a Grammy Award–winning American singer, songwriter, musician, record producer, arranger. He is the older brother of Verdine White and Fred White and the leader and founder of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice has won seven Grammys and he has been Grammy nominated 21 times.[1][2][3]

He has been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire.[1] Also known by his nickname Reese, White has worked with several famous recording artists such as The Emotions, Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond.



Early career

Maurice White was born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1941 to a father who was a doctor and an occasional saxophonist. He grew up in South Memphis where he lived with his family in the Foote Homes Projects and was a childhood friend of Booker T Jones. In his teenage years he moved to Chicago and found work as a session drummer for Chess Records. He played on the records of artists such as Etta James, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, Ramsey Lewis, Sonny Stitt, Muddy Waters, The Impressions, The Dells, Betty Everett, Sugar Pie DeSanto and Buddy Guy.[2] He also played the drums on Fontella Bass's Rescue Me and Billy Stewart's Summertime.[4] In 1962, along with other studio musicians at Chess, he was a member of the Jazzmen, who later became The Pharaohs.

By 1966 he became the new drummer in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, replacing Isaac 'Red' Holt who would go on to be a part of the Young-Holt Unlimited and Eldee Young was also replaced by bassist Cleveland Eaton. Maurice as part of the Ramsey Lewis Trio played on nine of the group's albums, some of which included Wade in the Water, from which the track Hold It Right There won a Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Group Performance, Vocal Or Instrumental, Goin' Latin, The Piano Player, and Dancing in the Street. While in the Trio he was introduced to the Kalimba which he found in a Chicago drum store and the Trio's 1969 album Another Voyage featured the first recording of Maurice playing the Kalimba.[5]

In 1969 Maurice left the Trio, and joined two friends, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, to form a songwriting team which wrote songs for commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol Records, and called themselves The Salty Peppers and they had a moderate hit in the Midwestern area with their single "La La Time". The Salty Peppers' second single, "Uh Huh Yeah", wasn't as successful, and Maurice then moved, from Chicago To Los Angeles and altered the name of the band, to Earth, Wind & Fire.

Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind Fire, an American R & B, jazz fusion and disco group formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1969, by Verdine and Maurice White. Also known as EWF, the group has won six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards.[6] With Maurice as the band's leader Earth, Wind & Fire has sold over 90 million albums worldwide earning the band a place on the list of best-selling music artists.[2][7] As a member of the band Maurice has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

White is also responsible for incorporating the sound of the kalimba also known as the African thumb piano and the Phenix Horns composed of Louis Satterfield, Rahmlee Michael Davis, Michael Harris and Don Myrick into the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. In addition Maurice has produced most of the band's albums.

White largely stopped touring with Earth, Wind & Fire in the early 1990s for health reasons (Parkinson's Disease), but returned for a series of farewell performances in Japan in 1995. However, he is very much active and busy in the music business, producing other new artists and retaining executive control of the band. He has performed sporadically on the stage since; for example at the 2004 Grammy Awards and at Clive Davis's 2004 pre-Grammy award party where Maurice performed with Earth, Wind & Fire alongside Alicia Keys, the 1978 hit "September".[8][9]

Deniece Williams

With Charles Stepney, in 1976 he co-produced Deniece Williams' (former backup vocalist for Stevie Wonder) debut album, This Is Niecy released on Columbia Records. The album was the first project for Kalimba Productions which was formed by Maurice White and Charles Stepney.[10] This Is Niecy reached number 3 on the R&B charts and contained the single Free which reached number 25 on the pop charts, number 5 on the R&B charts and number 1 on the UK singles charts. This is Niecy has been certified gold. Maurice again produced Deniece on the album Song Bird released in 1977. This album reached number 23 on the black albums chart and the single Baby, Baby My Love's All For You reached number 13 and number 32 on the black and UK singles chart respectively.

Deniece later released four more albums on Columbia Records for Kalimba Productions which were 1978's That's What Friends Are For, 1979's When Love Comes Calling, My Melody released in 1981 and 1982's Niecy respectively.[11] In a 2007 interview Deniece says that "I loved working with Maurice White" and "he taught me the business of music, and planning and executing a plan and executing a show."[10]

The Emotions

After Stax Records became embroiled in financial problems the girl group the Emotions looked for a new contract and found one with Columbia Records on which their album Flowers was released in 1976, with Charles Stepney co-producing their album with Maurice. Flowers was their first charting album since 1969 reaching number 5 on the R&B charts and has been certified gold in the US. The singles Flowers and I Don't Wanna Lose Your Love from this album reached number 16 and number 13 on the R&B charts.

Charles Stepney died in 1976 and so Maurice took over sole production of The Emotions and it was with this combo that the album Rejoice was released in 1977. Rejoice peaked at number 7 and number 1 on the pop and R&B charts and spawned the singles Best of My Love and Don't Ask My Neighbors which reached number 1 on the Pop and R&B charts and number 7 on the R&B charts respectively.

Best of My Love won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By a Duo or Group with Vocals, and an American Music Award for Favorite Soul/R&B Single. Best Of My Love was also the third biggest pop single of 1977, and has been certified platinum. Rejoice was also the third biggest R&B album of 1977 has been certified platinum.

In 1978, The Emotions released their third Columbia album, Sunbeam in 1978. Sunbeam reached number 12 on the top R&B album charts and spawned the number 6 R&B single Smile. Sunbeam has been certified gold by the RIAA. In 1979 Earth, Wind & Fire collaborated with the Emotions for the single Boogie Wonderland which reached number 6 and number 2 on the Pop and R&B charts and has been certified gold for sales of over a million copies and this is so as up until the RIAA lowered the sales levels for certified singles in 1989, a Gold single equaled 1 million units sold.[12][13] The Emotions also received an American Music Award nomination for Favorite Soul/R&B Band, Duo or Group in 1979.[14] Maurice produced two more albums for the Emotions until they departed Columbia to record under Motown.

Other work

White has also produced many famous recording artists, including Barbra Streisand on her album platinum album Emotion, reuniting with Ramsey Lewis on his gold album Sun Goddess, Jennifer Holliday, and he has also co-written a song for the rock band The Tubes which appeared on their album Outside Inside.

He has also worked with Neil Diamond on his gold album Headed for the Future, and he arranged and produced for the band Atlantic Starr on their platinum album All in the Name of Love. In addition he played the drums on Minnie Riperton's debut album, Come to My Garden, co-wrote with Barry Manilow the song "Only In Chicago," which was included on Manilow's platinum album Barry and worked with Cher on her 1987 platinum album entitled Cher.

He released a solo album in 1985, entitled Maurice White that included a cover of "Stand by Me," which went to number 6 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks and number 11 on the Adult Contemporary charts, as well as the moderate hit "I Need You." The album also featured a guest appearance by jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright.

Contemporary work

Maurice produced two of the jazz group the Urban Knights's albums which are Urban Knights I and Urban Knights II. Urban Knights I was released in 1995 and featured Paulinho Da Costa, Grover Washington, Jr., and Ramsey Lewis and went to number 3 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums charts. Urban Knights II was released in 1997 and this album also featured Ramsey Lewis and Paulinho Da Costa as well as other artists which included Verdine White, Jonathan Butler and Najee. Urban Knights II went to number 5 on the Top Contemporary Jazz Albums charts.

Maurice was the executive producer of the group, Xpression, produced by bandleader Maestro Curtis a.k.a. Maestro Brian (protege'), whom he discovered and signed to his record label, Kalimba Records in 2000,.[15] Their debut album, Power, was released the same year. Maurice wrote in the liner notes, "The band is named Xpression because when all five members of the band come together to play it is a true expression of their musical cohesion. The music on this record is the result of the collaboration between very accomplished musicians, it is rooted in classic R&B with jazz undercurrents tailored for commercial appeal. It covers all the bases, it’s energetic, sincere and sensitive. I hope you like it as much as I have enjoyed helping with its creation." Music executive Ron Ellison ( who brought the group to Maurice's attention) also served as assistant producer.[16]

He arranged for the British girl group Cleopatra on their 1998 album Comin' Atcha! which peaked at number 20 on the UK albums chart.

On March 27, 2006 Maurice 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 Maurice collaborated with his friend Stevie Wonder on a recording link.

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 some of which included Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin and Angie Stone. Two songs from Interpretations: Celebrating The Music Of Earth, Wind & Fire were Grammy nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance: Dwele's remake of "That's The Way Of The World" and Meshell Ndegeocello's cover of "Fantasy".

Maurice served as the executive producer of jazz musician Brian Culbertson's album Bringing Back The Funk which was released in 2008. The album features Maurice, former EWF member Larry Dunn, Bootsy Collins, Larry Graham, Ledisi, Musiq Soulchild, Maceo Parker and Gerald Albright to name a few. Bringing Back The Funk went to #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."[17]

On the screen and the stage

Maurice has also written songs for the movies Coming to America and Undercover Brother. Maurice has also composed music for the television series, Life Is Wild.[18] Maurice also worked with Gregory Hines's brother, Maurice Hines in 2006 to release the Broadway play Hot Feet and White wrote several new songs along with Allee Willis for the play.[19]

In the movie Baadasssss! the actor Khalil Kain portrayed a young Maurice White leading the early incarnation of Earth, Wind & Fire link link. Released at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was based on Melvin Van Peebles struggles to film and distribute the movie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and was directed by his son Mario Van Peebles.

The TV sitcom Hearts Afire used That's The Way Of The World as one of its theme songs and Maurice won an ASCAP Award as one of the writers of the song.[20][21]


Maurice has been called an innovator by Chaka Khan and has also been cited as a main influence by artists such as Bilal.[22]

Personal life

Maurice has a 30 year old son who is also a musician.[23] He owns two homes in California, one in Carmel Valley and a four level condominium in Los Angeles.[24][25]

See also

  • Category:Albums produced by Maurice White

Awards and honors

Grammy Awards

The Grammy Awards are awarded annually by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States. Maurice has received 7 awards from 21 nominations and from these he has won one grammy and been nominated 4 times as an individual performer.[1]

Year Nominated work Award Result
1976 "Earth, Wind & Fire" Best Instrumental Composition Nominated
1978 "Got to Get You into My Life" Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s) Won
"Fantasy" Best R&B Song Nominated
1979 "Maurice White" Producer of the Year Nominated

Other awards


  1. ^ a b c d "The Official Earth, Wind & Fire Website". Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  2. ^ a b c "Maurice White Overview". 
  3. ^ "Awards Database - Maurice White".,0,7169155.htmlstory?searchtype=all&query=maurice+white&x=0&y=0. 
  4. ^ "Earth, Wind & Fire: Biography: Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2009-04-18. 
  5. ^ The Eternal Dance, 1993, Liner notes & text by David Nathan.
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Larry Dunn Overview". 
  8. ^ "Back in Boogie Wonderland - The Birmingham Post". Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  9. ^ "Alicia Keys Earth Wind and Fire - Freestyle - Live". 2008-08-18. Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  10. ^ a b Suosalo, Heikki. "Deniece Williams Story Part 2 (1975–1981)". Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  11. ^ "Deniece Williams - Love Niecy Style". Retrieved 22 June 2009. 
  12. ^ "RIAA Certification for After the Love Has Gone". Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  13. ^ "Rock Music, etc., Terms". Retrieved 2009-03-23. 
  14. ^ "American Music Awards: Favorite Soul/R&B Band/Duo/Group". Retrieved 7 June 2009. 
  15. ^ "Earth, Wind & Fire Page".,%20wind%20&%20fire.html. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  16. ^ "Detailed Item Info". ebay. Retrieved 2010-05-28. 
  17. ^ Kasey Wheeler, Katrina (June 11, 2008). "Brian Culbertson: Bringing Back the Funk". Retrieved 27 March 2009. 
  18. ^ Maurice White on
  19. ^ Maurice White on
  20. ^ Maurice White on - awards
  21. ^ Hearts Afire on
  22. ^[dead link]
  23. ^ Aiken, Kit (September 1999). "Earth Wind And Fire: The Ultimate Collection/Gratitude/All ‘N’ All/That’s The Way Of The World (Columbia)". Uncut Magazine. Retrieved 28, April 2009. 
  24. ^ "Maurice White debuts on solo album". Jet Magazine 69 (9): p. 32. November 11, 1985. ISSN 0021-5996. 
  25. ^ "Earth, Wind & Fire members build their dream homes". Ebony Magazine 33 (2): pp. 154–159. December 1977. ISSN 0012-9011. 
  26. ^ "Maurice White - Awards & Honors". Retrieved 21 June 2009. 
  27. ^ Funicello, Tammy (2005-05-18). "Maurice White Honored". 
  28. ^ "Maurice White and Philip Bailey received honorary doctorates from the Berkley College of Music". Retrieved 2011-10-31. 
  29. ^ May 2008+PRN20080520 Maurice, Phillip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White received honorary doctorates from Columbia College of Chicago[dead link]

External links

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