The Story of Maurice White and Earth Wind and Fire

Topics: Earth, Wind & Fire, Music recording sales certification, Release Pages: 10 (3436 words) Published: July 31, 2010
The reason I decided to prepared my paper on Maurice White, the founder of Earth Wind and Fire is because of the fond memories that I have listening to my parents music. Music from the parents era is very different from the music of today. Music from that era was more love oriented, rhythmic and rich in science of music and musical arrangements. Artists my parents are fond of consists of music from such groups as the Four Tops, the Dells, the Dramatics, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the Chi-Lites and Stylistics. They also list Junior Walker and the All-stars, Al Jaureau, and Ronnie Laws, among others, as jazz groups. However, Earth Wind and Fire’s sound is unique and quite different from all other groups of that era. In the early 1970s, a new brand of pop music was born - one that was steeped in African and African-American styles - particularly jazz and Rhythm and Blues (R&B) but appealed to a broader cross-section of the listening public. The musical band Earth, Wind & Fire, produced a sound that embraced traditional sounds of jazz, coupled with the popular R&B type ballads of the day and ushered in a new awareness of cosmic energy that revolutionized the music world and helped bridge the gap that has often separated the musical tastes of black and white America. During this period of time in our history, America was bogged down with the morality of the Viet Nam War, coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. It was a very enlightening period in time in which Marvin Gaye asked the question, in his most popular single, “What’s Going On?” The credit for the formation of the group belongs to Maurice White. Maurice White was born December 19, 1941, in Memphis, Tennessee. He was immersed in a rich musical culture that spanned the boundaries between jazz, gospel, R&B, blues and early rock. At age six, he began singing in his church's gospel choir but soon his interest turned to percussion. He began working gigs as a drummer while still in high school. His first professional performance was with Booker T. Jones, who eventually achieved stardom as Booker T and the MGs. A childhood friend, James Webb recalled Maurice’s love of music prior to his days in Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis with the formation a neighborhood band which included the use of garbage cans for drums and singing acappella to sounds of such artists as John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bach, Mozart, and Sly and the Family Stone.1 All of these styles played a role in the development of Maurice's musical identity. After graduating high school, Maurice moved to the Windy City to continue his musical education at the prestigious Chicago Conservatory Of Music. He continued picking up drumming jobs on the side, which eventually lead to a steady spot as a studio percussionist with the legendary Chicago label, Chess Records. At Chess, Maurice had the privilege of playing with such greats as Etta James, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, Willie Dixon, Sonny Stitt and Ramsey Lewis, whose trio he joined in 1967. He spent nearly three years as part of the Ramsey Lewis Trio. During his stint with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, Maurice the African thumb piano, or Kalimba, an instrument whose sound would become central to much of his work over the years. In 1969, Maurice left the Ramsey Lewis Trio and joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team composing songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol and called themselves the "Salty Peppers," and had a marginal hit in the Mid-western area called "La La Time." That band featured Maurice on vocals, percussion and Kalimba along with keyboardists/vocalists Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead. After relocating to Los Angeles and signing a new contract with Warner Brothers, Maurice simultaneously made what may have been the smartest move of his young career. He changed the band's name...
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