Let’s Groove, Shining Star, Boogie Wonderland, September – These pop and disco hits by US group Earth, Wind & Fire were among the most popular songs of the 1970s and 80s. The funky, versatile drummer was all Fred White, who died at the age of 67.
Exuding joy, imagination and unity, EW&F, as the fans called them, made music that emphasized good times both on the dance floor and off. With a blend of soul, funk, jazz, Latin, Afro and pop, slick vocals, dynamic brass arrangements, dance club-friendly rhythms and catchy choruses, the record still sounds fresh today, perfect for weddings, sports It has become a staple of events and celebrations. .
The band was the brainchild of Maurice White, Fred’s half-brother. Fred changed his last name to White, and so did his bassist brother, Burdine Jr., to emphasize his brotherly relationship with Maurice, but in 1974 he joined EW&F and released the band’s breakthrough album, released his fifth album, Head to the Sky (1973).
Playing professionally since age 15, White, described by Maurice as a “musical genius”, previously played on Donnie Hathaway’s superlative live album (1972) and was a member of rock band Little Feat. appeared on the 1974 album Feats Don’. Fail now.
Maurice, on the other hand, has over a decade of experience as a drummer for both Chess Records and jazz pianist Ramsay Lewis, and formed Earth, Wind & Fire in 1970. As a singer, co-drummer, songwriter and producer, Maurice was the boss, initially changing his record label, furiously shuffling and keeping only his Verdine on bass.
Noting Fred’s ability to play across genres, Maurice invited him to join the band. With Ralph Johnson already on drums and Maurice joining behind his kit for both live performances and studio sessions, EW&F was a formidable rhythmic outfit. After Fred joined and completed the eight-musician line-up and his three-piece horn section, Maurice announced that he finally had the band he had always wanted.
In his posthumously published autobiography, My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire (2016), Maurice wrote: He provided a solid tempo and a solid feel, a valuable quality for a drummer. he was one of the best for us. “
The band’s first album to feature Fred, That’s the Way of the World (1975, originally conceived as the soundtrack to a forgettable film) reached both the US Billboard and Soul album chart, and the first single from it, Shining Star, also topped the charts. It won both charts and that year’s Grammy Award for Best His R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. His follow-up album Gratitude, released later that same year, sold over three million copies in the United States.
Spirit (1976) was the first to make a breakthrough in the UK, with the single Saturday Night reaching number 17 on the charts. His subsequent LP, All ‘N All (1977), entered the UK Top 20, after which EW&F regularly charted albums and singles in the UK, their music blending pop, disco and jazz-funk. Appealed equally to fans. , their spectacular live performance – Fred’s drum kit went up in the air, spun, turned upside down, all the while he kept drumming – sold out the arena.
Due to Maurice’s interest in Egyptology and science fiction, the stage set included flying saucers and pyramids, and the band, dressed in platform boots and shiny costumes, created a huge funk sound that made every concert a success. turned into a party. Among their many hits, almost all written by Maurice and Burdin (with contributions from other band members), is the dancefloor favorite Boogie Wonderland (1979, featuring the female vocal trio Emotions). feature), dynamic September (1978), soulful ballad The Love Is Gone (1979), funk anthem Let’s Groove (1981), Got to Get You Into My Life – contributed to the 1978 film Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club A cover of a Beatles song.
Born in Chicago, Fred was the youngest of three sons of Edna (née Parker) and Berdin Adams, a physician and amateur saxophonist. Maurice was Edna’s son from a previous marriage. Fred started playing drums when he was nine and soon followed his older brothers into the music industry. As EW&F’s youngest member, White was both a clown and a troublemaker, and his energy and arrogance inspired the band. He initially played drums with Johnson, but by 1977 he claimed to be the band’s sole drummer, so Johnson shifted to percussion.
His stubborn behavior put him at odds with Maurice, and when the bandleader’s announced hiatus in 1984 heightened tensions, and when they reunited in 1987, Fred was forced to rejoin. He wasn’t invited.After leaving EW&F, he lived a life outside the spotlight. In 2000, Fred was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with his brother and six other members of his band. Their hits are regularly heard on radio, television and movies. Verdine continues to tour with Earth, Wind & Fire as the last original member of him.
Maurice passed away in 2016. White is survived by Bardin Jr. and his sister Jeri.