Maurice White
Earth, Wind & Fire's album Head to the Sky solidified the band's arrival on the national music scene. Band leader Maurice White died Thursday. (Gabe Crawford)

There is always more behind the music then what you hear. Music can be a lot like our bodies, and different people serve different functions. The art form can require songwriters, producers, arrangers, lead singers, back up singers, band members and so many more. It’s not often that you find one who can do it all nearly simultaneously.

Maurice White, the founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire, did just that. He was famously known for his innovative work with the band, but he also contributed to music across nearly every genre. His death Thursday was not just a loss for Earth, Wind & Fire, it was a loss for the entire music world.

Before founding Earth, Wind & Fire, White was already an accomplished session musician for Okeh and Chess records in the 1960’s. He had worked with some of music’s biggest legends including Etta James, Billy Stewart and The Radiants. Through these sessions, his mind began to expand on what kind of music he wanted to make, and this inspired him to begin Earth, Wind & and Fire.

White was the blood that flowed through the band’s veins from the very beginning, the name even originating from his astrological sign. He wore every hat in this musical sculpture creating an innovative sound that has shaped modern day pop and R&B.

Earth, Wind, and Fire had many hits, but their breakthrough songs were off their 1973 album, Head to The Sky. From this album, they released the hits Evil and Keep Your Head to The Sky, songs that solidified their place on the music scene with White being the primary writer of both pieces.

Eventually, the band released 21 studio albums garnering 6 Grammys and an induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yet, this still did not encompass Maurice White’s full body of work. During his tenure with Earth, Wind & Fire he went on to work with even more musical legends, including Jennifer Holliday, Barbra Streisand, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond and Cher. His talent was truly versatile and stretched across many musical styles.

Many in the music community will remember White. He will be remembered by those he worked with and the countless others he influenced. For nearly 4 decades he has been the foundation of some of the world’s most profound popular music. He truly was the earth, wind and fire for many in music, and his legacy will continue to influence musicians through his countless elements.

To commemorate his life’s work, NonDoc offers this Spotify playlist in tribute.

Maurice White with Earth, Wind & Fire