Earth, Wind & Fire co-founder Maurice White, 74, died in his sleep Thursday morning just a week before his band was to be honored at the Grammy’s with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
He and his brother Verdine created the band in 1969, producing hits such as “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “After the Love Has Gone.” White was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1992 and was forced to quit the funk band two years later.
White also wrote music for movies including “Coming To America” and “Undercover Brother.” He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010. He collaborated with stars such as Chaka Khan, Deniece Williams, The Emotions, Barbra Streisand, and Lalah Hathaway.
Brother Verdine said in a statement: “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.”
The band’s official Twitter referenced the hit song “Shining Star” with the quote, “The light is he, shining on you and me.”
Our brother Maurice White passed peacefully in his sleep this morning.
The light is he, shining on you and me. pic.twitter.com/ppWTHKUyG6
— Earth, Wind & Fire (@EarthWindFire) February 4, 2016
Recording Academy CEO Neil Portnow said in a statement: “We are very saddened to learn of the passing of seven-time Grammy Award winner Maurice White. A founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire, who are receiving our Lifetime Achievement Award this year, Maurice was the guiding force behind the group’s success and helped create hit songs such as Shining Star, September, After the Love Has Gone, and so many memorable others.
“His unerring instincts as a musician and showman helped propel the band to international stardom, influencing countless fellow musicians in the process. While he will be greatly missed, Maurice’s contributions to music will live on.”
Chic star Nile Rodgers called White “one of the most amazing innovators of all time.”
A Tribe Called Quest rapper Q-Tip added, “Damn all of my Heroes are moving on…. EWF was the blueprint for tribe… R.I.P. To the genius that was Maurice White.”
The Roots drummer Questlove added, “Maurice was everything…..Everything.”
MC Hammer wrote: RIP #MauriceWhite “Keep Your Head to the Sky” …………. Earth, Wind & Fire.”
Julian Lennon said: “R.I.P. Maurice… Yet another beautifully talented soul leaves us. I can’t keep up.. Prayers to his Family & Friends.”
Queen Latifah tweeted: “Thank You Maurice White for the Gift of Your Music!”
Bette Midler added: “Maurice White, founding member of Earth, Wind and Fire, has died. Great music, energy, great spirit. The Lord must need a band up there.”