Earth, Wind and Fire founder Maurice White dies

Maurice White, founder of soul band Earth, Wind and Fire, has died in his sleep at the age of 74

Earth, Wind and Fire founder Maurice White
Earth, Wind and Fire founder Maurice White

Maurice White, the founder of soul group Earth, Wind and Fire, Maurice White, died in his sleep in Los Angeles on Thursday morning.

The singer-songwriter, 74 was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1992 and his condition was reported to have deteriorated in recent months.

"My brother, hero and best friend Maurice White passed away peacefully last night in his sleep," Verdine White, also a member of the band, told The Associated Press on Thursday.

"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."

Earth, Wind and Fire’s hits included Fantasy, September, Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star and After the Love has Gone. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and Maurice was individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.

They have sold over 90 million albums worldwide.

Popularly known by his nickname of Reese, Maurice White worked with several well-known recording artists such as The Emotions, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Neil Diamond.

He said in an interview with the Associated Press news agency in 2000 that he wanted Earth, Wind and Fire's music to inspire people rather than just entertain them.

"That was the whole objective, to try to inspire young people to believe in themselves and to follow through on their ideas," he said. "We've touched so many people with these songs."

"We live in a negative society,'" White informed Newsweek at the peak of the band's success. "Most people can't see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine."

A former session drummer, White formed a band called Salty Peppers in the Chicago area in the late 1960s. He subsequently moved to Los Angeles, disposing of all of the band members except his brother Verdine, and forming a new band called Earth, Wind and Fire after the three elements in his astrological chart.

Many of the group's earlier hits were characterised by Bailey's bright falsetto voice. The band is probably best known for its exuberant, horn-driven mix of jazz, funk, gospel and Big Band music played at concerts where they performed in glitzy costumes underneath multi-coloured lights. They played at many top venues including the Super Bowl and the White House.