Earth, Wind and Fire vocalist and co-founder Maurice White passed away after over two decades spent battling Parkinson’s disease. On social media, numerous artists praised White and EWF’s influence on everything from rock and soul to R&B and hip-hop.
“Maurice was our cheerleader,” Questlove wrote on Instagram before admitting he had erased several different versions of his tribute before publishing. “I just really wanna thank him and than all the members of #EWF shining that light brighter. You know how hard it is to present Afrocentric Jazz & spiritual positivity in the face of what we had to deal with in the [Seventies]? When times were hard sometimes the only release you had was music [and] if it wasn’t Stevie, you were reaching for your #EarthWindAndFire albums.”
Later in his touching, personal note, the drummer summed up his message of White’s greatest contributions to black artists and music. “Maurice truly made African art so sophisticated & beautiful,” he wrote. “I feel like erasing this and starting again but you know where my heart is.”
Maurice was our cheerleader…..i swear to god I did about 7 drafts and erased it. Look. I just really wanna thank him and thank all the members of #EWF shining that light brighter. You know how hard it is to present Afrocentric Jazz & spiritual positivity in the face of what we had to deal with in the 70s? When times were hard sometimes the only release you had was music. & if it wasn’t Stevie, you were reaching for your #EarthWindAndFire albums. I would get so lost in those records man. Just lose myself. Fav logo ever. The interludes (specially the One after “All Bout Love” (“Steph”) id “pause tape” that minute interlude for 45 mins on cassette—that alone would put me in a positive trance to face another day selling insurance to pay for the Roots demo.–seriously it was either that tape or drugs to ease my mind—I chose the music)–but if you really look at it —-it’s limiting to say #EWF was our black Floyd or the Black Beatles to Pfunk’s Stones—look I’m rambling—I just got done work, working on 3 projects and getting ready for #BowlTrain —but this really hurts man. Maurice really truly made African art so sophisticated & beautiful. —I feel like erasing this and starting again but you know where my heart is. #MauriceWhite
Flea also wrote a lengthy Instagram tribute to White and his band who “were a massive influence on me and represented my highest aspirations for the Red Hot Chili Peppers.” He focused on the universality of Earth, Wind and Fire’s music in his note. “In my junior high school the white kids loved Zeppelin, the black kids loved p funk, the freaky kids loved Bowie, but EVERYONE loved Earth, Wind and Fire.”
Maurice white and the great earth wind and fire were a massive influence on me and represented my highest aspirations for the red hot chili peppers. First Bowie, now Maurice. The only other pop culture musicians that affected me as deeply as a kid were George Clinton pfunk, led Zeppelin, and Stevie wonder. In my junior high school the white kids loved Zeppelin, the black kids loved p funk, the freaky kids loved Bowie, but EVERYONE loved earth wind and fire. They were just undeniable. Old people loved em, kids loved em, every race and economic class loved em. They just crossed every line with the power of incredible music and amazing performances. You could dance to em you could rock out to em and you romance to em. My dream for the red hots was that we would be able to make music that would be for everybody, and we have always reached for that. Earth wind and fire set that standard for me. Maurice was a humble and powerful man who gave me something to aspire to and I am so grateful for him. He showed me the shining star he was a beautiful gift to us. Thank you Maurice I love you, you have broken through to the other side you have been let in on the big mystery. R.I.P.
Lenny Kravitz listed White’s many roles in music on his Instagram. “Throuh his music and artistic expression, he taught me a lifetime’s worth of all of the greatest masters,” he reflected. “He is at the top of the list of the greatest masters.”
On Twitter, even more artists showed an outpouring of love and appreciation for White. “I listened to you [every] single day at my mother’s hair salon,” Solange Knowles wrote. “I didn’t understand what you made me feel, but you were my hero.”
“Damn all of my heroes are moving on,” A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip tweeted. “EWF was the blueprint for Tribe.” Mark Ronson added, “Thank you Maurice White for creating some of the greatest soul funk and R&B music of all time. GRATITUDE.”
Nile Rodgers posted a throwback tribute on his account, recalling the time Chic were the Big Apple Band. He shared a clip of the band performing a cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Get Away” in 1976.