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Earth, Wind & Fire Founder Maurice White Dies

LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) — Maurice White, the founder of the iconic soul group Earth, Wind & Fire died on February 4th at his home in Los Angeles. He was 74.

"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."

White was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1992 and his condition was reported to have deterioated in recent months.

White, a veteran session drummer, formed Salty Peppers, the group that would become Earth, Wind & Fire with his brother in Chicago in the late 1960s, but the group failed to make an impact. When he moved to Los Angeles, White dropped all of the other members of the group save Verdine and renamed the band Earth, Wind & Fire, a reference to alchemical elements drawn from his astrological chart.

"We live in a negative society," White told Newsweek in an interview during the band's heyday. "Most people can't see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine."

The group's lineup evolved through the 70s, and after adding Phillip Bailey as a vocalist, found crossover success, creating a niche between soul, rock and disco.

The group recorded hits such as September, Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star and After the Love has Gone, selling more than 90 million albums worldwide.

In the 1980s, White moved into production as well, collaborating with artists such as Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and El DeBarge.

Earth, Wind & Fire were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and Maurice was individually inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010.

White's memoir, "Keep Your Head to the Sky: My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire," is scheduled to be released Sept. 13 by Amistad. The book features a forward by Steve Harvey and an afterword by David Foster. – Staff Writers