What can one say? For many of us the loss of Maurice White is very personal even if we were never able to meet in person. Why? Well, I know for me Maurice White – Earth, Wind and Fire were some of my first musical friends.

The time was the mid-70’s and synchronous with the ascent of the visibility of EWF I received a small stereo system for my bedroom. The first album that I was given to begin my own collection? All N’ All . Everyday afterschool I would play that record in its entirety. As the record played I’d stare at the album cover in amazement, the theme of the visuals allowed me to venture off into some imaginary place in the future.

The sound of Maurice White, the sound of the band would quickly become an old and familiar friend. What a sound, what a legacy, unity, an organization, progressive, sophisticated: the standard. People talk about the baddest band in the land? Few would argue where The Elements would be placed in that conversation – somewhere between the baddest and the baddest of the bad. We have the master teacher, leader Maurice White for that relative level of badness.

Many know how I feel about the serious study of the music created by African Americans in the 20th and 21st centuries. I make no distinction with use of categories because it all emanates from the same root. Point being as students sit in the academy and study Duke, Count, Trane, Miles et al I would make the proposition that if the curriculum can be updated to reach beyond 1959 Maurice White might be counted in that number. The vision of Maurice White took us to places far beyond our block, he helped to give a vision of the world and as a byproduct of that vision he gave us a better sense of self.

When I got the word like so many others the tears flowed, a mixed bag of sadness and joy. Sadness at the loss, joy for all the beautiful music and memories that I have shared with one of my oldest musical friends. No this wasn’t my parents’ or older sibling’s collection – this was mine, all mine. I still don’t believe I know how lucky I am to have the music of Maurice White/EWF be the first musical nutrients I was raised on, but what I do know is they still taste as good and empower me as much as the first day I put the needle down on that record.

I could not think of anything more appropriate to post on this Memoriam than this anthem.

Rest well Bro. White

Ivan Orr is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, performer, and writer. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia Ivan was involved with the forming and nascent days of The Music Resource Center as its first Program Director. A graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Music, Ivan currently resides in Richmond, VA where he maintains an active performance and production schedule while serving as the Music Editor for Grown Folks Music, a position he has held since 2010.