book reviews, music

Repost: My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire by Maurice White

And here’s another as/is repost of a book review I wrote in 2017…

Earth, Wind & Fire happens to be one of my all time favorite bands.  I never get tired of listening to their unique style.  The late Maurice White, who died in February last year after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s Disease, was the genius behind Earth, Wind & Fire.  His life story, published in September 2016 and entitled My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire, was masterfully ghost written by Herb Powell, who manages to make White’s story sound as if it’s coming straight from the maestro’s mouth.

I just finished My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire yesterday, having worked on it for some time.  I don’t read books as quickly as I used to, although this one certainly held my attention.  The book starts at the humble beginnings of Maurice White’s life in Memphis.  He was born to his young mother, a woman he referred to as “Mother, Dear”; she left when he was a toddler and he was raised by a friend of the family, a woman he called “Mama”.  Meanwhile, Maurice’s mother was in Chicago and had married a podiatrist.  She had several more children, including the electrifying bass playing and whirling dervish dancer Verdine White, who was at that time going by his original surname, Adams. 

Maurice White was an awesome performer!

When Maurice was 18, he moved up to Chicago and reconciled with his mother, half siblings, and his stepfather, whom he called “Dad”.  White explains why Verdine changed his surname; particularly since White’s biological father was not really in the picture.  Another sibling, Fred Adams, was also a member of Earth, Wind & Fire.   

Although Maurice White was, like so many others of his generation, threatened by being drafted into military service, both he and his younger brother, Verdine, were able to convince Army officials that they had no business in the service.  Maurice would go on to form Earth, Wind & Fire and the band would evolve into one of the most dynamic and successful bands of the 1970s. 

One thing I really like about My Life With Earth, Wind & Fire is that the writing is intimate and candid.  I really got the sense I was listening to Maurice White talk about his life.  He dishes on everything to what it was like to lead a struggling band in the early 70s to his work with David Foster.  He writes a bit about the women in his life, although he never did place women above his music.  

One of EW&F’s biggest hits, courtesy of David Foster.

I got the sense that White was a born musician and his whole life was about making music.  I was also surprised by how clean White’s habits were.  More than once, he writes about how he avoided drugs, alcohol, and fatty foods.  Sadly, his good habits did not protect him from Parkinson’s Disease, although they probably helped him stay healthy longer than he otherwise might have.  He lived to be 74 years old, having endured Parkinson’s Disease for about 24 years.

I enjoyed reading about how White decided to name Earth, Wind & Fire.  The name is a reflection of White’s deep spiritual beliefs.  I also enjoyed the fact that this book outlines White’s entire life, from his earliest days in Memphis until his last days last year.  Ghost writer Herb Powell includes an illuminating afterword.  It wasn’t until I read it that I realized this book wasn’t written by White himself.  Powell did a really good job ghost writing this book and giving it White’s voice.

I think this book is a must read for anyone who loves Earth, Wind & Fire.  It’s very well-written and comprehensive.  I think it also presents White in a very positive light.  I was pretty inspired by White’s story.  Maybe when I’m over this cold, I’ll dabble a little more in music myself.

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