As Earth Wind and Fire nears the two-decade mark without Maurice White as an every-day presence, it’s issued a return-to-form new disc — though their thoughts remain with the group’s founder.
Classic-era members Verdine White (Maurice’s younger brother), Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson continue with Earth Wind and Fire, while Maurice continue to battle Parkinson’s Disease. He was diagnosed in the late 1980s, and stopped touring with the band in 1994. At first, Verdine says, it was unclear whether they should — or even could — go on. But they’ve gained confidence, even as Maurice has continued his fight.
“Reece is good,” White tells Tavis Smiley. “When I’m home on Saturdays, when I’m in town, I go by and we have dinner. He’s great. Reece is funny as ever, really proud of what we’ve done — because it was big challenge for Philip, myself and Ralph in 1994 to go out without Maurice. We had to sort of figure this out, if we were going to do it at all. Not many groups survive, getting together and being together a long time, let alone losing their great leader. So that was definitely a big challenge for us.”
With Maurice White, Earth Wind and Fire sold some 90 million albums, won six Grammys and earned induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now Then and Forever, EWF’s first studio effort in eight years, was issued earlier this month.