"When You Feel Down and Out, Sing a Song" - Remembering Maurice White
Music, like the soul, is eternal. When Maurice White died earlier this month, another cultural gasp was felt and heard around the world. Not only did he found Earth Wind & Fire, but he composed, arranged and produced for the band along with many others. Without his sonic signatures, including a mix of percussion, a dense wall of horns, the perfect marriage of funk, jazz, soul and gospel, lyrics designed to uplift, not to mention the Afro Futurist-themed stage shows and album covers, the soundtrack of the last forty years would be oddly altered.
Rolling Stone collected a few celebrity appreciations that emerged via social media. Of the collective, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers best stated the universal allure of White.
"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."
White along with collaborator and band mate Phillip Bailey, delivered musical alchemy via timeless lyrics with a mind-blowing band that hooked you within seconds. The content was familiar: faith, love, motivation, having fun, life itself -- never dense, never brow-beating.
As a lifelong music fan, I recall pouring over the liner notes of Open Our Eyes as a five year old. It was my aunt’s album and it stood out to me.
Unlike the current era of digital downloads, the brightly colored, 12”x12”, gate-fold album sleeve, offered another dimension to appreciate about music. The cover art featured mountains and broad sky, a rich mix of blues and reds, and eight black men staring back without smiling. Not to mention, the logo was promienent in an era of ecological awareness – the Earth surrounded by elements water and solar flares. It was a unique package showcasing exceptional craftsmen who took thier work and approach to life seriously.
In closing this remembrance, I wrestled about which one of the epics to reference: "Singasong," "Shining Star," "September"? Navigating us through this wild journey of life, White offered choice words in "Fantasy."
Every thought is a dream, rushing by in a stream,
Bringing life to our kingdom of doing
Take a ride in the sky, on our ship fantasii
All your dreams will come true, miles away