Drummer Fred White, who backed up his brothers Maurice and Verdine White in the Grammy-winning ensemble Earth, Wind & Fire, has died. He was 67.
Verdine White, a vocalist, percussionist and bass player for the band, posted Sunday on his Instagram account that his younger brother Frederick Eugene “Freddie” White had died. He didn’t say how or where his brother died.
Earth, Wind & Fire began in 1970 under the leadership of Maurice White, who created a band that could combine elements of jazz, funk, R&B, soul, dance, pop and rock, and celebrated African musicianship and spiritualism. Driven by their horn section the Phenix Horns and a reputation for energetic and bombastic live performances, the group’s popularity grew after they moved to Columbia Records, which was then under the leadership of Clive Davis.
Fred White was already an accomplished drummer, playing for Donny Hathaway, before he joined Earth, Wind & Fire in the mid-1970s. Paired alongside drummer and percussionist Ralph Johnson, the band’s rhythm section was tight and upbeat and set the stage for songs like “Boogie Wonderland” and “September” to become instant favorites.
Verdine White called his brother Fred was a gifted child musician, “with gold records at the young age of 16 years old!” Fred White remained with the band until 1983.
“But more than that at home and beyond he was the wonderful bro that was always entertaining and delightfully mischievous! And we could always count on him to make a seemingly bad situation more light hearted!” wrote White.
Some of the band’s biggest hits are still widely popular, often sampled and used in countless movies. The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, played the 2005 Super Bowl halftime show and has six Grammys. The band’s “Got to Get You Into My Life” was on President Barack Obama’s first Spotify playlist.
The band’s most successful period started with the 1975 album “That’s The Way of The World” and continued through the rest of the decade. Other hits included “Serpentine Fire,” ″Shining Star” and a cover of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life.”
Maurice White died at the age of 74 in 2016.