Fred White, who played drummer for the Grammy-winning R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire during its 1970s and early-’80s heyday including such classic songs as “September” and “Shining Star,” has died. He was 67. His brother and bandmate Verdine White announced on social media that White was found dead on New Year’s morning.
“Our family is saddened today with the loss of an amazing and talented family member, our beloved brother Frederick Eugene ‘Freddy’ White,” he wrote (see the post below). “He joins our brothers Maurice, Monte and Ronald in heaven and is now with the angels.”
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Fred White had been a drummer for Donny Hathaway and other acts when he joined Earth, Wind & Fire in 1974. He was behind the kit when the band was among the biggest R&B acts in the country, playing on its gold or platinum albums from 1975’s That’s the Way of the World — which topped the Billboard 200 — to 1983’s Electric Universe. The group scored eight consecutive Top 10 albums from 1975-81, including the live set Gratitude.
Earth, Wind & Fire also had seven Top 10 pop singles during that era, ranging from “Shining Star,” which hit No. 1 the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1975 and won a Grammy, to “Let’s Groove,” which spent five weeks at No. 3 in 1981. Their other biggest hits included “Sing a Song,” Beatles cover “Got to Get You Into My Life (from the 1978 Sgt. Pepper’s movie), disco classics “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” — the latter with the Emotions — and double Grammy winner “After the Love Has Gone.” EWF also scored eight No. 1s on Billboard’s R&B singles chart.
The band, which also was widely known for its brightly colored outfits and elaborate, high-energy live shows, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Fred White played at the induction ceremony after having left the group in the mid-1980s.
The group also had four Top 5 singles in the UK, and its albums I Am (1979) and Faces reached the Top 10 there. EWF had three other Top 10 UK albums with compilation discs from 1978-2010.
Earth, Wind & Fire amassed six Grammys from 1975-2005 and 17 total nominations. Along with the Rock Hall, the group was also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Watch the official video for “September” here:
Its 1978 compilation disc The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire hit No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than 5 million units in the U.S. The RIAA said the group has sold more than 23.5 million record in the U.S. alone.
Fred White and his bandmates appeared in and wrote the score for the 1975 film That’s the Way of the World — later retitled Shining Star — starring Harvey Keitel as a record exec tasked with breaking the struggling young band. The album would become the real EWF’s commercial breakthrough, spending three weeks atop the Billboard 200 and being named among Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Born on January 13, 1955, in Chicago, Fred White also played drums on albums for acts including Hathaway, Linda Ronstadt (the chart-topping Heart Like a Wheel) Little Feat (Feats Don’t Fail Me Know), Deniece Williams, The Emotions, Ramsey Lewis and Jennifer Holliday.
Here is his brother’s Instagram post:
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