Obituaries, Jan. 5, 2023
Randy Begg, a founding member, drummer, vocalist, and songwriter of the Juno-nominated band Wednesday, died on Dec. 20, of a heart attack, at age 71.
By Kerry Doole
Randy Begg, a founding member, drummer, vocalist, and songwriter of the Juno-nominated band Wednesday, died on Dec. 20, of a heart attack, at age 71.
A CP obituary noted that "As the drummer of 1970s Canadian pop-rock band Wednesday, Randy Begg may have sat near the back of the stage, but friends say his energy and passion were always front and centre in life. Whether it was talking about music, encouraging his friends to make it, or delivering a smashing performance of his own, they say the Oshawa, Ont.-born musician wore his creative spirit on his sleeve."
"He leaves behind a legacy as co-creator of Wednesday, whose hit cover of Last Kiss preceded the one recorded by Pearl Jam. Wednesday also turned out a number of popular singles."
Begg and fellow teen musician Paul Andrew Smith played in parks and drop-in centres in the summer of 1967, eventually recruiting others to form Cellophane Spoon. In 1970 the name was changed to Wednesday with the release of their first single, Hang On Girl.
The group gradually made a mark on the Toronto scene, and Wednesday's biggest chart hit came in 1974 with Last Kiss, a song originally recorded by Wayne Cochran. Their cover peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard Hot 100. That same year, they were nominated for the Juno Award for Most Promising Group and the following year for Best-Selling Single of the Year. The single reached #2 in Canada and #1 on the Canadian Billboard 100.
A follow-up single, a remake of Teen Angel, was their final chart single in America. The parent album, entitled Last Kiss, was released on Ampex Records in Canada, Sussex Records in the U.S., and A&M Records throughout the rest of the world.
The band landed several more hits, including a remake of Elton John’s I’ve Been Loving You. Executives at their record label encouraged them to tweak their name to Wenzday, and heir 1977 album Nearly Made It carried the new spelling. The group split a few years later, and Begg kept drumming in other bands that included the Scott Street Band and Lockerbie. He reunited with members of Wednesday on at least two instances in the decades that followed.
He also released album material with The Edge and The September Skye Band. Begg's passion for the drums kept him actively engaged as a performer for over 55 years, most recently working in a band for a Christmas stage show for the Stirling Theatre in Ontario. Wednesday was inducted into the Oshawa Music Hall of Fame in 2022. Sources: CP, Eric Alper
Tom Harrison, a veteran rock critic for The Georgia Straight and Vancouver Province and frontman of Bruno Geruss's Medallion, died on Dec. 27 at the age of 70, following a stroke. He had suffered an earlier stroke in 2000 that left him partly paralyzed, but he continued to write.
In an obituary in The Province, John Mackie wrote that "There have been a lot of music writers in Vancouver. But there was only one Tom Harrison. From the mid-’70s until he retired in 2017, Harrison was the dean of local rock critics, author of literally thousands of stories in The Province and the Georgia Straight that gave readers insight into the local and international music scenes."
In a 2017 FYIMusicNews feature, Harrison told White Rock Sun Publisher/Editor Dave Chesney of his origins in music journalism.: "I think I was 22, which would be 1974. I've sometimes felt that at 22, I already was too old," reminisced Harrison. "The first published piece was a record review in Creem. It was really silly but, I guess, irreverent enough for the Creem editor. The Mystic Crystal Apocalyptic Band. The name of the band is almost as long as the review.
"A few months later, I sent a letter of complaint to Toronto monthly, Beetle. (magazine). It had a reviewer I didn't like, and I sent a few reviews promptly after. The editor said they were good and was I in a position to do interviews? As a matter of fact, I was. I was music director at UBD's campus radio station, then called CYVR, and in regular contact with record reps. So began my 'career. I have a hard time calling it a career. When I talked about this to Richard Thompson, he didn't like it either. He said calling what he does a career sounds like he planned it. I knew what he meant."
After a stint at Vancouver's underground mag The Georgia Straight, Harrison had a 37-year run at The Province, helming the music entertainment section of the paper. He also hosted a popular radio show on CFOX called Demolisten and was an on-air contributor on other radio shows and the influential cable TV music showcase Soundproof.
Harrison also drummed in various local bands. He stepped into the frontman role as leader of rock band Bruno Gerussi's Medallion, as he explained to CanadianBands.com. " We signed to Warner Bros. Canada in 1989, released an album, In Search Of The Fourth Chord, toured a bit, and enjoyed a little notoriety. Bruno Gerussi�s Medallion changed its name to Little Games and released an album, Guitar Damage. It was poorly promoted (by us) and didn�'t sell. Too bad, it�s a good record, Later, I made a solo album, Five Guardian Generals, that is unreleased. Bruno Gerussi�s Medallion reunited for one night in October 1998 and recorded a live album. I went back to work a year after my 2000 stroke later and eventually joined another band, Lumpy. We made an album, my first of the era of downloading, MySpace, CD Baby and YouTube."
In later years, Harrison served as an on-camera historian for Vancouver music documentaries like Susanne Tabata's essential Bloodied But Unbowed.
In 2009, Harrison entered the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame. The induction notes read: "Tom Harrison’s name is synonymous with rock music in Vancouver. Since the mid-1970s, he has written about pop and rock, first for the Georgia Straight, then with the Province. In addition, he hosted a longstanding radio show on CFOX and volunteered for countless events. To varying degrees, he has written songs, recorded, toured, and appeared onstage either as a drummer or singer and experimented as a manager and promoter. He has sung, played and produced 12 CDs.
"Writing about music can be as creative as writing a song, and to this creative endeavour, he brings both insight and empathy. Most people involved in music and/or the media burn out and become cynical, but Harrison never has, feeling it is his duty to listen to every local demo tape as much as much as it is to listen to the latest big international releases. Due to this loyalty, he has built up a unique knowledge of local music and a unique respect among local music fans."
Upon hearing the news, many BC music notables offered tributes. In an interview with The Province, Sam Feldman, who co-manages Diana Krall, Elvis Costello and James Taylor, noted that "Tom was there from the beginning as a huge supporter of the burgeoning Vancouver music scene. Completely agnostic as to genre. Great taste, always integrity-based opinions and reviews, and with a heart big enough that he would never slam anyone, even if he thought it was necessary.”
“He was really interested in the music and the loveliest guy,” said Paul Hyde of the Payola$. “The main thing for me was he was always very fair in his reviews, especially for local acts. Even if they weren’t that good, he would make the review an encouraging (one), as opposed to slagging them. That endeared him I think to a lot of the bands, they appreciated that. They were given a bit of scope to grow from Tom, which was important.”
In a statement, Trooper recalled that "Tom played a large role in Trooper’s career and became a life-long friend." Singer Ra McGuire, producer of the debut Bruno Gerussi's Medallion album, added that "I’ve never known anyone who loved rock music more, and I can’t think of anyone who was more supportive of, or did so much to advance and promote, the West Coast music scene. He was smart, funny, wise and a great guy. I’m so proud to have known him.”
Veteran Vancouver punks Go to Pointed Sticks posted this on Facebook: "So very sad to hear about the passing of Tom Harrison. Without him relentlessly championing all of us kids from his position as music writer in the Georgia Straight, the punk scene in Vancouver may very well have withered and died on the vine before it ever gained any momentum. He covered it all, right from the very first gigs at the Japanese Hall in 1977."
Veteran music journalist Martin Melhuish posted that "Tom Harrison was mad about music in general and his own beat, the Vancouver music scene, in particular. He carved out his own journalistic niche and style as he documented the continuing successes, at home and abroad, of west coast artists and the unique music scene from whence they came. He leaves as part of his legacy the book Tom Harrison's History of Vancouver Rock 'n' Roll." Sources: Georgia Straight, FYI, Vancouver Province, Vancouver Sun, CanadianBands.com
Thom (Thomas Randolph) Bell, record producer, arranger and songwriter known for his role in forging the Philly soul sound, died on Dec. 22, at age 79.
The Guardian notes that "Bell was one of the creators of the Philadelphia sound, a style of smooth soul music that dominated the pop, R&B and disco charts throughout the 1970s. After the Delfonics, he produced hits for the Stylistics, the Spinners, New York City, Dionne Warwick, Elton John and Deniece Williams.
"Bell enjoyed playing with structures and textures in tracks such as Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time), by the Delfonics. The unusual combination of a French horn, a grand piano, an electric sitar and a glockenspiel provided the introduction to the track, a swooning soul ballad that took the Delfonics, a Philadelphia vocal trio, to the top of the US charts in the early weeks of 1970, selling a million copies and earning them a Grammy award for the year’s best performance by an R&B duo or group.
"The record also established the credentials of Bell, their 26-year-old producer and arranger, whose classical training lay behind his often strikingly unorthodox orchestrations. However mellow his records sounded, they were seldom bland and were always built to last. In 1997 Quentin Tarantino made Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time) a key element of his film Jackie Brown."
Early on, Bell studied alongside the future black classical piano star André Watts, but he had also begun listening to the R&B radio stations, impressed in particular by Little Anthony and the Imperials.
Bell and a friend, Kenny Gamble, formed a duo, Kenny and Tommy, which evolved into a vocal group called the Romeos. Having dropped out of high school to forge a career in music, Bell worked as a songwriter for a publishing company owned by the singer Chubby Checker before joining the Cameo-Parkway record label, where he served an apprenticeship as pianist, arranger and conductor.
Bell’s first hits as a producer came with the Delfonics, starting in 1968 with La-La (Means I Love You). When that partnership ended after two years, he moved on to another Philadelphia vocal group, the Stylistics, whose lead singer, Russell Thompkins Jr, also possessed a distinctive high voice. Bell and his new writing partner, the 23-year-old lyricist Linda Creed, achieved their first hit with the Stylistics’ Stop, Look, Listen (To Your Heart), which reached the Billboard Top 40 in 1971. It was followed by You Are Everything, Betcha By Golly Wow, I’m Stone in Love With You and Break Up to Make Up, all reaching the Top 10.
With Gamble and Leon Huff, another pianist and songwriter, Bell formed a publishing company called Mighty Three Music. In 1972 Gamble and Huff started a new label, Philadelphia International; the first of their many big hits, the O’Jays’ Back Stabbers, established a formula that made the label a natural successor to Motown.
The Spinners then employed Bell on their string of hits – I’ll Be Around, Could It Be I’m Falling in Love, One of a Kind (Love Affair), Ghetto Child and Mighty Love. Their biggest hit came in 1974 with Then Came You, a collaboration with Dionne Warwick that went to No 1 on the US Billboard chart.
He recorded two albums with Johnny Mathis and a few tracks with Elton John in 1977. In 1982 Bell’s remake of It’s Gonna Take a Miracle, written by Randazzo for the Royalettes in 1965, took Deniece Williams into the Top 10.
Martin Duffy, Primal Scream keyboardist, died on Dec. 18 at the age of 55. In a statement, Duffy’s family confirmed he suffered a brain injury after a fall and died as a result of his injuries.
Duffy played keyboard for the British band behind the hits Movin’ on Up and Loaded. On Twitter, his bandmate Simone Butler, Primal Scream’s bassist, posted: “No words x I miss u already Duff. This is the saddest day, and I’m in tears writing this. So loved x.” She added in a statement to Rolling Stone UK: “He was one of the best. Truly a genuine and beautiful soul in this world. He was so funny, kind, thoughtful and so naturally talented, it was a joy and an inspiration to play with him, and it was an honour to call him a friend. I’m heartbroken, and I know anyone who knew and loved him is.. I feel lucky to have known and worked with him.”
In a lengthy tribute on Instagram, Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie said, in part: “Hard to write this. We never know how to speak around death other than polite platitudes. We in Primal Scream are all so sad. I’ve known Martin since he was a teenager in Felt. He played keyboards on every album of ours from the first to the last. Finally joining the band in 1991. Martin was a very special character. He had a love and understanding of music on a deep spiritual level. Music meant everything to him. He loved literature and was well-read and erudite. An autodidact. A deep thinker, curious about the world and other cultures."
Gillespie adds that Duffy "could play piano to the level where he was feted not just by his peers in British music, but old school master American musicians such as James Luther Dickinson, Roger Hawkins & David Hood & producer Tom Dowd. I witnessed a session at Abbey Rd in 1997 for a Dr John album where his record company had assembled a bunch of young Indie Brit musicians where Mac Rebenack ( Dr John ) seemed bored and uninterested in the session until Martin started playing, then suddenly the good Dr started knocking some funky piano chops, and I instantly knew it was because his ears had pricked up when he heard Martin play and the session at last came alive."
The Charlatans’ Tim Burgess – previously a bandmate of Duffy – wrote: “Another tragic loss of a beautiful soul.”
Duffy, born in Birmingham, scored his first musical break when he joined the indie group Felt at the age of 16 before they signed with Creation Records. He went on to become Primal Scream’s lead keyboardist after Felt split in 1989 and stayed with the group for over 30 years, his distinctive keys heard on classic albums such as 1991’s seminal Screamadelica.
His last contribution came on their most recent album Chaosmosis in 2016, while more recently, he joined up with frontman Bobby Gillespie on a number of solo projects – including his 2020 album Utopian Ashes with Savages singer Jehnny Beth.
Duffy also collaborated with a wide array of artists, including Paul Weller, The Chemical Brothers, Beth Orton, Steve Mason, and more recently, Jessie Buckley, on the soundtrack to the 2018 film Wild Rose. Sources: Rolling Stone, The Guardian
Maxi Jazz (bornMaxwell Fraser), lead vocalist of the British electronic music band Faithless has died at the age of 66.
The Guardian wrote that "Maxi Jazz was the calm eye in the centre of Faithless’s rave storm Only Keith Flint and Maxim of the Prodigy rivalled Jazz in his command of the stage at the helm of a superstar 90s dance act."
While the group’s first two albums, Reverence and Sunday 8 PM, delivered award nominations and a parade of Top 20 singles, it was on stage where Faithless minted their reputation as an elite-level act."
Maxi Jazz – as he had become known since stints on pirate radio in the mid-1980s – was nearly 40 years old by the time Faithless formed in 1995. By the turn of the 21st century, Faithless had become one of Britain’s largest acts – dance or otherwise. The Guardian noted that "although Faithless’s singles typically scaled the pinging heights of progressive trance, their albums were balanced out by more earthbound, ruminative fare. Fraser’s cool aura and conscious outlook was informed by golden age hip-hop acts like KRS-One, A Tribe Called Quest, and the Jungle Brothers, as well as his upbringing by Jamaican parents in Brixton and Croydon.
"This might explain how the 1998 hit God Is a DJ, a slogan that could be inscribed on fridge magnets, sat shoulder-to-shoulder in the Faithless catalogue with tracks concerning displacement, divorce and despair. Fraser’s vocal opposition to conflict – which spiked during the invasion of Iraq on 2004’s searing Mass Destruction – courted the fandom of Michael Stipe and Dave Grohl, as well as Glastonbury’s Michael Eavis, who booked the group on two occasions."
Faithless’s biggest hits were God Is a DJ and 1996's double-platinum Insomnia, which hit the Top 3, sold more than a million copies and is now part of dance music’s starter pack.
Faithless took a series of breaks, first in the late 2000s, then a more formal hiatus from 2011 to 2015. After a return with the chart-topping Faithless 2.0, a remix collection that enlisted superstar disciples like Avicii, Tiësto and Axwell, Maxi Jazz stepped away for good, allowing Faithless to continue as a duo.
He then returned to guitar-heavy funk music through his new group, the E-Type Boys, while his passion for Crystal Palace FC saw him become an associate director of the club. On Boxing Day, the teams at Selhurst Park walked out to Faithless, paying tribute to one of the terrace’s own. Sources: The Guardian
Anita Pointer, a Grammy-winning singer as a member of The Pointer Sisters, died on Dec. 31 at the age of 74.
The second oldest of the four sisters, Ms. Pointer and her siblings rose to fame with hits including Jump (For My Love) and Fire.
With a blend of funk, soul and R&B, the group released their eponymous debut album in 1973. Yes We Can Can, a funky tune which called for unity and tolerance at a time of racial unrest in the US, became the album's breakout hit.
And in 1975, their hit song, Fairytale, won a Grammy award for Best Country Vocal Performance. The win remains a rarity in a category dominated by white acts.
The group almost disbanded in 1979 after Bonnie Pointer left to pursue a solo career, but the remaining sisters regrouped and went on to shed their previously retro image for a modern pop sound.
Throughout the 1980s, they remained a powerhouse in the US charts, and their hits, which included He's So Shy, Jump (For My Love) and Neutron Dance, have stood the test of time, remaining heavily streamed to this day.
Regular FYI contributor Bill King worked with The Pointer Sisters as their music director for a spell, and he offered us this tribute. "Hearing of Anita’s passing comes as a surprise and saddens me. Being there in 1976, when there were three and my first afternoon at the piano, and then the break, Ruth and Anita quiz me about my prior work.
"I tell them I’d just come from music directing Martha Reeves. A moment later, the three of us are on coffee break and walking the hallways of CBS television studios in Hollywood when suddenly Anita, Bonnie and Ruth break out into a medley of Martha and the Vandellas hits. Jimmy Mack, Heat Wave, Dancing in the streets in three-part harmony. Dancing, poppin’ fingers, acting and that enormous roar of joy. I knew at that moment I was in a good place. Unbelievable singing! Once all four reunited for a Japanese tour, it was clear Anita and Ruth were the adults in the room. All business, all about their growing families." Sources: BBC News, Reuters, Bill King
Alan Rankine, a Scottish musician and record producer with a wide-reaching influence on indie artists from Björk to Belle and Sebastian, has died at age 64.
The news was confirmed on Jan. 2 by his sons, Callum and Hamish, who wrote on Facebook that their father “died peacefully at home shortly after spending Christmas with his family”, describing him as “a beautiful, kind and loving man who will be sorely missed”.
Born in Stirlingshire in 1958, Rankine formed The Associates in 1979 with singer Billy Mackenzie, having made early recordings with him under the name Mental Torture. Rankine and Mackenzie initially broke through with a cover of David Bowie’s Boys Keep Swinging, going on to release three albums, The Affectionate Punch (1980), singles compilation Fourth Drawer Down (1981) and Sulk (1982).
After leaving the band in 1982, Rankine became a successful producer and worked on albums by Cocteau Twins and others before launching a solo career in 1986.
Later in life, he lectured at Glasgow’s Stow College, helping students set up the Electric Honey record label, which was instrumental in launching the careers of Biffy Clyro, Belle & Sebastian and Snow Patrol. Sources: The Guardian, NME
Freddie (Frederick Martin) Roulette, an American electric blues lap steel guitarist and singer, died on Dec. 24, at age 83.
He was best known as an exponent of the lap steel guitar. He was a member of the band Daphne Blue and collaborated with Earl Hooker, Charlie Musselwhite, Henry Kaiser, and Harvey Mandel. He also released several solo albums. A short documentary of Freddie Roulette appearing on YouTube chronicles his time with the Daphne Blue Band.
Born and raised in Evanston, Illinois, Roulette learned to play the steel guitar in high school. He started playing in clubs in Chicago in his teens, and in 1965 began work in Earl Hooker's backing band, touring and performing with him until 1969.
Roulette performed on several of Hooker's singles; his 1967 album, The Genius of Earl Hooker; and the 1969 follow-up, 2 Bugs and a Roach. Roulette later developed a friendship with Charlie Musselwhite and (credited as Fred Roulette) recorded with him on the 1969 album Chicago Blue Stars. He toured with Musselwhite and backed him on the albums Tennessee Woman and Memphis, Tennessee, before relocating to the San Francisco area where he lived ever since.
He played there in a band with Luther Tucker and recorded with Earl Hooker's cousin John Lee Hooker, then teamed up with the band Daphne Blue. Roulette was often joined by ‘Big Moose’ (Johnny Walker), ‘Pinetop Perkins’ and Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown at gigs and on record. He released an album, Daphne Blue: Legendary Blues Instrumentals.
In 1973, Roulette released his debut solo album, Sweet Funky Steel, which was produced by the guitarist Harvey Mandel and featured Don "Sugarcane" Harris.
Over the next twenty years, Roulette continued to perform with other musicians and occasionally led his own band while also working full-time as an apartment manager. On the 1996 album Psychedelic Guitar Circus, he worked in a group with Mandel, Kaiser and Steve Kimock.
His 1997 solo album, Back in Chicago: Jammin' with Willie Kent and the Gents, won an award from Living Blues magazine as Best Blues Album of 1997. Following that album's success, Roulette began performing widely at blues festivals and recorded the 1998 album Spirit of Steel, featuring the Holmes Brothers and produced by Kaiser. He also contributed to Kaiser's album Yo Miles, a tribute to Miles Davis.
Roulette's 2006 solo album Man of Steel featured guitar playing by Will Bernard and David Lindley. He played at numerous music festivals over the years and continued to play club dates in the San Francisco area, often with Mandel. and with the Daphne Blue Band. Sources: Wikipedia,
Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, New Orleans blues guitarist and singer, died Dec. 22, of cancer, at age 79.
AP termed him "a cornerstone of New Orleans' musical nightlife for decades."
Washington and his band, the Roadmasters, mixed blues, R&B, funk and soul, punctuating songs with his trademark howl, the newspaper reported. In director Michael Murphy’s 2005 New Orleans music documentary Make It Funky!, Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards bows down to Washington in tribute to his guitar style and tone.
Washington started his career backing New Orleans musical legends Irma Thomas, Lee Dorsey and Johnny Adams, who ultimately became a mentor and close friend. Washington backed Adams on several Rounder Records albums before releasing his first album with the Roadmasters, Leader of the Pack, for the Hep’Me label in 1981. He moved to Rounder for 1986’s WolfTracks and the subsequent Out of the Dark and Wolf at the Door. The 1991 album Sada was named for his first daughter.
He travelled abroad and occasionally toured domestically, but New Orleans’ nightclubs were his heart and soul. He was one of the first musicians to play in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina via generator-powered shows at the Maple Leaf.
Washington made a comeback with 2018’s My Future Is My Past. The album reunited him with Thomas for a duet on the old Adams song Even Now and earned glowing reviews. “For the last six or seven years, Walter got the recognition he deserved,” his manager, Adam Shipley, said. “He put out some great music and had a great life.”
Even as he underwent chemotherapy and radiation for tonsil cancer, he continued to perform, including at this year’s French Quarter Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
A benefit concert to help with medical and funeral expenses is planned for Jan. 8 at the Tipitina’s music venue in New Orleans. Sources: AP
Dame Vivienne Westwood, a legendary fashion designer and activist has died at age 81. Her eponymous fashion house announced her death on social media platforms, saying she died peacefully. A cause was not disclosed.
Her company's statement noted that “Vivienne continued to do the things she loved, up until the last moment, designing, working on her art, writing her book, and changing the world for the better. She led an amazing life. Her innovation and impact over the last 60 years has been immense and will continue into the future.”
Westwood’s fashion career began in the 1970s with the punk explosion when her radical approach to urban street style took the world by storm. Oft-termed "the queen of punk," she helped shape the British punk scene with her clothing. She went on to enjoy a long career highlighted by a string of triumphant runway shows in London, Paris, Milan and New York.
She first had an impact as the co-owner of the London boutique SEX along with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren. Variety reports that "The shop became a meeting place for punk bands, and Westwood’s creations, worn by London punk rockers, introduced a new style to the world that made use of pinned-together pieces, rubber and plastic clothes, lots of zippers, tartan bondage trousers, torn fabric and graffitied t-shirts. Chrissie Hynde and members of the Sex Pistols were among the influential shop’s employees. The shop was renamed Seditionaries – Clothes for Heroes and then World’s End as Westwood’s interests moved away from the punk scene.. Members of Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Slits, and other bands were influenced by her fashion.:
In addition to her fashion collections, Westwood designed the uniforms for flight attendants from Virgin Atlantic and provided the wardrobe for Elisabeth Shue in “Leaving Las Vegas” as well as for Shadowboxer and Twenty-One.
A 2018 documentary, Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist covered her life and work, and Sarah Jessica Parker’s Carrie Bradshaw character wore one of Westwood’s wedding dress creations in the film version of Sex and the City.
Fred (Frederick Eugene) White, Earth, Wind & Fire drummer, has died at age 67. Verdine White, a vocalist and bassist player for the band, posted on Jan. 1 on his Instagram account that his younger brother Freddie White had died. He didn't say how or where his brother died.
Fred White was already an accomplished drummer, playing for Donny Hathaway before he joined Earth, Wind & Fire in the mid-1970s. That group began in 1970 under the leadership of Maurice White (another brother), 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 favourites.
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.
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.” Sources: AP, LA Times
Check our comprehensive list of Canadian music notables who passed in 2022 here.