Earth, Wind & Fire drummer Fred White died on Sunday at 67. He played on hits like “September,” “Shining Star” and “Let’s Groove.”
White’s death was confirmed in an Instagram post by his brother, Verdine White, who played bass in the band alongside their half-brother, singer Maurice White, who died in 2016.
“Our family is saddened today with the loss of an amazing and talented family member,” Verdine White wrote. “He joins our brothers Maurice, Monte and Ronald in heaven, and is now drumming with the angels!”
Born in Chicago in 1955, Frederick Eugene Adams began drumming when he was 9 after his brother Monte made him a pair of drumsticks. “I was really delighted by the fact that he had taken the time to make them, so I played with them for about a year and a half before they got down to pencil size,” he later recalled to Modern Drummer. “Really, what happened was, I used to sit down and watch myself practice and the movement of the sticks almost hypnotized me. It became something I wanted to continue doing.”
By the time he was a teenager, Fred, who changed his last name to match Maurice’s, was playing in local clubs. He also appeared on several classic albums in the early ’70s, including Donny Hathaway’s Extension of a Man (1973) and Little Feat’s Feats Don’t Fail Me Now (1974), before joining his brothers in Earth, Wind & Fire shortly after the release of their 1974 album, Open Our Eyes. The first LP from the band to feature his contributions arrived the following year in 1975: That’s the Way of the World, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and included the No. 1 hit “Shining Star.”
Listen to Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘Shining Star’
When Fred White first joined Earth, Wind & Fire, he shared drumming duties with Ralph Johnson, a setup that was later dropped in favor of just White on drums.
“Fred was the brick wall,” Maurice White wrote in his 2016 memoir, He provided a rock-solid tempo and a rock-solid feel, priceless qualities in a drummer. He was one of the best things going for us.”
In 1978, the band’s best-known song, “September,” rose to the top of the charts: No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs ranking, No. 8 on the main chart and No. 3 in the U.K. The last Earth, Wind & Fire album Fred White appeared on was 1983’s Electric Universe. The band went on hiatus the following year, and Fred didn’t return when it reconvened in 1987. He was included when the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
“That family groove foundation, it was built on Maurice, Verdine and Freddy,” Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey shared on Twitter following the news of White’s death. “We never had to say much … the groove was in the blood.”
Watch Earth, Wind & Fire’s ‘September’ Video
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