Today we wish a very happy birthday to former Earth, Wind & Fire drummer Fred White, who was born on January 13, 1955. Innovative, precise, and passionate, White first started playing professionally as a teenager. At 15, he met Donny Hathaway, and a few weeks before graduating high school, decided to tour with him, recording Donny Hathaway Live, which Rolling Stone named one of the top 50 live albums.
Below are two songs from that album, “The Ghetto” and “Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything).”
In 1974, White joined his brothers Maurice White and Verdine White in Earth, Wind & Fire. They had asked him once or twice before to join, but White said he wasn’t ready. Aside from Donny Hathaway, White also played with The T-Box Band and Little Feat, and worked for Motown Records.
At the time of White’s admission to EWF, the band’s other drummer was Ralph Johnson. Having two drummers onstage was key to the bands big sound.
Playing on eight of EWF’s studio albums and on many live performances, White’s drumming combined funky grooves, soulful energy, and jazzy arrangements to EWF’s already joyful and high-spirited revelry.
In 2000, EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Fred White, Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Al McKay, Larry Dunn, Andrew Woolfolk, and Johnny Graham all attended the ceremony. At the gala they performed “Shining Star” and “That’s the Way of the World.”
(Check out the video below. The performance starts around the 5:50 mark, though the acceptance speech is worth a listen too.)
Want more EWF? See our interview with Sonny Emory