In the midst of a week of great shows, I learned of the passing of one of my mentors, the great Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire. I found out after soundcheck with Sergio and had to take a moment to take it all in. It really affected me. The night’s show was particularly hard for me as I couldn’t get him out of my mind. Maurice was the chief influence on my style of record production and, when I became a joined the band in the 90’s, Maurice was still touring with us on spot dates. He would eventually return home to take care of his health – only to return to the tour from time to time. My last tour with him was in Japan where we recorded the memorable album, “Live in Velfarre: Plugged In And Live”. What made this so special was that this particular gig followed performances at huge arenas all over Japan and it was in a night club. Earth Wind & Fire just didn’t do club gigs – we were, logistically, too big to fit in a club! It was so tight on the stage that we couldn’t really do any of our normal choreography which, as you can imagine, was a VERY big deal! But the immediacy of the audience was palpable and we fed off of their energy like never before. Reece, returned to LA to mix the album and we continued the tour without him. He always checked in with us and couldn’t wait to send us the mixes once he was finished. As was our custom, the show was completely transformed from the short time between recording the Tokyo show and receiving the mixes from him, so we were surprised at how much we’d forgotten about that particular tour.
Of my many memories I have of Maurice, one of my favorites is of him standing in the wings on some of my solos encouraging me to keep going, keep striving for more as a player and not to settle for playing the same ole things. I asked him one night if my solos were getting too long. He said, “No. I love listening to you play. You’re interesting so keep taking your time!” I’ll treasure that forever as will I having had the opportunity to sit next to him while we recorded the “In The Name Of Love” album. I had the rare chance to watch my hero be – well, heroic! His instincts in the studio were incredible and he was always so open to teach and talk to me about production and songwriting. He gave me room to spread my wings as I wrote, sang & played on that project. He was incredibly encouraging to me about not only music but life and the journey I was about to take. The stories he shared about his life and the early days of the band were always my favorites.
He was rare and special and those fortunate enough to be in his presence would not forget their time with him. His presence was huge even though he was an incredibly subtle, soft spoken man.
As a kid, I hoped and prayed to meet him someday, let alone be a member of the band. My dreams came true on both and every night I stood next to him and played “After The Love Is Gone” my dream was renewed again!
God bless you Reece & thank you for following your dreams and blessing all of us with your gift.