Food, shelter, water. Those are the essentials, but then there are the things you need for yourself: family, good friends, a warm bed, a good book, and a place of welcome. You wouldn’t die without them, but those things spice your life. And if you were Maurice White, author of “My Life with Earth, Wind & Fire” (with Herb Powell), you’d add one more: music.
Born in Memphis at a time when Jim Crow ruled the south, Maurice White was 4 years old when his mother told him that she needed to go to Chicago to find a job. She left him with a friend who became White’s “Mama,” and who raised him with strength and wisdom.
He was a quiet boy, a born introvert, but Mama taught him by example to love God, Mahalia, and Ray Charles, though he was in junior high when he fell “deep under the spell of music.” White and his best friend pulled together a band then, and one of the members encouraged White to find his spiritual core and think in different ways.
At 18, not long before his Mama died of cancer, White headed for Chicago to live with his “Mother Dear,” his birth mother, who’d remarried and was raising six children. She offered him a place to stay, but he wanted to be his own man; he also wanted to emulate his stepfather and attend medical school, but music had such an allure that he told “Dad” that he’d been called to a different vocation. White became “a sponge” to soak up all he could learn about the music business.