The Quiet Greatness Of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White

VIBE Remembers the legendary Maurice White. 

The thing you have to remember about Maurice White—the dynamic founder of the legendary, elegant funk band Earth Wind & Fire who died at the age of 74 Wednesday at his home in Los Angeles—is that he was never afraid to let others shine. Think about it. A great deal of EW&F’s rich, massive catalogue, which includes such hits as “Shining Star,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “That’s The Way of the World,” “September,” and “In The Stone,” shined a spotlight on group members beyond head writer and producer White. There’s the rubbery bass guitar licks of brother Verdine White; the soaring, otherworldly falsetto of Philip Bailey; the signature brass workouts of the Seahorns.

White knew when to lay in the cut. But the Memphis native, who fought a long, courageous battle with Parkinson’s Disease, also proved to be the ultimate band leader; an expansive, genre-jumping mastermind (EW&F could jump from funk, jazz, Latin, and rock in just one song) who was so in demand, so respected in the music industry that everyone from Deniece Williams and the Emotions to Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond lined up to work with the studio visionary. EW&F’s Afrocentric/cosmic themed album covers made bold, powerful statements. So did their big-budget, arena-ready stage shows, which rivaled Kiss in sheer overwhelming spectacle. Still not up on Maurice White? VIBE presents 10 songs, some known, some vastly underrated, that you need in your life. RIP Mo…

“Sweet Sweetback's Theme” (1971)

The White-led Earth Wind & Fire was just an unknown rag-tag Chicago-based outfit looking for their proverbial big break. Counter culture filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles was looking for a band to inject a blitzkrieg of junkyard funk into his groundbreaking independent film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which gave birth to the Blaxploitation genre. EW&F more than delivered.

“Devotion” (1974, Live Version)

White understood how to get the best out of his gifted players on this standout track from EW&F’s platinum Open Our Eyes, the follow-up to their first million seller Head to the Sky (1973). This soulful overture, co-written by indelible member Philip Bailey, allows ample space for his majestic falsetto, which ranks in sheer heavenly bliss with the likes of Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield, the Stylistic’s Russell Thompkins, Jr., and Prince. Go with the live version.

“Drum Song” (1974)

It’s easy to forget that White made his bones early on as a drummer, working with jazz stalwart Ramsey Lewis and his acclaimed Ramsey Lewis Trio. “The Drum Song” is a startling reminder. Not so much an overdone percussive exercise; it’s a love letter to Africa.

“Got To Get You Into My Life” (1978)

In the rare tradition of a song besting the original, this Beatles cut gets a complete funk overall. Like Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 stunning version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower,” EW&F’s superior take on “Got To Get You Into My Life” has become more celebrated than its predecessor. Those sick brass runs? Compliments of the mighty Seahorns, a staple in EW&F’s mammoth sound.

“Love’s Holiday” (1977)

White’s lead vocals majestically stay in pocket on this underrated ballad taken from EW&F’s most commercially successful album All ‘n All. Warning: you may feel the need to break out into air guitar theatrics by the end of this breezy slow jam.

“Let’s Groove” (1981)

What may come off as cheesy wedding reception fodder is really a master class in GREAT sing-along songwriting. When the futuristic talk box intro hits you are given license to boogie in the most absurd manner. A smile-inducing classic.

“Fantasy” (1978)

How intricate was this grandiose, bombastic musical spectacle? “Fantasy” took three months to write and record, and was only finished when White found inspiration after watching the groundbreaking sci-fi game changer Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

“This Is How I Feel” (2005)

One of the last EW&F recordings to feature White, “This Is How I Feel,” produced by Outkast studio vets Organized Noize and featuring Destiny’s Child’s Kelly Rowland, Outkast's Big Boi and Sleepy Brown, is no mere tribute record. The spirited track, taken from EW&F’s critically acclaimed comeback project Illumination, is a shining reminder of the rich influence of a band that often times defied stuffy labels. Thank you Mr. White.

[/videoembed] “Sun Goddess” (1974)

When the aforementioned Ramsey Lewis wanted to update his sound he turned to old friend Maurice White. The results? The inescapable jazz fusion title track from Lewis’ most successful crossover album Sun Goddess would chart both on the black and pop singles charts pushing the long playing disc to gold status.

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“Reasons” (1975, live version)

Another track given new life as a live centerpiece. “Reasons,” a quiet storm R&B staple, never charted but it remains EW&F’s most celebrated ballad. Once again, Baily’s heart-tugging falsetto gets top billing.

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French Montana Sued For Sexual Assault, Battery And Emotional Distress

French Montana is being accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman, according to a lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court on Thursday (March 26). The accuser claims that she was sexually assaulted at the rapper's home two years ago.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, is suing for assault and battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and more. Montana, his Coke Boys Records imprint, and employee, Mansour Bennounare, are named in the suit, which alleges that on or around March 28, 2018, the woman was invited to a recording studio where Montana and Bennouna were “working.” The documents allege that Montana and Bennouna were “drinking and using drugs” in the studio and offered her drinks, before inviting her back to Montana’s home in Hidden Hills, Calif.

The woman allegedly arrived at the home at around 6 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the woman claims that she stepped outside to phone a friend but was “lucid” and “unable to carry a conversation.” The woman went back inside Montana’s kitchen and although she “wanted to leave” she was urged to “take a shot,” the documents assert.

After being given a drink, the woman says that she blacked out and was therefore unable to give consent to “engage in any sexual activity” but remembers “several men” coming in out of the bedroom. She believes that Montana was one of the men.

The accuser says she woke up on a couch in a room “filled with curtains” at around 1 p.m. She was “confused” and “intoxicated” and felt pain in her pelvic area, vagina, and lower back, the suit states. The lawsuit also alleges that Bennouna was laying behind her in a “spooning manner,” groping her, and rubbing his genitals against her back.

The woman began “crying hysterically” because she believed that she had been drugged and raped. She grabbed her things and left the home. According to the suit, the woman went to a local hospital where a rape kit was administered. She also reported the alleged incident to police, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the defendants earn money from “promoting drinking, taking drugs and having sex with women,” and use their business as a front to “lure” women to their homes where they provide them with drugs and alcohol to have sex, with or without consent.

“Defendants had a longstanding practice of inviting women to their recording sessions, or choosing women at bars, and inviting them back to the Hidden Hills house which is also a hub of EMPLOYER DEFENDANTS business enterprises,” the lawsuit reads. “There Defendants would supply the women with drinks and drugs, with the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with them, without any regard to whether or not they consented, or were able to consent.”

The alleged assault caused the woman to have anxiety, “extreme emotional distress,” flashbacks, depression, and prevented her from continuing to pursue a career in modeling and acting. The suit is asking for a jury trial.

Montana, whose birth name is Karim Kharbouch, hasn’t publicly responded to the allegations.

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Prince’s Siblings Reportedly File Petition To Get Money From His Estate

The heirs to Prince’s fortune want his estate to pay up. According to The Blast, the music legend’s siblings, Norine, Sharon and John, filed legal documents in hopes of green lighting “payment for service and efforts provided to the Estate.”

The trio claims that while “others” have been compensated, they have yet to be paid after putting time and energy into “business matters” related to the estate, which is being run by Comerica Bank.

“As this Court is aware, the Estate has now been on-going for over three years,” the documents reportedly state. “In this time, millions have been paid to the Personal Representatives, their accountants, attorneys, and legal advisors.”

The heirs accused Comerica of making money decisions without notifying them, which the bank has denied. Last year, a Minnesota judge denied the siblings’ request to limit the bank’s power over the estate.

Prince’s brothers and sisters want a judge to force Comerica to compensate them so that they can get out of financial ruin, including paying legal bills.

The Purple One’s estate is worth an estimated $200 million (down from $300 million) since his death in 2016. Prince died without a will but a judge ruled that his estate would be split between his six half-siblings. His brother, Alfred Jackson, who was 1/6 of the estate heirs died in 2019. Last December, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, sold off a chunk of her percentage of the estate to cover legal bills.

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Here’s How New Orleans Is Being Affected By Coronavirus

New Orleans has twice as many COVID-19 cases per capita than any other county or parish in the country. This time last month, the Big Easy welcomed over a million visitors for Mardi Gras, which likely contributed to the diseases spreading rapidly around the city.

New Orleans registered its first case of COVID-19 on March 9. As of Friday (March 27), the city reported more than 20 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 119. The death tole increased by 19% in one day, according to the Times-Picayune. That said, the number of those who have contracted the disease could vary due to a lack of testing in Louisiana, and around the country. The state reported 441 new cases as of Friday.

Male patients account for 43% of the COVID-19 cases in the state, while women make up 57%. The largest number of cases by age group are adults between the ages of 50-59. Orleans Parish, which is Louisiana’s third most populous parish behind East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, reported 57 of the 87 coronavirus-related deaths.

At least 24% percent of New Orleans residents are living below the poverty line, and 1 in 5 households are without a vehicle, further limiting access to testing and treatment, USA Today reports. The poverty stats, compounded with lack of access to proper health care and those with underlying medical conditions, contribute to the spike in cases.

“New Orleans is preparing to mobilize in a way we hope we will never see again in our lifetimes,” New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said, per USA Today. “This disaster will define us for generations.”

The city is running out of hospital beds, and ventilators could be next on the list. Of the more the 773 reported patients hospitalized over COVID-19, 270 of them require ventilators. Louisiana has close to 2,800 ventilators statewide. While the city works to gain access to necessary medical supplies, others are stepping forward to help feed NOLA residents.

Earlier in the week, New Orleans Saints player Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, announced that they are donating $5 million to various charities including Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health, Jimmy Johns, and Waitr, to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana.

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Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:31am PDT

In neighboring Mississippi, there are 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight deaths out of 3,139 tests administered. Mississippi also has more women battling the disease (59%) than men (41%).

According to the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago and other “hot spots” will have a worse week next week than they had this week.

In Milwaukee, the city’s Black community is being hit harder than any other group in the state. All of the eight deaths (five men and three women) in Milwaukee County were Black people, and seven of the eight were Milwaukee residents.

Philadelphia has at least 475 cases of the disease with over 2,200 confirmed cases statewide. On a positive note, more than 21,000 people  have tested negative for coronavirus in Pennsylvania.

With over 42,246 people testing positive for the disease, New York tops the list of coronavirus cases around the country and has been receiving the brunt of nationwide press around the pandemic, while states like Michigan, which falls fifth on the nationwide list, aren't generating the same amount of national headlines. The Midwestern state has been considered an epicenter  for the disease, and cities such as Detroit and Flint, where residents have been without clean water for years, are among the most vulnerable.

As of Thursday (March 28), the U.S. confirmed more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Over 100,000 people tested positive for the disease and while hospitals are still in need of critical supplies and testing kits, there is one small glimmer of hope: the fatality rate in the U.S. remains at less than 10% (1607 confirmed deaths), and over 2,000 people in the country have been reported as recovered from COVID-19.

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