This month I will be taking an in depth look at the drumming of singer-songwriter, arranger, record producer, band leader and drummer Maurice White. He was founder and lead singer of the band Earth, Wind & Fire and one of three incredible drummers for the group along with younger brother Fred White and Ralph Johnson. White’s drumming also appears on many R&B classics from earlier in his career as a session musician for Chess Records, and on nine recordings with the popular jazz group the Ramsey Lewis Trio. An incredible drummer, musician and producer, Maurice White has had a profound influence on soul and pop music over his illustrious career.
I will begin this Artist Spotlight series on Maurice White by taking a look at his drumming on the Earth Wind & Fire classic “Can’t Hide Love” from the 1975 album Gratitude. A cover version of a song originally recorded by Creative Source in 1973, this demonstrates White’s incredible arranging skills.
Although this is a ballad tempo at just 77BPM, White propels the band with incredible energy and excitement. He plays 16th notes on the hi-hats accented on every beat giving the groove a tremendous forward motion and the syncopated bass drum part locks in perfectly with the funky bass guitar part at various points in the song. As ever with White it’s a classic “less is more” approach and he really holds back until unleashing some terrific fills during the repeating out-chorus.
The shaping of this song is outstanding, from the beautifully orchestrated horns and strings, the inventiveness of White’s groove in the introduction, and the perfectly executed form of the song (note White shaves off 4-bars from the beginning of the second verse) he takes the listener on a soulful journey.
I’ve included a drum chart and full transcription so you can see how the song form works but also learn from White’s fantastic ensemble playing in the chorus and outro. Enjoy, and trust me… it’s harder than it looks!
In the next part of this series I will be looking at White’s drumming on his own composition “Sing A Song”, see you then!