Anybody that knows me well, probably knows that my second favorite genre of music is R&B, and also probably knows that I LOVED Earth, Wind & Fire.  Yesterdays news about the passing of Maurice White makes me very sad, but reminds me that I'm still full of "gratitude" ... pun intended.  I started listening to EWF back in the early 70's and when I went to see them in '75, I was part of a representation of Caucasians that made up less than 10-percent of the audience!  But I never felt in danger, everybody was having too much fun!  Not bad for being in one of the most avoidable areas in the country at the time ... the racially-tense center of Downtown Detroit.

Maurice was so damn cool.  He was the leader and mastermind behind the costumes, the choreography, the dancing, and the music for an amazingly talented band.  Groundbreaker?  Of course!  EWF was the first African-American band to sell out Madison Square Garden and was one of the only R&B bands that might be on the bill at outdoor Rock festivals!  "Reece" hadn't been performing for quite a while due to the progression of his Parkinson's disease, but his death is still a sad thought.

So if you wander in to Steve's Old Tyme Tap one of these days soon and discover that somebody's taken over the jukebox playin' an Earth, Wind & Fire marathon ... that'll be my friends Jamie D'Aprile, Johnny Marx, and myself having our own private wake.  Burich would've wanted to join us too, but he lives too far away.  Maurice... you're THE shining star. R.I.P.

(Photo by Ann Johansson/Getty Images)