Verdine White in a performance with Earth, Wind, and Fire in 2010. | Creative Commons

Last month, North Lawndale policy and nonprofit guru Valerie Leonard interviewed Verdine White, one of the masterminds behind the legendary group Earth, Wind and Fire. She asked if we might share snippets of the conversation, which we more than happy to do.

White, a native of the Near West Side, grew up in the Henry Horner Homes and attended Crane High School, where he studied music under the legendary James “Major” Adams at the Henry Horner Boys & Girls Club. 

Below is a short excerpt of his discussion with Leonard, which you can see in full on YouTube here

On Major Adams and his West Side formative years 

He was a cool guy. The Boys Club was a great place for talent. He was disciplined and gave us structure. It was like crazy, bad discipline — it was fun. You want to have fun playing music, you know, and as long as it’s structured, you’ll do the right thing. 

My later father was a doctor at Rush Presbyterian in Chicago and my mother was a schoolteacher on the West Side at Birney Elementary, where I went to school. 

It was a great way to start in Chicago. Of course, later on, we moved to South Shore, but I stayed over at Crane, because of the music program.” 

On helping to save Crane from closing 

[In 2011, former Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard announced plans to close Crane].

Chaz Ebert, who was married to the late Roger Ebert … we went to school together. We were in dram class. We stayed in touch after all these years. In 2019, we did the commencement address together for the Class of 1969 in 2019. And I stayed in Chicago for two weeks on vacation. I hadn’t done it in a long time. 

“The advice [I’d give to parents currently fighting to save their children’s schools] is you gotta fight every day. You gotta keep fighting the good fight. When I saw [that they were trying to close Crane], we immediately got right on it — Chaz, myself, a lot of the alumni. And now the school is open and everything’s fine. You have to be proactive.” 

See more of the interview here