Earth Wind And Fire Biography
Review The Artist (17)
FORMED: 1969, Chicago, IL
Do you remember the first time you ever heard Earth, Wind & Fire? Do you remember smiling, singing along, shaking your rump or cuddling with your loved one while listening to their albums? Do you remember the energetic rhythms, sultry love songs, feel-good vibes and lyrics that were intelligent, positive and uplifting? Do you remember the vocal interplay between Philip Bailey?s highs and Maurice White?s lows, propulsive bursts of funk from the horn section, sophisticated instrumentation and complex arrangements? Do you remember the first time you saw them in concert? Do you remember the full spectrum of vibrant colors, masterful musicianship and extraordinary theatrics? Do you remember the purity and spiritual elements that always seemed to elevate your mood and expand your consciousness? And here we are, a breath away from entering a new millennium, and Earth, Wind & Fire?s music is as timely and timeless as ever.
Early history.. Maurice White knew exactly what he wanted to accomplish when the Memphis-born, Chicago-reared drummer left his gig as a member of renowned jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis?quartet and session drummer for the famed Chess Records. Simply put, he wanted to form a band that abolished the lines between musical genres. He wanted to be able to freely borrow from all styles of music without regard to convention. "Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music which somehow ended up becoming pop," Maurice recalled. "I wanted to do something that hadn抰 been done before. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and Cosmic awareness and I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners spiritual content."
After heading west to Los Angeles, Maurice coaxed his younger brother Verdine, then nineteen, to join him. Verdine was a classically trained bassist who previously had never been outside of Chicago. The first grouping initially took the name "The Salty Peppers." Maurice renamed the band Earth, Wind & Fire, which he took from his astrological chart (he抯 a Sagittarian - no water). At first, EWF was loose and somewhat unfocused. They even tried unsuccessfully using female singers in the mix. After his vision wasn抰 quite realized on two 1971 albums for Warner Brothers Records, Maurice demolished the band to its foundation and rebuilt the unit, adding a four-octave singer-percussionist from Denver named Philip Bailey and a drummer-percussionist-vocalist from Los Angeles named Ralph Johnson. Verdine stuck around. Good thing.
Beginning to gel... Maurice抯 charismatic tenor and Philip抯 stratospheric falsetto helped chisel the band抯 vocal identity. The two fit together and complimented one another remarkably well. In the studio, Maurice floated a thicket of elaborate vocal arrangements over a stream of musical rivers. Philip brought an innate sense of melody to their songwriting efforts.
Earth, Wind & Fire created the soundtrack to a pioneering black film, "Sweet Sweetback抯 Badasssss Song," then promptly switched to Columbia Records, which became the home for so many of Earth, Wind & Fire抯 classics. The albums "Last Days and Time," "Head To The Sky" and "Open Our Eyes" propelled the group onto the radio and were backed with concert dates wherever they could play including clubs, colleges and theatres. An underground following began to amass. It was a soundtrack to an ill-fated film that busted them wide open. "That抯 The Way Of The World," was a total stiff at the box office (twice), but it did huge business at record stores. Earth, Wind & Fire got their first #1 single ("Shining Star"), first Grammy Award and first double platinum sales award. They were just getting started.
Music in motion... "Gratitude", "Spirit" and "All 憂 All" made Earth, Wind & Fire superstars. Hit singles began to flow like the missing element - "Can抰 Hide Love," "Gratitude," "Fantasy," "Getaway" and "Got To Get You Into My Life," an imaginative cover of The Beatles tune for a film. Grammy nominations and wins. Gold, platinum and double platinum sales plaques. Ceaseless international touring. Writing and recording new albums while at soundcheck or in hotel rooms and studios on off-days. The pace was frenetic, the band prolific. "The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1," "I Am," "Faces," "Raise!" and "Powerlight" proffered hits "September," "Boogie Wonderland," "After The Love Has Gone," "In The Stone" and "Let抯 Groove."
Doing it live... Earth, Wind & Fire抯 hit recordings were partially responsible for their infamy. There is nothing like an Earth, Wind & Fire concert. "When we hit the stage, it is showtime," Verdine declared energetically. Along with Maurice, Verdine is quite often the mastermind behind-the-scenes, but usually the most prominent member on stage with his long raven tresses whipping about, smile beaming brightly and lithe body inexhaustibly writhing and prancing. "It抯 kind of like Carnival, Mardi Gras, Broadway, Las Vegas and Cirque du Soleil all at once." They put on captivating, trendsetting concerts that literally were magic. Earth, Wind & Fire hired magicians Doug Henning and his then unknown assistant, David Copperfield, to design their stage shows. Band members levitated, flew, disappeared, emerged from Egyptian pyramids and space ships, drum sets flipped upside down, thundering explosions rocked and scores of whirling lights and lasers winked in sync at the pageantry. With precision and panache, Eart
h, Wind & Fire high-stepped effortlessly through demanding athletic choreography while adroitly playing their instruments.
The huge group - fourteen or more on stage at-a-time- was outfitted in outlandish costumes. In the early days, they wore tights (seriously folks), which were replaced by magnificently colored African-influenced attire. Flashy sequined, metallic and futuristic spacesuit numbers also were de regular. Earth, Wind & Fire was the first to bring the African culture into prominence and into pop culture. One of Maurice抯 and Earth, Wind & Fire抯 trademark was a handheld African thumb piano called a kalimba, which seasoned so many of their recordings. Philip explained, "It was important to us to make a connection to our heritage and to introduce our culture to a wide audience."
Then and now, Earth, Wind & Fire put on unforgettable shows. These days however, it is done with less pomposity and greater focus on the actual music. "Times are different," Verdine said. "Most of that stuff was of its time. We found that we can still put on fabulous concerts without all the hoopla. Look, even Elton gave up his wild glasses and outfits. KISS took off their make-up. Wait a second, check that."
Time to chill... In the middle and late seventies, Maurice wrote and produced hits by Ramsey Lewis, Deniece Williams and The Emotions, all three of which opened for The Fire on tour at one point. Earth, Wind & Fire took a much-needed break to finally relax and enjoy the fruits of their labor in 1983 after nearly twelve years of non-stop recording and touring. Individually they explored other avenues of musical expression. Maurice released a successful solo disc and produced superstars Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond. Philip made several gospel records including a Grammy winner. "Easy Lover" was his smash international pop single, which was a duet with Phil Collins, who had been borrowing Earth, Wind & Fire抯 famed horn section for his and Genesis?recordings and tours. Verdine produced an album from British pop funksters Level 42. The time apart did them good. They were reinvigorated.
A new dawn... Four years later, Earth, Wind & Fire came charging back with "Touch The World," paced by the hit single, "System of Survival," followed by a second volume of greatest hits. Another studio package and a collector抯 dream box set, "The Eternal Dance," arrived in the early 1990抯. The "Millennium" album brought another Grammy nomination in 1994, their fourteenth to date, for the single "Sunday Morning." Maurice decided to unpack and get off the road after thirty years of touring and the group, lead by Philip and Verdine, kept the rhythm strong. Recorded during a Japanese tour in 1996, Maurice抯 farewell performances were captured for posterity on "Greatest Hits Live." Still Maurice produces and sings on Earth, Wind & Fire抯 recordings.
While the band played show after show, Maurice built a state-of-the-art recording studio and produced several compelling jazz projects including a pair of all-star "Urban Knights" albums, which feature his old mentor Ramsey Lewis collaborating with Grover Washington Jr., Gerald Albright, Jonathan Butler and others. He also unveiled a boutique record label called, whatelse, Kalimba Records. "Some people still don抰 understand my decision fully (to get off the road)," Maurice stated. "I抦 focusing on the next phase of my career. With what I抦 doing now, I抦 still able to be creative and fully express what I抦 feeling musically."
"Earth, Wind & Fire has always, above all else, been a group concept," echoed Philip. "Maurice and I have always been able to sing each others?parts. Now I抦 able to exercise my full vocal registry on stage. Honestly, it did seem a bit strange at first, singing songs he and I had sung together for so many years, but that feeling disappeared quickly. Plus the audiences have been incredibly enthusiastic and supportive, so we know it works."
Year after year, tour after tour, concert venues worldwide are packed with fans who converge upon Earth, Wind & Fire shows. The warm feelings of love that permeate the celebratory concert extravaganzas exude from both the band and the audience and have forged a lasting bond. VH1 and HBO have both aired a pair of concert performances over the last few years and Earth, Wind & Fire has appeared on numerous television shows including NBC抯 "Today," "Oprah" and "Rosie O扗onnell Show." Since their inception, Earth, Wind & Fire has won six Grammys and four American Music Awards while selling over 20 million albums in the U.S. alone. They have been honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and collected a Hall of Fame Image Award from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
Lasting impressions... 1997抯 "In The Name of Love" was easily one of Earth, Wind & Fire抯 best-received records in over a decade. Fans and critics unanimously championed the organic live sound in an era when popular music is so often synthesized and sampled. Countless artists from nearly every musical genre have been influenced and inspired by Earth, Wind & Fire - influenced by their composition, instrumentation, vocal harmonization and concert theatrics, or inspired by the divine love and positivity that radiates through their songs. One such artist is Wyclef Jean, a member of the Grammy-winning hip hop trio The Fugees, solo artist and in-demand producer-songwriter.
After collaborating on a cameo appearance Earth, Wind & Fire made on a #1 rap version of "Shining Star" by Sunz of Man, Jean inked them to Refugee Camp/Columbia Records. He抣l produce several tracks with Maurice for Earth, Wind & Fire抯 next album, most likely due first quarter next year. Already Jean wrote and produced an Earth, Wind & Fire song for "The PJ抯" soundtrack, released last March. Various hitmakers are being considered to join the group in the studio for what will be their twenty-third album. While they labor on the new material, Sony Music Legacy is re-releasing four of Earth, Wind & Fire抯 landmark albums - "Gratitude," "That抯 The Way Of The World," "All 慛 All" and "The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1" - which have been remastered. Outtakes and other material culled from the original recording sessions have been added to each disc.
"I wanted to create a band and a library of music that would stand the test of time," reflected Maurice. "What makes Earth, Wind & Fire different is that Cosmic Consciousness is a key component of our work. Educating and expanding people抯 awareness and uplifting their spirits is so important in this day and age.
It抯 so tough out there and people are looking for more. They want more, and without sounding preachy, I hope our music can give them something positive... some encouragement and peace."
"We抳e worked hard over the years and we want to establish Earth, Wind & Fire as a brand name," Verdine concluded. "We抮e going to make the most of the opportunities presented to us. We抮e quite fortunate and kind of in what I like to call 憈he attitude of gratitude.?Over the years, we抳e seen the record business change dramatically and we know we抮e blessed to still be making records and touring at this level. Really no other band from our so-called era, especially a large group like Earth, Wind & Fire, are around today doing what we抮e doing. Certainly I don抰 want to seem ungrateful, but we want even more, much more, and you can bet that we抮e going to do everything we can to focus on making a great album. Don抰 underestimate us and don抰 ever bet against Earth, Wind & Fire. We抮e going to surprise a lot of people with where we抮e going next."
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From the Bahamas I love them from the beginning | Reviewer: Perry Mckay | 9/24/13
As a boy growing up in the Islands I was exposed to them from watching Television through other peoples windows my mom soon got a record player and the rest is history for me I bought everything record that I could get my hands on and today at 60 years old and in pretty good shape my wife thinks I'm crazy I'm still playing and dancing to their Cd's At my home my daughter tells me she hears the music so much it's ringing in her head as she sleeps I love Earth Wind and the Fire.....yaw
Vicenza Jazz Fest (May 2013) | Reviewer: KimBar | 5/11/13
EWF will be playing live tonight, directly under my window on the Piazza die Signori - how awesome is that?! I grew up listening to EWF, as I grew up on 70's music. To my surprise, my 21 year old daughter knows the words to almost all of their songs. This is going to be great!
Earth Wind and Fire | Reviewer: Jean | 4/7/13
They hold the highest respect to me as being the Best band I've stayed true to for many years and always will. I saw them in concert @ a (Taste of Minnesota)event.When I was jammin and I looked around at others everyone knew the words. It was lively, uplfting,and FANTASTIC! to say the least. I will love them forever !
Tune into life. | Reviewer: Fontella V. Boone | 10/21/12
Me and my son Jermaine Boone -Willaims. Moving our bodys to the beat. Remembering a song you guys once song. Belive that he can make a good song off of the beats. Well he like music and I would like him to look at some positive men. The soul you guys bring to the stage is unbeliveable. Jermaine can learn a lot from you guys he only 6 years old and he just starting to play the piano.
Timeless, Awesome Musical Spirit | Reviewer: A.D. | 8/24/12
In 2010, the Bohemian Foundation brought EWF to Fort Collins, Colorado for a free concert. Yeah, free!!! Theatrically, it was scaled back from their usual visual extravaganzas, but musically, it was beyond awesome. From the very first few measures, there were people around me in their 50s and 60s who could not resist moving and dancing to the music, as if their bodies were turned on with an electrical switch. Philip Bailey's voice quality and range were extraordinary and Verdine's trademark moves and ageless energy never let up once in the 90-minute concert. What a fantastic horn section. Maurice took the lead on quite a few of his unforgettable hits. I introduced my daughter to EWF's music when she was 14. That woke up something powerful within her and suddenly, she wanted to know what else I had in my record collection. She realized what a profound difference there is between the music of my generation and the "music" of today.
My personal favorite | Reviewer: Anonymous | 11/28/11
I've been listening to Earth, Wind and Fire since 1972, and have enjoyed them ever since. Smooth vocals, great grooves, and still going strong after 40 years. I just want to say "I love you all, my best to you always".
Truly The Greatest Band The World Has Known | Reviewer: Milton | 10/21/11
Soaring Vocals, Outstanding musicianship, majestic melodies and harmonies and deep, profound lyrical content. This describes this wonderful bands legacy to us, their adoring fans and listeners. They were one of a kind and truly in a league of their own.
World's most fantabulous band | Reviewer: Sheila K | 9/20/11
I fell for the sounds, melody and rythem of this group in the 1970's. I never tire of hearing any of their songs. I was blessed to see thair fantastic stage shows in 1988 in Atlanta Fulton County Stadim. I introduced my son to the music and he has become as big of fan as myself and now my grandchildren are falling in love with 'The Elements". I am so excited about them appearing in my hometown of Huntsville AL on September 24, 2011. Now I pay attention the lyris and realize how deep they are. Can't wait until Saturday!! Thanks and God Bless
The Elements of Creation | Reviewer: Milton | 10/1/09
Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the Greatest Forces of ANY kind in the 20th century. Their influence and innovation are absolutely incredible and they still, in my opinion, don't get the full credit they deserve for what they did, not only for music, but for culture as well.
Many different artist have been inspired by them and have tried in one way or another to duplicate their sound, all have failed. They had it all, lyrics, music composition, vocals, musicianship, sound, flair, style and a live show that just made you feel GOOD!
To the Mighty Elements, from the 1st time i heard you in the early 1970's till now, you've been a tremendous inspriation.
The band of all times | Reviewer: V.J. Williams | 6/29/09
To the greastiest band of all times that I growed up with. You all put something together that no one could ever touch on the face of the earth. Thanks for the music! It helped me as a singer that has worked with different singers as well. Keep touching the heart and soul of the people. Love U All V.J.
"The Greatest Band of all time" | Reviewer: Bill Rice | 12/5/08
Earth Wind and Fire is my favorite band out of any and everybody on this green earth. When I first heard the group in 1979 performing boogie wonderland and seeing the instruments and costumes, I ask my mother to put me in band where I now play the trombone. I am from Decatur,Al (306 Courtney Drive apt 237).I remember when you all perform in Birmigham,Al back in the day. I was quite young then, I am now 42 and I still watch the videos on Youtube like Boogie Wonderland, After The love is gone,Can't hide love, the list goes on. During family gatherings, I would play my trombone while playing some Earth Wind and Fire songs. If I should be any service to the band, please call (256-758-1838). Please send posters or anything pertaining to this group. Thanks Marice White for having a dream and bringing it to Life. Lots of Love with sincere thanks Bill Rice
Die hard Earth Wind and Fire Fan | Reviewer: wandell | 10/22/08
When the band came to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I had only been working at my job for six months. I was scheduled to work the night of the concert, needless to say I called in sick. That was my first offical call in, and it was worth it. They were amazing. Since then I have turned my 18 year old daughter on to them. I have a friend, she and I both love September. We were coming from New Orleans one saturday afternoon, when September began to play. We were hanging out the windows and singing to the top of our voices. Now when ever she heres September, she calls me on my cell, regardless of the time or where she is. She called me at 4:00 A.M. one Saturday and we rocked to it
a band like no other | Reviewer: plain_jane | 2/22/08
i will never tire of listening to EWF's music. they have a way of fusing together numerous music genres and coming up with a sound that's all their own and oh so beautiful. i have never had the chance to watch them in concert, but their unique stage presence and high energy level in their performances (as i've watched repeatedly in videos) nevertheless reverberate to me in a way that makes me feel like i'm watching them live. i hope their music lives forever through future generations who might have the pleasure of rediscovering them and their music, and i hope that the music touches them the way that it has touched us present fans. EWF rules!
the graest band | Reviewer: rv | 10/14/07
im an 18 year old fan of the band from the Philippines. it's a bit unexplainable that the songs of the band makes me really comfotable whenever i am stressed or reviewing my lessons at night... well, this is the power of the songs in me. the band, the world's greatest band and the best cofounder, composer, and vocalist, Maurice White and all the other people in the band like, verdine, philip, sheldon(is e still with the band? I havent saw him in the Greek concert)and to my favorite Gary Bias who played my favorite EWF song After the Love has Gone.. more power to the band and hope you visit on our hospitable country. thank you
One of the Greatest R and B bAND OF THE 1970 TO 1990 | Reviewer: Brian Redden | 9/18/07
well with Maurice White and Phillip Bailey as Lead Voicist Earth Wind and Fire was one of the Most successfull Band ever this Band once had 13 member and with greatest Concert and Stage show they are one most successfull in the 1970 I can only say this one Greatest Band ever but together
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