Backstage with Earth, Wind & Fire

No Lies Radio Music – By Teri Perticone – Saturday Sep 17, 2022

Earth, Wind & Fire (abbreviated as EW&F or simply EWF) is an American band that has spanned the musical genres of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, dance, Latin, and Afro pop.[1][2] They have been described as one of the most innovative and commercially successful acts of all time.[3][1][4] Rolling Stone called them “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing” and declared that the band “changed the sound of black pop”.[5] VH1 has also described EWF as “one of the greatest bands” ever.[4]

The band was founded in Chicago by Maurice White in 1969, having grown out of a previous band known as the Salty Peppers.[6][7] Other prominent members of EWF have included Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, Al McKay, Roland Bautista, Sonny Emory, Sheldon Reynolds and Andrew Woolfolk. The band is known for its dynamic horn section, kalimba sound, energetic and elaborate stage shows, and the contrast between Philip Bailey’s falsetto vocals and Maurice White’s baritone.[8][2]

The band has won six Grammys from their 17 nominations.[9] They have won four American Music Awards out of 12 nominations.[1] They have also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and sold over 90 million records, making them one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.[10][6][11] EWF has been inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame and Hollywood’s Rockwalk. The band have received an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award, BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and Soul Train Legend Award.[1][12] EWF has received a NARAS Signature Governor’s Award,[1] a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2012 Congressional Horizon Award.[13] made a little history Thursday (July 18, 2019), becoming the first R&B group to receive the Kennedy Center Honors.

1974–1980: Classic period

The band’s follow-up album was co-produced by Maurice and Joe Wissert, with Charles Stepney serving as an associate producer. Stepney had previously worked with artists such as The Dells, The Rotary Connection, Terry Callier, Minnie Riperton, and Ramsey Lewis. This LP was recorded at Colorado’s Caribou Ranch Studio and issued under the title of Open Our Eyes in March 1974.[15][46] Rolling Stone called Open Our Eyes an LP with lots of “positive elements”. Music critic Robert Christgau described the album as a complete “tour de force”.[47][48] The album rose to Nos. 1 & 15 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums and Top Pop Albums charts respectively.[49][50] Open Our Eyes was certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.[51]

A single off the LP called “Mighty Mighty” reached Nos. 4 & 29 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.[52][53] Another single entitled “Kalimba Story” rose to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.[54] A song called “Devotion” also got to Nos. 23 & 33 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.

Earth, Wind & Fire – Devotion (Live) [HQ]!!

After Open Our Eyes was issued, Maurice’s younger brother, Fred White, joined the band. He had previously played in Chicago clubs as a drummer with Donny Hathaway and Little Feat.[27]

The band collaborated with Ramsey Lewis on his album Sun Goddess which was issued in late 1974 by Columbia. The album got to Nos. 1 & 12 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively.[58][59][60] The LP’s title track rose to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart. [61] Sun Goddess was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.[62]

In 1975, EWF was approached by Sig Shore, producer of the motion picture Super Fly, to record the soundtrack to a new film entitled That’s the Way of the World. With a screenplay from Robert Lipsyte, the movie was produced and directed by Shore. The film starred Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson, EWF as “The Group” and Maurice as Early, “The Group”‘s leader. Keitel played the role of a record producer who hears “The Group” performing and is wowed by their act.[27][63]

When the band saw the film they were convinced that it would become a box office bomb, which it eventually was.[17] They therefore released the movie’s soundtrack before the film’s premiere. Co-produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney and recorded at the Caribou Ranch Studio, That’s the Way of the World was issued in March 1975 by Columbia. The album rose to No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Soul Albums charts.[64][65][66] The album was warmly received by critics. Billboard Magazine called it “a very tightly produced and performed package.” The BBC described it as a “soul masterpiece”. With the LP, EWF became the first black act to top both the Billboard album and singles charts.[64][67][68] The album was certified Triple Platinum in the US by the RIAA.[69]

Off the LP came the single “Shining Star”, which rose to number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts. It also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.[70][71][9] The album’s title track, “That’s the Way of the World”, also reached Nos. 5 & 12 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles and Hot 100 charts respectively.[72][73]

Earth, Wind & Fire – Shining Star (Live)

Because of the album’s tremendous commercial success, the band was able to hire a full horn section, which was dubbed the Phenix Horns. They were composed of saxophonist Don Myrick, trombonist Louis Satterfield, and trumpeters Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris. Myrick and Satterfield had both worked with Maurice during his days as a session drummer at Chess Records.

After their first tour of Europe EWF returned to the studio in June 1975 for a follow-up release. The band eventually came away with an album of mostly live concert material together with some newly recorded tracks. As a double LP the new album entitled Gratitude was issued in November 1975.[74] It rose to No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Soul Albums charts respectively.[75][76] The album was certified Triple Platinum in the US by the RIAA.[77]

With the LP came the song “Sing a Song”, which rose to Nos. 1 & 5 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.[78] [79] The single “Can’t Hide Love” got to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.[80] “Can’t Hide Love” was also Grammy-nominated for Best Arrangement For Voices.[9]

Earth, Wind & Fire – Sing a Song

Earth, Wind and Fire Can t Hide Love

Earth, Wind & Fire – Fantasy (Audio)

Within January 1979 the band performed “September” and “That’s the Way of the World” at the Music for UNICEF Concert. The concert was broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly by NBC. Other artists who performed at the event were ABBA, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. The concert was Emmy-nominated in the category of Outstanding Individual Achievement – Special Class.[121][122][123]

A song off the LP entitled “Boogie Wonderland” featuring The Emotions got to Nos. 2 & 6 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.[127][128] The song was also Grammy nominated in the categories of Best Disco Recording and Best R&B Instrumental Performance.[9]

Earth, Wind & Fire – Boogie Wonderland (Official Music Video)

Another single called “After the Love Has Gone” reached No. 2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Songs charts.[129][130] The song also reached No. 3 on both the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs and UK Singles charts.[131][95] The ballad was Grammy-nominated in the category of Record of the Year. “After the Love Has Gone” also won a Grammy for the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.[9]

Earth, Wind & Fire – After The Love Has Gone (Live)

1981–1996: Digital period

White decided that, given the changing musical landscape, the band needed to incorporate into their work more of the electronic sound which was popular at the time. As a result, EWF’s eleventh album, Raise!, was influenced by this new electronic sound and released in the fall of 1981. With this album rhythm guitarist Roland Bautista returned to EWF. Bautista went on to give the band a bit of a hard rock feel in his playing. Raise! was certified platinum in the US by the RIAA for sales of over a million copies and gold in the UK and Canada by the British Phonographic Industry and Music Canada respectively.[143][144][145][146][147] With the LP came the song “Let’s Groove,” which was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.[148] “Let’s Groove” was Grammy-nominated in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Another single entitled “Wanna Be With You” won EWF a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.[9] Earth, Wind & Fire appeared at American Bandstand’s 30th Anniversary Special, where they performed “Let’s Groove” on October 30, 1981.[149]

Earth, Wind & Fire – Let’s Groove (Official Music Video)

1996–present: Neo period

During 1996 Maurice launched a new label entitled Kalimba Records based in Santa Monica, California. At the label also came a recording studio known as Magnet Vision.

During the previous year, Maurice stopped regularly touring with the band but still appeared on stage occasionally. At the time, he explained that he wanted to take a rest from the rigors of the road. Philip Bailey was given the role of an on stage leader of the band. Maurice though maintained executive control of EWF as it’s main leader.

On March 6, 2000, EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by hip hop artist Lil’ Kim to a standing ovation during the 15th annual ceremony held at New York’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson, as well as former EWF members Al McKay, Larry Dunn, Andrew Woolfolk, Fred White and Johnny Graham attended the ceremony. At the gala they performed “Shining Star” and “That’s the Way of the World” together.[6][237]

EWF was a specially invited music guest at the June 20, 2000 White House state dinner hosted by President Bill Clinton on the South Lawn of the White House, in honor of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, and Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem.[238] So impressed was the king by the band’s performance that he made a personal request for EWF to perform in Morocco for his 37th birthday celebration on August 21, 2000.

EWF continues to perform today.

Maurice White died on February 4, 2016, after suffering for some years with Parkinson’s disease. He was survived by his wife, his two sons, daughter and his brothers Verdine and Fred.[310]

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