The Earth, Wind & Fire band was a popular funk and soul group in the 1970s. They are best known for their hits “September,” “Shining Star” and “Boogie Wonderland.”
Earth, Wind & Fire is a band that was formed in Chicago in the late 1960s. They have achieved worldwide success with songs such as September, Shining Star, and Boogie Wonderland.
Earth, Wind & Fire was a musically talented, critically acclaimed, and financially successful funk band from the 1970s. EWF’s all-encompassing musical vision, conceived by drummer, conductor, composer, kalimba player, and sometimes singer Maurice White, utilized funk as its basis, but also included jazz, smooth soul, gospel, pop, rock & roll, psychedelia, blues, folk, African music, and disco later on. With his ability to vocal romantic ballads in addition to funk exercises, lead singer Philip Bailey offered EWF an additional depth; behind him, the band could harmonize like a smooth Motown group, work a simmering groove like the J.B.’s, and improvise like a jazz fusion ensemble. Their live performances were often as lavish and spectacular as George Clinton’s P-Funk empire. EWF’s eclecticism was part of a larger idea inspired by a cosmic, mystical spirituality and an uplifting optimism not seen since the early days of Sly & the Family Stone, which had not been seen since the early days of Sly & the Family Stone. Maurice White’s excellent songwriting tied it all together, with his complex, unexpected arrangements and solid command of melodies and structure making EWF one of the tightest funk ensembles around. While not everything they attempted worked, at their finest, Earth, Wind & Fire seemed to combine all that had come before them into one dizzying, magnificent package.
Earth, Wind & Fire was established by White in Chicago in 1969. He had previously worked as a session drummer for Chess Records, where he contributed to songs by Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, and Etta James, among others. He’d taken over for Redd Holt in the Ramsey Lewis Trio in 1967, and it was there that he was exposed to the kalimba, an African thumb piano that he would utilize extensively in subsequent ventures. He quit Lewis’ band in 1969 to establish a songwriting duo with keyboardist Don Whitehead and vocalist Wade Flemons. This soon developed into the Salty Peppers, who signed with Capitol Records and had a regional success with “La La Time.” After a follow-up failed, White relocated to Los Angeles with the majority of the band, renaming them Earth, Wind, and Fire after the three elements in his astrological charts. The band included Whitehead, Flemons, female vocalist Sherry Scott, guitarist Michael Beal, tenor saxophonist Chet Washington, trombonist Alex Thomas, and drummer Yackov Ben Israel by the time White persuaded his brother, bassist Verdine White, to join him on the West Coast in 1970. In late 1970, this group secured a new contract with Warner Bros. and released their self-titled first album. Despite a growing following on college campuses and a high-profile gig performing the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles’ groundbreaking Black independent film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, many critics found it intriguing and ambitious, as did its 1971 follow-up, The Need of Love. Despite a growing following on college campuses and a high-profile gig performing the soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles’ groundbreaking Black independent film Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, neither
White disassembled the initial version of EWF in 1972, dissatisfied with the results, keeping only his brother Verdine. With female vocalist Jessica Cleaves, flute/sax player Ronnie Laws, guitarist Roland Bautista, keyboardist Larry Dunn, and percussionist Ralph Johnson, he put together a new lineup; the most important new addition, however, was singer Philip Bailey, who was recruited from the Denver R&B band Friends & Love. Clive Davis signed the group to CBS after hearing them perform for John Sebastian in New York. Their first album, Last Days of Time, was released in 1972. Laws and Bautista left before the end of the year, and were replaced by reedman Andrew Woolfolk and guitarists Al McKay and Johnny Graham. It was at this point when EWF really found their stride. Head to the Sky (Cleaves’ last album with the band) greatly expanded their cult following, and Open Our Eyes (released in 1974) was their first real success. It was their first time working with Charles Stepney, a producer, arranger, and sometimes songwriting partner who helped them simplify their style for broader appeal; it also included another White brother, Fred, who was brought in as a second drummer. Although mainstream radio shied away from its Black pride undercurrent, the song “Mighty Mighty” became EWF’s first Top Ten success on the R&B charts, and the minor hit “Kalimba Story” introduced Maurice White’s fascination with African sounds to the radios. Open Our Eyes was certified gold, paving the way for the band’s breakout success.
EWF finished another movie soundtrack in 1975, this time for That’s the Way of the World, a music business drama. The band pushed out their soundtrack CD of the same name in advance, while being pessimistic about the film’s economic chances (unlike Sweet Sweetback, they created all of the music themselves). The film was a failure, but the album was a hit; the album’s first song, the love-and-encouragement hymn “Shining Star,” reached the top of the R&B and pop charts, catapulting Earth, Wind & Fire into the mainstream and earning them a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. The album also went double platinum and reached number one on both the pop and R&B charts; the title single reached number five on the R&B side, while the album cut “Reasons” included Bailey’s trademark ballad. White utilized the additional cash to expand EWF’s live performance into a grandiose, effects-heavy spectacle that ultimately included feats by magician Doug Henning. A permanent horn section, the Phoenix Horns, led by saxophonist Don Myrick, was also added to the band. Later that year, their growing live experience was documented on the double-LP collection Gratitude, which went on to become their second consecutive number one album and included one side of new studio songs. “Sing a Song,” the ballad “Can’t Hide Love,” and the title tune all charted in the pop Top Ten and R&B Top Five, respectively.
Charles Stepney died unexpectedly of a heart attack during the 1976 sessions for EWF’s second studio album, Spirit. Despite the fact that Maurice White took up the arranging duties, the Stepney-produced “Getaway” managed to top the R&B charts after his death. Spirit did very well on the charts, peaking at number two. Meanwhile, White was assisting with the production of other bands, like the Emotions and Deniece Williams, in addition to working with his former employer Ramsey Lewis. All n’ All, released in 1977, was another excellent effort that peaked at number three and produced the R&B hits “Fantasy” and “Serpentine Fire”; in the meanwhile, the Emotions topped the pop charts with the White-helmed blockbuster “Best of My Love.” The next year, White established his own label, ARC, and EWF made a superb rendition of the Beatles’ “Got to Get You Into My Life” that became their first Top Ten mainstream success since “Sing a Song” in the largely disastrous film adaptation of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 was released before the end of the year and delivered another Top Ten success (and R&B number one) with the freshly recorded “September.”
I Am, released in 1979, included EWF’s most overt reference to disco, a hit duet with the Emotions called “Boogie Wonderland,” which reached the Top Ten. The ballad “After the Love Has Gone” performed even better, just missing out on the top position by one place. Despite the fact that I Am became EWF’s sixth consecutive multi-platinum album, there were indications that the group’s burst of innovation during the previous several years was waning. Faces broke the string in 1980, and guitarist McKay left the band. While “Let’s Groove,” from 1981’s Raise, was a Top Five success and R&B chart-topper, there was a general decrease in consistency. ARC had collapsed by the time EWF released its second album, Powerlight, in 1983, and the Phoenix Horns had been let free to save money. White dissolved the band to just take a vacation after the mediocre Electric Universe was released at the end of the year. Verdine White went on to work as a producer and video director, while Philip Bailey went solo and had a pop success with the Phil Collins duet “Easy Lover.” Collins used the Phoenix Horns often on his solo and Genesis albums in the 1980s.
In 1987, Bailey recorded Touch the World with the White brothers, as well as Andrew Woolfolk, Ralph Johnson, and new guitarist Sheldon Reynolds. It was a surprise hit, with two R&B smashes: “Thinking of You” and “System of Survival,” which reached number one. Heritage, which was released in 1990 and included guest performances from Sly Stone and MC Hammer, was a forced effort to modernize the group’s sound; its failure led to the group’s breakup with Columbia. In 1993, they returned to Reprise with the more traditional-sounding Millennium, but were dismissed after the album failed to reclaim their commercial position despite a Grammy nomination for “Sunday Morning.” Tragically, onetime horn leader Don Myrick was killed in Los Angeles that year. In the Name of Love was released in 1997 on the tiny Pyramid label by Bailey and the White brothers.
Following the release of The Promise in 2003, which included a combination of new songs and new takes on classics, the trio regrouped with a number of top-tier adult contemporary musicians and produced Illumination in 2005, which featured a collaboration with smooth jazz powerhouse Kenny G. The album received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. Earth, Wind & Fire continued to tour and appeared on American Idol’s Idol Gives Back event in 2007 as the evening’s opening act. Maurice and Verdine White, Bailey, Dunn, and McKay were elected into the Songwriters Hall of Fame three years later. In 2013, the band released their first album in five years, Now, Then & Forever. Maurice White died of Parkinson’s disease three years later, on February 3, 2016, at the age of 74, at his home in Los Angeles.
Earth, Wind & Fire is a band that has been around for over 40 years. They have released many albums and songs. Their genre of music is funk-dance-soul. Reference: earth, wind and fire genre.
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Earth Wind & Fire is an American band that was formed in Chicago in the late 1950s. They are best known for their album, The Greatest Hits of Earth, Wind & Fire.
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