Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire

Infobox Musical artist
Name = Earth, Wind & Fire
Img_capt =
Img_size =
Background = group_or_band
Origin = Chicago, Illinois, USA
Genre = R&B, funk, soul, disco
Years_active = 1969–present
Associated_acts = Phenix Horns
Label =Warner Bros., Columbia, Sanctuary
URL = []
Current_members = Maurice White
Verdine White
Ralph Johnson
Philip Bailey
John Paris
B. David Whitworth
Larry Dunn
Greg "G-Mo" Moore
Vadim Zilberstein
Gary Bias
Bobby Burns Jr.
Johnny Graham
Krystal Bailey
Kim Johnson
Reggie Young
Past_members =

Earth, Wind & Fire is an African-American Funk band led by Maurice White that achieved worldwide success in the 1970s. The group was formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1969. They are known for a number of hit singles, including "Shining Star" "September" "Boogie Wonderland" and "Let's Groove". [,|WIND|%|FIRE&sql=11:kiftxqe5ldhe~T1 allmusic Biography] ]


Early years

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1941, bandleader and founder Maurice White moved to Chicago as a teenager and found work as a session drummer for Chess Records. By 1967, he was the new drummer in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, replacing Red Holt. In 1969, Maurice left the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team which wrote songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol, and called themselves the "Salty Peppers," and had a marginal hit in the Midwestern area called "La La Time."

The Salty Peppers' second single, "Uh Huh Yeah," didn't fare as well, and Maurice decided it was time for a change of location - and a change in the band's name, which turned into Earth, Wind & Fire. This was based on the fact that White's astrological sign being Sagittarius, had a primary elemental quality of Fire but also had seasonal qualities which are Earth, and Air, hence the omission of water.

White recruited Chicago singer Sherry Scott, along with local percussionist Phillard Williams, and then asked his younger brother Verdine whether he'd like to head out West. Verdine White joined the band in 1970 as their new bassist.

Maurice held auditions in L.A., adding Michael Beale on guitar, Chester Washington on reeds, Leslie Drayton for trumpet and initially the group's musical arranger, and trombonist Alex Thomas to the lineup. With Flemons playing vibes and electric piano and vocals, and Verdine on bass, percussion and vocals, a ten-member Earth, Wind & Fire was born. Their self-titled debut album, "Earth, Wind & Fire," was released in 1970 to great critical acclaim, as was "The Need of Love" (1971). A single, from this album "I Think About Lovin' You" provided EWF with their first Top 40 R&B hit. However, some members of EWF were feeling decidedly restless and the band broke up after having been together for less than six months. Maurice White decided to re-form the group and he started holding auditions.

In 1971, the group performed "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song (soundtrack)" to the Melvin Van Peebles film "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song".

The switch to Columbia/CBS Records

In 1972, White dissolved the line-up (minus himself and brother Verdine White), and added Jessica Cleaves (vocals), former vocalist of the R&B group The Friends of Distinction, Ronnie Laws (flute, saxophone), Roland Bautista on guitar, Larry Dunn (keyboard), Ralph Johnson (musician) (percussion) and Philip Bailey (vocals, formerly of Friends & Love).

Warner Bros. did not know how to promote this new combo; the only other funk band on their label was Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. An audition for managers Bob Cavallo and Joe Ruffalo led to an association that continued uninterrupted until 1983, and Cavallo's management of John Sebastian led to a series of gigs as opening act for the popular pop/folk singer. A performance at New York's Rockefeller Center introduced EWF to Clive Davis, then President of Columbia Records. Davis loved what he saw and bought their contract from Warner Brothers.

In the spring of 1972, EWF headed to the studio to record "Last Days and Time", their CBS debut. The album featured mostly original material, but Philip Bailey had suggested the Pete Seeger song, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone," and the group threw in a cover of the Bread hit "Make It With You" for good measure. Last Days And Time was also the first album that prominently featured Maurice White playing the Kalimba on the instrumental track "Power."

The album, "Head to the Sky," was released in 1973, and with this album some personnel changes took place. By this time, Ronnie Laws and Roland Bautista had left to pursue new musical opportunities. Philip had recommended former Denver classmate Andrew Woolfolk, who had been busy in New York studying sax with sax maestro Joe Henderson and was on the verge of taking up a career in banking when Bailey called; guitarist Al McKay who had been performing with The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band; and guitarist Johnny Graham rounded out the lineup, after playing with R&B favorites New Birth.

The album yielded the group's first two legitimate hit singles: "Evil," co-written by Maurice and Philip, and the title track, "Keep Your Head To The Sky," both top 30 R&B and top 60 pop charts.

In 1974 the album "Open Our Eyes" was released, which was the group's first platinum album, a major hit. Jessica Cleaves, a former member of the Friends of Distinction, left after the "Head to the Sky" album.

"Open Your Eyes" was the turning point in providing EWF with its first Top 30 pop hit ("Mighty Mighty") In May 1974, "Mighty Mighty" became Earth Wind & Fire's first top 30 hit on the pop charts, peaking at #29. Their second hit single ("Devotion") was a song with a strong spiritual message.

EWF Hits! (1975-1981)

Earth, Wind & Fire's true breakthrough came in the form of the soundtrack to "That's the Way of the World" in 1975. In 1974 Earth Wind & Fire worked with Sig Shore, the creator of the motion picture Super Fly, on a new film about the dark side of the recording industry. "That's The Way Of The World" starred Earth Wind & Fire as "The Group," a new recording act. In the film, Harvey Keitel hears "The Group" performing, and produces their first album. The film's title is repeated throughout the film as a shrug of the shoulders to the music world. Earth Wind & Fire performed the songs in the film, and Maurice had a small speaking part as leader of "The Group."

Though the film was not a success, the song "Shining Star" became a huge mainstream hit and helped launched the band's career. It was the first time that the band could afford a full horn section. This album also included the hit songs "Reasons," "Happy Feeling," and "All About Love," which received constant radio airplay on R&B stations.

Many of the early hits came from long years of touring and soundchecks, and improvisation. Their second song to reach the pop Top 10, "Sing a Song" (Columbia 10251), found its genesis in a soundcheck.

Younger brother Fred White (whose Chicago background had included playing local clubs as a drummer with Donny Hathaway, later playing with Little Feat) joined the group and after returning from their first European dates with Santana, CBS wanted another album. Also at that time Ralph Johnson turned to vocals.

EWF's June '75 sessions produced "Sing A Song" and "Can't Hide Love," the latter written by Clarence "Skip" Scarborough, who wrote or co-wrote many of EWF's biggest hits. These songs helped take "Gratitude," which was a double set LP comprised mostly of live concert material from the "That's the Way Of The World" tour, to a double-platinum status, an unheralded occurrence for any black group of the day; for the first time, the group's horn section (Don Myrick and Louis Satterfield, both from Maurice's Chicago session dates, and Michael Harris), which had become an integral part of the EWF sound, was credited on disc. Aside from his EWF duties, Maurice created and developed Kalimba Productions and had signed two acts - vocalist Deniece Williams, (White produced Top 10 hits like "Free" and "It's Gonna Take A Miracle" for Williams) a former member of Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove backup group. Another track Maurice produced for the r&b group The Emotions, who had a run of hits with Volt Records from 1969 to 1974, was the track "Best Of My Love," which went to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts.

Earth Wind & Fire released "Spirit" in October 1976; and had hits with singles such as "Getaway", which actually came from outside the group. Verdine White heard "Getaway" for the first time from someone who was producing Bobbi Humphrey. He thought the song would be a good for EWF, and took it into the studio, recorded it, and it became a hit.

In 1976, after helping co-produce and arrange Earth Wind & Fire's Spirit album, Deniece Williams' "This is Niecy" album, and The Emotions debut album "Flowers", producer and songwriter Charles Stepney died of a heart attack at the age of 45. White took over the production duties of Kalimba Productions for EWF.

Their concerts during this time were loaded with pyrotechnics, magic, laser lights, flying pyramids and levitating guitarists. Magician Doug Henning directed many of their tours throughout the 1970s, and the band included Larry Dunn (keyboards), Al McKay (guitar, sitar), Fred White (drums) and Andrew Woolfolk (sax, flute).

In November 1977, the group released another album, "All 'N All". With its mystical cover and replete with songs with metaphysical themes ("Jupiter", "Fantasy" and "Be Ever Wonderful"), All'n All became the group's fifth successive double-platinum album.

Back on the road, EWF were wowing increasingly larger audiences with their spectacular stage show, featuring elaborate production tricks that included the entire group ascending in a pyramid and a disappearing act which saw EWF literally vanishing from sight.

Maurice White in the midst of this started to put on the tour some of the acts that he was also producing at the time, such as The Emotions, Deneice Williams and Ramsey Lewis.

1978 marked the year wherein EWF picked up three Grammy Awards, the third for their version of The Beatles "Got To Get You Into My Life", featured (as were the group) in the movie, "Sgt.Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band". The film itself was a commercial bomb, and although the soundtrack shipped triple platinum, allegedly it was returned triple platinum. It was also the year that Maurice and managers Cavallo and Ruffalo worked out a deal for the launch of ARC (The American Recording Company) to be distributed through CBS and the creation of two recording studios, George Massenburg/ARC in West Los Angeles, and The Complex in Los Angeles. The year ended with another hit single, "September" (sometimes called 'Dancing in September"), an additional track added to their first of two Greatest Hits albums, "The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire (Volume 1)", released four days prior to Thanksgiving (November 23, 1978), which inevitably reached double-platinum status.

Also Bobby Harris of the Dazz Band at this time requested and got Philip Bailey, the vocalist of Earth, Wind & Fire, to produce the group's first album, "Kinsman Dazz". Bailey would co-produce the second album, "Dazz", and had a major input into the group's vocal arrangements. In 1979, the band performed "September" at the Music for UNICEF Concert, broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly for NBC. They donated their royalties from the song to UNICEF.

1979 saw the release of "I Am", the group's ninth album (the seventh for Columbia, and the second to be distributed by ARC). Songs from the album included "In the Stone", "Can't Let Go", and the much-anticipated sad ballad "After the Love Has Gone", which has cracked the number 2 spot on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts.

A good portion of 1979 was spend overseas headlining shows in Europe and Japan. Mid-'79 saw EWF topping the dance music charts with "Boogie Wonderland", produced by Maurice and Al McKay, and featuring The Emotions. Verdine White claims that "Boogie Wonderland" really was capturing the tail end of the disco era.

Maurice loaned Earth Wind & Fire's signature Phenix Horns - Don Myrick on saxophone, Louis Satterfield on trombone, Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris on trumpets - to his other production projects, the Emotions, Ramsey Lewis and Deniece Williams. In the eighties, Phil Collins came in contact with EWF's horn section, and worked on Genesis songs like "No Reply At All" and "Paperlate," and on his solo hits like "I Missed Again" and "Sussudio".

The double-album "Faces", the group's tenth album (the eighth for Columbia, the third distributed ARC release, and the first double LP since late 1975's "Gratitude") was released in October 1980 and went gold. After the release of this album longtime rhythm guitarist Al McKay left the band to pursue production interests and was replaced by returning electric guitarist Roland Bautista, giving the band a bit of a hard rock feel (compared to McKay).

"Raise!", EWF's eleventh album (the ninth for Columbia and the fourth and final ARC release before ARC close shop in 1982 due to very low record sales), released in the fall of 1981 featured their hit single "Let's Groove", and the Grammy Award-winning "I Wanna Be With You". "Raise!" went double platinum. "Powerlight" was released in early 1983 and included the hit singles "Fall In Love With Me," and "Side By Side." "Powerlight" went gold. Also In 1983, Earth, Wind & Fire contributed the song "Dance, Dance, Dance" to the soundtrack of the animated film "Rock & Rule". White disbanded Earth, Wind & Fire in 1983 after the synthesized "Electric Universe" was released in late 1983 to poor sales and reviews. Maurice White attributes the album's lack of success to its release so quickly after "Powerlight." It was their last release for four years.

During the hiatus, Philip Bailey released his second solo album, "Chinese Wall". While it was not his first solo album (Bailey recorded a series of gospel LP's for the Myrrh and Word labels), it was his most successful. The first single from that album, a duet with Phil Collins called "Easy Lover" went gold, and the music video of Bailey and Collins rehearsing their collaboration hit #1 on MTV's video playlist. Meanwhile, during the hiatus, Verdine White worked behind the scenes, writing and directing videos. He produced a Level 42 album, and promoted go-go bands like Trouble Funk and E.U..

Post-Columbia (1987-present)

In 1987, CBS Records convinced Philip Bailey and Maurice White that a reunion of Earth Wind & Fire would be beneficial for all parties. All but Al McKay, Larry Dunn, Freddie White, Johnny Graham, and Roland Bautista would return. New to the group was guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds. Their comeback hit, "System of Survival" [#1 on the Billboard R&B charts] , was penned by a then-unknown songwriter, Skylark. A 1987 Earth, Wind & Fire reunion (featuring new member, lead and rhythm guitarist Sheldon Reynolds) brought about the double-platinum album "Touch the World", an album that brought forth the aforementioned number one R&B and dance hit "System Of Survival," and another R&B and dance hit "Thinking Of You".

The band continued to release new albums, including 1988's "The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol II" featuring one new track "Turn On The Beat Box", Their final Columbia album 1990's "Heritage" and the Warner Brothers release 1993's "Millennium". The song "Sunday Morning" from "Millennium" was nominated for a Grammy Award.

On July 30, 1993, saxophonist Don Myrick was fatally shot by the Los Angeles Police Department in a case of mistaken identity. Five years later, Maurice White announced that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. On October 13th 1993 former Earth, Wind & Fire member from 1970-1972 Wade Flemons died in Battle Creek, Michigan.

On September 15th, 1995, Earth, Wind & Fire was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame. All the original members of the group showed up -- including the group's founder Maurice White. He attributed EWF's success to the support of their fans. During this time, Maurice White retired from touring with the band to pursue more production responsibilities and to concentrate on producing and developing new Earth, Wind & Fire recordings. "In The Name of Love" was released in 1997 on Pyramid Records. EWF were the special musical guests in Washington, D.C. June 20, 2000 at a White House state dinner. The event, which was held in a tent on the White House lawn, was honoring His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco. The band was first contacted just a week before the show by White House staff, and they quickly agreed to do the show. The entire group flew to Washington June 19. Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. In addition, Earth, Wind & Fire were inducted into Hollywood's RockWalk on Monday, July 7, 2003.

Maurice White released two new Earth, Wind & Fire albums on his own label, Kalimba Records, in 2002: "Live In Rio", a live album from the 1980 tour, and "The Promise" in 2003, the band's first studio album in six years. "The Promise" received good reviews upon its release, and was first issued in the United States and Japan; it was issued in Europe in early 2004. "The Promise" included strong songs reminiscent of classic EW&F such as the kalimba-laden track "All In The Way, Betcha', She Waits" and two previously unreleased songs from the "I Am" sessions "Where Do We Go From Here" and "Dirty".

Illumination (2004-present)

In the summer of 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire signed an exclusive record deal with Sanctuary Urban Records Group, owned by Mathew Knowles, father and manager of rhythm and blues musician Beyoncé. The album "Illumination", the band's 23rd, was released September 20, 2005. The album's first single was the Grammy Award-nominated "Show Me the Way", featuring Raphael Saadiq. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2005.

EWF was nominated for a Soul Train Music Award in the category R&B-soul album, group, band or duo for the album Illumination.

On September 18, 2005, they performed their hit "September" (along with the Black Eyed Peas) as part of an opening act showing memorable television moments from the 2004-2005 season for the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on CBS. On September 27, 2005, trombonist Louis Satterfield died.

And for the past two years, EWF has been touring in a wildly successful double bill with the band Chicago for unforgettable evenings in which both bands play separately, then come together for a grand finale switching off on each other's tunes. Philip's live lead on Chicago's classic ballad "If You Leave Me Now" was so sweet, it was added as an enticing bonus to Chicago's 2005 Love Songs compilation.

For the 2005 holiday season as part of Target Corporation's advertising, they recorded a song titled after Target's slogan, "Gather Round". David Foster and Earth Wind & Fire have recorded "Gather 'Round". The track, which is written by David Foster, Maurice White and Philip Bailey and is produced and arranged by Foster.

In March 2007, Maurice was the executive producer of a project entitled "Interpretations-Celebrating the Music Of Earth, Wind & Fire". It featured some of the hits of EWF performed by artists such as Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, Lalah Hathaway, Mint Condition and Meshell Ndegeocello.

On April 25th 2007, the band was the opening act for the highly touted and publicized special edition of the reality TV series "American Idol", "Idol Gives Back". EWF played a medley of their top hits.

On December 11th 2007, the band's live performance (along with the performances of a variety of other artists) at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway , was broadcasted to over 100 countries. [cite web|url=|title=Nobel Peace Prize Concert 2007|accessdate=2007-12-11|]

Earth, Wind and Fire successfully played in the Viña del Mar Festival, in Viña del Mar, Chile the opening night on February 20th 2008, where the public awarded them with the "Gaviota de Plata" (Silver Seagull), the biggest award people can give to an artist.

On May 18th, 2008 Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey and Verdine White each received an honorary doctorate degree from the Arts and Media College at Columbia College Chicago during the 2008 commencement exercises. Verdine and Philip both gave remarks during the ceremony which was followed by an impromptu performance by all four.


Top Ten singles

The following singles reached the Top Ten on either the United States Billboard Hot 100 pop singles chart or the United Kingdom UK Singles Chart.

*1975: "Shining Star" (US #1)
*1975: "Sing a Song" (US #5)
*1978: "Got to Get You into My Life" (US #9)
*1978: "September" (US #8; UK #3)
*1979: "Boogie Wonderland" ("featuring The Emotions") (US #6; UK #4)
*1979: "After the Love Has Gone"(US #2; UK #4)
*1981: "Let's Groove" (US #3; UK #3)

Top Ten albums

The following albums reached the Top Ten on either the United States Billboard 200 pop albums chart or the United Kingdom UK Albums Chart.
*1975: "That's the Way of the World" (US #1)
*1975: "Gratitude" (US #1)
*1976: "Spirit" (US #2)
*1977: "All 'N All" (US #3)
*1978: "The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1" (US #6; UK #6)
*1979: "I Am" (US #3; UK #5)
*1980: "Faces" (US #10; UK #10)
*1981: "Raise!" (US #5)
*1986: "The Collection" (UK #5)


ee also

*Best selling music artists
*List of number-one hits (United States)
*List of artists who reached number one on the Hot 100 (U.S.)
*List of number-one dance hits (United States)
*List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Dance chart

External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Official fan site]
* [ Philip Bailey's official website]
* [ Verdine White official website]
* [ Official EWF Myspace page]
* [ ASCAP]
* [ Grammy info]
* [ The surfers' guide to EWF]
* [ Hot Feet, the Broadway musical]
* [ 'Earth, Wind and Fire' Vocal Group Hall of Fame Page]
* [ Video performances of on]
* [ Earth Wind and Fire biography and updates at Soul Tracks]
* [ Earth Wind and Fire covered] by Awaken. [ [ the surfer's guide to EWF - Who covered what? ] ]
* [ Earth, Wind, and Fire Legacy Recordings Page]

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