All data and information provided on this site is for informational purposes only. Blaxploitationpride.org makes no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Legendary Group: Earth, Wind, and Fire


The band, at various times, comprised of:
  • Maurice White (b. 19th December 1941, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A., drums)
  • Verdine White (b. 25th July 1951, Illinois, U.S.A., bass)
  • Philip Bailey (b. 8th May 1951, Denver, Colorado, U.S.A., vocals)
  • Ronnie Laws (b. 3rd October 1950, Houston, Texas, U.S.A., saxophone, guitar)
  • Larry Dunn (b. Lawrence Dunhill, 19th June 1953, Colorado, U.S.A., keyboards)
  • Michael Beale (guitar)
  • Wade Flernmons (vocals)
  • Jessica Cleaves (b. 1948, vocals)
  • Roland Bautista (guitar)
  • Sherry Scott (vocals)
  • Alex Thomas (trombone)
  • Chet Washington (tenor saxophone)
  • Don Whitehead (keyboards)
  • Yackov Ben Israel (percussion)

Earth Wind & Fire were formed in 1969 in Chicago, Illinois, by Maurice White. Maurice was singing gospel by the age of six and at the age of eleven he took up drums and formed a band with schoolmate Booker T. Jones. In 1960, he relocated to Chicago and studied music composition and percussion at Roosevelt University. He had the intention at the time of becoming a music teacher.


Maurice used to record, between 1963 and 1965, for the Chess Imprint, where he worked alongside Fontella Bass, Betty Everett, Jackie Wilson, Billy Stewart, the Radiants, the Dells, Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions and Etta James. In 1967, at the age of 22, he'd replaced Red Holt in the the Ramsey Lewis Trio. Ramsey introduced Maurice to the kalimba, an African thumb piano that would prove to play a large part in his future ventures.

By 1969, he had left Ramsey's ranks and began a songwriting partnership with keyboardist Don Whitehead and singer Wade Flemons. This collaboration led to the formation of the Salty Peppers, who signed to the Capitol imprint and had a hit with the song 'La La Time.'The group also released the single 'Love Is Life' and had another small hit with the song.


Maurice left the group and then relocated to Los Angeles. It was here that he decided to form the group Earth, Wind and Fire, named after three of the elements in his personal astrological chart. Maurice's brother, Verdine, was asked to join the group in 1970, alongside Don Whitehead, Wade Flemons, female singer Sherry Scott, guitarist Michael Beal, tenor saxophonist Chet Washington, trombonist Alex Thomas, and percussionist Yackov Ben Israel.


Earth, Wind and Fire signed to the Warner Brothers imprint and released their first, self titled, album in 1970. In 1971, a second album was released, entitled 'The Need Of Love'. They also performed on the Melvin Van Peebles film 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song'. The group's line-up changed, due to a lack of commercial success, in 1972 and a new line up formed consisting of female vocalist Jessica Cleaves, flute / sax player Ronnie Laws, guitarist Roland Bautista, keyboardist Larry Dunn, and percussionist Ralph Johnson. Philip Bailey also joined via a Denver R & B band called Friends & Love. The group opened for the singer John Sebastian in New York, which led to Clive Davis signing them to CBS.

Their first album was released for the label in 1972, entitled 'Last Days and Time'. By the end of 1972, Ronnie Laws and Roland Bautista had departed. They were replaced by Andrew Woolfolk and guitarists Al McKay and Johnny Graham. In 1973, the group released 'Head To The Sky', which was followed a year later by the album 'Open Our Eyes', which contained the popular song, 'Devotion'. This was the group's first collaboration with producer, arranger, and songwriter Charles Stepney.


Maurice's brother Fred White was enlisted as a second drummer. The single 'Mighty, Mighty' became Earth, Wind and Fire's first Top Ten hit on the R & B charts. 'Open Our Eyes' additionally, went gold. By 1975, Earth, Wind and Fire completed work on another movie soundtrack, entitled 'That's The Way Of The World'. The album stood up in it's own right, with the movie almost an after thought. 'Shining Star' went to the top of the R & B charts. The title track has become a Soul Classic in recent decades, with the album winning a Grammy for Best R & B Vocal Performance by a Group.


'That's The Way Of The World' reached the number one slot on both the pop and R & B charts and went double platinum. The song 'Reasons' showcased Philip Bailey's vocal dynamics, whilst the track 'See The Light' found favour with the Jazz Funk following (the song being covered by the fusion artist Eddie Russ). That album financed Maurice's further live developments which included stage stunts designed by the magician Doug Henning.

Earth, Wind and Fire employed a horn section, the Phoenix Horns, headed by saxophonist Don Myrick. 'Gratitude' followed later that year, an album of mainly live material, however one side of studio tracks proved immensly popular amongst Soul purists, especially the song 'Can't Hide Love', a track later to grace the dancefloors of the U.K. via a version by the jazz artist Jimmy Smith in 1977. 'Sing a Song', from that album, reached the pop Top Ten and the R & B Top Five.

During the 1976 sessions for Earth, Wind and Fire's next studio album entitled 'Spirit', Charles Stepney died suddenly of a heart attack. Maurice White took over the arrangments for the album, posthumously. The Charles Stepney produced 'Getaway' reached the top of the R & B charts, and the song was utilised by the BBC as part of the companies segue's between programmes that year. 'Spirit' was successful on the charts, reaching the number two spot.


Maurice took on further musical commitments, including work for the group the Emotions ('Flowers' and 'The Best Of My Love'), Pockets, Ramsey Lewis and kick starting Deneice Williams solo career via her successful album 'This Is Niecy' that year. The following year, the group began an incredible run of chart success via the album 'All N' All'. Maurice achieved massive success via the Earth, Wind and Fire songs 'Fantasy' and 'Serpentine Fire' alongside a number one single with, the Emotions song, 'Best Of My Love'. By 1978, he had formed his own label, ARC, and appeared in the film version of 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band', with the group delivering their take on 'Got To Get You Into My Life', a version of the Beatles tune, that made the Top Ten. That same year, 'The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1' produced another Top Ten hit (and R & B number one) with the new song, 'September'.

The group hit the top of the charts with the Emotions collaboration 'Boogie Wonderland'. 'After the Love Has Gone', featured on the album, has since become a Soul Classic. The following year, the success began to wane somewhat, however 'Faces', an experimental double album package, contained some very fine moments, including the title track, an epic of a Jazz Funk tune, and the song 'And Love Goes On', popular with the Soul Purists. After this release Al MacKay left the group.

'Raise' was released in 1981, an album that secured a top five hit with the song 'Let's Groove'. 'Powerlight' followed two years later which was considered a substandard offering by the critics. The Phoenix Horns then left the group and Earth, Wind and Fire released the album 'Electric Universe' later that year, following which, Maurice and the group went their seperate ways for a while. Verdine White became a producer and video director and Philip Bailey embarked on a solo career. He scored a one off number one single after joining forces with Phil Collins for the duet 'Easy Lover'. Phil Collins utilised the Phoenix Horns on some of his 80's records, both solo and then with his group Genesis. In 1985, Maurice White produced his own solo, self titled, album in between his outside productions.

The group were re-united in 1987 for the album 'Touch The World'. The latest line up included Maurice and Verdine alongside Philip Bailey, Andrew Woolfolk, Ralph Johnson, and new guitarist Sheldon Reynolds. Earth, Wind and Fire scored R & B hits with 'Thinking of You' and the number one song, 'System of Survival'. In 1990, 'Heritage' was released with guest appearances from Sly Stone and MC Hammer. The group then left the Columbia imprint.

Signing to the Reprise label, Earth, Wind and Fire released the album 'Millennium' in 1993. They achieved a Grammy nomination for the song 'Sunday Morning' and then tragedy struck that year when, one time horn leader, Don Myrick was murdered in Los Angeles. Philip Bailey and Maurice and Verdine White returned once again in 1997, on the independent Pyramid label, with the album 'In the Name of Love'. The track 'Cruisin' proved popular with soul fans. In the year 2000, it was announced that Maurice White had been diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease. Maurice continued to output product, producing a new project for a group called 'Xpression' entitled 'Power'. 'A return to the roots of soul' he commented on the sleevenotes.

In 2003, Earth, Wind and Fire released the album 'The Promise', a set that was perceived to be a fine return to form for the group some 35 years since their conception and featured a further collaboration with the group The Emotions, along with artistic input from Angie Stone. By 2005, a further set was released, entitled 'Illumination'. Maurice resides in Santa Monica today, is making a full recovery from his illness (according to reports), whilst Earth, Wind and Fire were, recently, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame.

************************************************************************************

Albums:

Compilations

Live Bootlegs

Solo albums



Resources

Visit Blaxpploitation Pride for information on your favorite blaxploitation movies and soundtracks.