Earth, Wind & Fire

  • R&B, soul, funk and disco band formed in 1970, from Chicago Illinois. There have been over 50 members of the group over the years. Members during their peak success in the 70s were Maurice White (vocals, percussion), Verdine White (bass guitar, vocals, Maurice’s brother), Philip Bailey (vocals, percussion), Larry Dunn (keyboards, musical director), Ralph Johnson (drums, percussion, vocals), Johnny Graham (lead/rhythm guitar, trumpet), Al McKay (lead/rhythm guitar, vocals), Andrew Woolfolk (flute, saxophone), and Fred White (drums, percussion). Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson continue to perform with the band today. Maurice White performed until his death in 2016.
  • In addition to these members, the band included a horn section. Initially, they were separate from the group – from 1975 to 1983, they were called Phenix Horns. From 1987 to the present, they are considered part of the group and they are called Earth, Wind & Fire Horns. The horns are a saxophone, trombone and trumpet. The Phenix Horns also performed with  Genesis and for Phil Collins.
  • Maurice White had 2 friends in Chicago, and in 1969 they worked together to write songs and jingles. They got a recording contract, calling themselves The Salty Peppers. They released 2 minor singles. White moved to Los Angeles, and started adding musicians to the band. Demo tapes were sent to record companies, and they were signed to a new contract. He changed the name of the group to Earth, Wind & Fire, based on his astrological sign Sagittarius, which has a primary elemental quality of Fire, and seasonal qualities of Earth and Air. There were 10 members in the original band.
  • Their first album was the self titled Earth, Wind & Fire, released in 1971. A second album was released that same year – The Need of Love. They were well received by critics, though sales were modest. Two singles charted on the R&B chart – Love is Life, and I Think About Lovin’ You. 
  • The band broke up in 1972, as the members were not generating the success that they had hoped for. With only Maurice and Verdine remaining, they recruited all new musicians. After a performance in New York, an executive at another record company was impressed and bought out their contract. In 1972, they released Last Days and Time with the new label, but they still hadn’t made a hit.
  • The next 2 albums showed growing momentum – Head to the Sky and Open Our Eyes in 1973 and 1974 both sold over 1 million records, and peaked at #2 and #1 on the R&B chart. Singles from these albums charted higher than their earlier singles, but still were not major hits – Mighty Mighty was the most successful, reaching #4 on the R&B chart and #29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
  • Their breakthrough came with 1975’s That’s the Way of the World. It went triple platinum and peaked at the top of the Billboard 200 album chart. It contained their mega hit Shining Star. The song won a Grammy award, and both the song and the album were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
  • This led to a string of 3 albums from 1976 to 1979 that all went multi-platinum, reaching #2 or #3 on the Billboard album chart. Top 10 songs from these albums include Sing a Song, Got To Get You Into My Life, September, Boogie Wonderland, and After the Love Has Gone (these last 2 both won Grammy awards).  
  • From 1980 to the present, 12 more studio albums were released, as well as 2 live albums and numerous compilations. Their music in the 80s had more of an electronic sound. Several songs reached top 5 on the R&B charts in the 80s – Let’s Groove, Fall In Love With Me, System of Survival, and Thinking of You. Another song – Wanna Be With You – won a Grammy award for Best R&B Vocal Performance in 1980.
  • The band continues to be successful in live performances. They performed at the 2005 Super Bowl pregame show. They performed at a White House State dinner in 2000, and they impressed the king of Morocco so much, that the king asked them to perform in Morocco at his birthday party later that year.
  • In 2000, Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. They received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.
  • EW&F is a great band. They are the ultimate 70s funk! And the horns! There have been many comparisons with the horn section from the band Chicago. Chicago and Earth, Wind & Fire toured together for several years in the 00s. Here’s a clip of the two bands playing Shining Star together. These artists – from both groups – are so so great!

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