Featuring Earth, Wind & Fire
The above LP cover depicts the explicit, Afrocentric-era of the music being written and recorded by the amazing artists named Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF).
By Timothy Cox
Editor ‘n Chief
Seventies Soul Report
BALTIMORE/WASHINGTON, D.C. —
With his roots deeply engrained in the soulful hallowed grounds of Memphis, Tennesee, Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) founder Maurice White laid the foundation to create what is arguably the most popular live band in Black America’s history.
Of course the mighty live bands led by funk pioneer James Brown, along with New Jersey-based funkateering joints of the great George Clinton, Kool & The Gang and the New York sounds of Larry Blackmon and Cameo, are also held in very high esteem. But still, most professional African-Americn musicians and musicologists from the ‘70s era, typically place EWF at the top of the heap, when it comes to providing original music that easily appealed to the likes of a new generation of 1970s soul music lovers, mainly because of their effective ability to blend the best elements of jazz, pop, funk, soul, rock, Afro-Cuban, blues and even gospel and later, hip-hop – woven into a special mixture that became unmistakenly the EWF sound. Personally, although the group formed in Chicago in 1969, for me, it was the ground-breaking 1972 release known as ‘Last Days And Time’ which did it for me. As a 10th grader at Beaver Falls High School (Pa.), I joined the Broadcast Club – responsible for school morning news and announcements. Me, being such an EWF fan, I would intoduce the news items by playing tunes like “Remember the Children” and EWF’s Peter, Paul and Mary cover, “Where Have All The Flowers Gone” and even the instrumental cut featuring jazz saxman Ronnie Laws, known as “Power.” As a youngster, I figured my musical taste was so very high-arching that I “felt the need” to turn the entire student body onto EWF. In retrospect, it was probably a bold power move, but come to think of it, based on the eventual success that EWF would achieve by the end of the 70s decade – you may say I did the right thing by “turning the student body onto Earth, Wind and Fire.” It tickles me however, when I think about how assured I was when it came to promoting the new sounds of Maurice White and his latest version of his super band.
Philip Baily, Maurice White, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Andrew Woofolk, Al McKay, Johnny Graham, Larry Dunn and the youngest White brother, Freddie White – were a calcavade of budding soul music legends. Roland Bautista and female members Sherry Scott and Jessica Cleaves were also important EWF members, although they seldom get the acclaim that’s rightfully due to them.
I recently learned that another White brother, Monte White, served as the band’s marketing director/manager for at least ten years of their successful touring years.
I could go on and on – but real EWF fans know the story. They know about producer Charles Stepney and the Phenix Horns featuring Rahamlee Michael Davis, Donald Myrick, Louis Satterfield and Michael Harris. Then there was Kalimba Productions, behind the likes of solo projects featuring June Deniece Williams, The Emotions, Ramsey Lewis, and the Pockets Band featuring the Grainger Brothers of Baltimore. And EWF’s live shows were legendary. The 1976 release simply known as ‘Gratitude’ captured the essence of their high-caliber live musicianship. During the summers of 1975 and 1976, I got a chance to see the band four times during that short span. The first time was summer 1975, at the Blossom Music Center in Akron, Ohio – I was 16, and sitting on the hill – in the grass, amongst the aroma from the other grass (pardon the pun), but those smells and aromas did not pose any type of obstacles for me, as it probably would today, some 46 years later. I also caught the band at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena, twice, once with Rufus and a young Chicago singer named Chaka Khan as the opening act. Whatta show that was. But for Maurice White, he seemed to impart a continous Chicago flavor into the EWF fold. His former mentor, Ramsey Lewis, once opened for the group. And, I was privy to Ramsay’s opening performance, again, at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena.
Bottomline – if any band deserves to be honored during Black Music History Month June 2021, it is Earth, Wind & Fire.
Oh no – We Shall Never forget the Historical Impact of Earth, Wind Fire.
The epic EWF 1972 release ‘Last Days & Time’
Maurice White always realized the vision he had for blending jazz with funk, soul and Afro-Cuban rhythms. It all came together by 1972.
Maurice White was always the Visionary and Founder of EWF.
Drummer Freddie White (center/top) became a significant new addition to his big brother’s creation.
1969: Before Maurice White employed the use of Denver-based musicians like Philip Bailey, Larry Dunn and Andrew Woolfolk, his 1969 version included some of his older Chicago homeys. The switch to younger cats from Colorado, including his younger brothers on bass and drums, proved to be a successful musical transition for historical longevity.
Always a nine-member conglomerate, when the 4-member Phenix Horns joined the group onstage, EWF had the look and sound of a super-band of talented, funky soul brothers.
TODAY’S EWF FEATURES (L-R) PHILIP BAILEY, RALPH JOHNSON AND VERDINE “DEEN” WHITE.