“Cosmic consciousness is the key component of our work,” Maurice White once explained in an interview. In the early 1970s, Earth, Wind and Fire’s mastermind had a vision of creating a new, global sound with a mystical root that would inspire people. ““Being joyful and positive was the whole objective of our group. I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness and I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners spiritual content.” White died last night in his sleep.
While working with legendary jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, he discovered the African thumb piano, the kalimba, an instrument whose hypnotic sound would become an essential ingredient in much of Earth, Wind and Fire’s music.
Interested in combining elements of jazz, rock, and soul to create a widely appealing, universal sound, White formed Earth, Wind & Fire, choosing the name after the three primary elements in his astrological chart
Channeling funk grooves blazed by James Brown, the progressive vision of Sly Stone, and the improvisatory spirit of jazz fusion bands, EW&F changed the face of popular music – leading Miles Davis to call them his favorite band. With their trademark horns, smooth, layered vocals, Philp Bailey’s extraordinary soaring falsetto, hook-laden melodies and intricate arrangements, they became an unbeatable force.
“We just mixed a little of this and that, appreciating all different forms of music,” Maurice’s brother Verdine White explained on Maui. “Our intention was just to make good music with good lyrics, and be the best we could be.”
Their irresistible hit singles included “That’s the Way of the World,” “Shining Star,” “Can’t Hide Love,” “Gratitude,” “Fantasy,” “Getaway,” “September,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “After the Love Has Gone,” and “Let’s Groove.” Besides creating impossibly catchy original material they could take a Beatles’ song like “Got to Get You Into My Life” and make it uniquely their own. The band contributed this exuberant cover to a film version of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“When I ran into George Harrison years later he thought that was the best version he had ever heard,” White said. “It was the biggest song on the movie. We had the only number one record out of the Bee Gees and Aerosmith and everybody.”
“I think one of the beautiful things about Earth, Wind and Fire is that the choices we’ve made to lyrically sing messages that were positive and uplifting and that several generations can sing and enjoy,” Phillip Bailey recalled in an interview before a Maui concert. “It is something that we will always look to as being very proud that we made that choice, because it’s really redemptive in terms of when we look at our legacy. It’s something we can look back and say that was a good decision to follow our hearts and say what was on our hearts that was uplifting and brought some life.”
Earth Wind & Fire will receive a Lifetime achievement award at the 2016 Grammys in Los Angeles on February 15.
“You’re a shining star, no matter who you are, Shining bright to see what you can truly be.”
“You will find peace of mind If you look way down in your heart and soul, Don’t hesitate ‘cause the world seems cold, Stay young at heart ‘cause you’re never, never old at heart.”