I woke up this morning feeling blessed. I said a prayer of thanks to the Most High; and then went into the kitchen to start cooking my Sunday dinner. Yeah. I cook early. Sunday dinner is holy to my family and it’s never neglected. Anyway…I had to leave out to run errands around 9:45 a.m. and I was greeted by a beautiful sun. At a little before noon, I got on the computer and checked in to all of my social media hang out spots. While I do this, typically, I love to listen to my music on Spotify. Today, Earth Wind & Fire is my choice–and it is taking me back, back, back, to a time when music mattered.
The music really had me reminiscing about memories revisited. Going all the way back in time to when I remember everything that would make me the person I have become today. One of my favorite memories is this one: while visiting a neighbor/friend, Adrianne one afternoon, two of her older sisters had went to an Earth Wind & Fire concert and both just couldn’t hush up about and raved about how great they were. They were so excited. We both looked at them as if they were crazy–we were just little kids. Her sister, Gloria, pulled out album–and I saw this staring back at me:
8 dudes who looked way to old for a 5 year old to care anything about…but it had my attention. This was the cover to Earth Wind & Fire’s, Open Our Eyes album. Gloria couldn’t wait to play it. She hopped around, doing dance steps as she bopped her way to the record player. She put in the album. I grabbed the album cover and studied the faces a bit more…as Adrianne and I waited for the music to play. I liked the guy on the far left; he was kind of cute I thought. Adrianne didn’t say anything. Well, the music played. And from the first track (MIghty Mighty) of that album, I was hooked. I really don’t know what happened, but the music grabbed me. Devotion just took me away–to a place far away…where nothing else mattered but the feeling of the moment you had been captured in. Every year of my life, I can literally remember an EWF song. The hits just kept coming.
And just who was this band? Where did they come from? No one looked liked them or sounded like them. They were, precisely, Philip Bailey (vocals, percussion; born May 8, 1951); Larry Dunn (keyboards; born June 19, 1953); Johnny Graham (guitar; born August 3, 1951); Ralph Johnson (drums; born July 4, 1951); Al McKay (guitar, percussion; born February 2, 1948); Fred White (drums; born January 13, 1955); Maurice White (vocals, kalimba, drums; born December 19, 1941); Verdine White (bass; born July 25, 1951); Andrew Woolfolk (sax, flute; born October 11, 1950). Brought together by the creator to illuminate the cosmos with music obviously sent to them from some far way galaxy with the intent to uplift the spirits and minds of the masses.
“Earth, Wind and Fire drew from various streams of black music, synthesizing soul, funk, R&B, pop, gospel and African styles into a polished, precision-tooled approach. During the latter half of the Seventies, the band issued a string of albums that changed the face of black popular music, linking thrilling music with uplifting messages of racial pride, African consciousness and spiritual unity. A large and visually resplendent ensemble, its members often wore colorful African robes. The group was known for employing magic tricks (often directed by the late Doug Henning) in their elaborate late-Seventies stage shows. Even so, the anthemic power of “Shining Star,” “Serpentine Fire,” “Getaway” and numerous other crossover hits proved that Earth, Wind and Fire’s music could stand on its own.
“The group was founded by Memphis-born Maurice White. His father was a doctor, and his grandfather was a New Orleans honky-tonk piano player. White studied at the Chicago Conservatory, then became a session drummer with Chess Record from 1963 to 1967. He recorded with Muddy Waters, the Impressions and Fontella Bass, among others. After leaving Chess, he played with the Ramsey Lewis Trio, from 1967 to 1969. He then formed a band called the Salty Peppers with Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead. They signed with Capitol Records and released two singles: “La La Time” and “Uh Huh Yeah.”
“White then moved to Los Angeles and invited his brother Verdine, who played bass, to join him in L.A. In 1971, they formed Earth, Wind and Fire. The name was derived from Maurice White’s astrological sign, Sagittarius, which does not have any water signs. The group’s original lineup included Maurice on vocals, African kalimba and drums; Verdine on bass; Whitehead on keyboards; Flemons on electric piano; Michael Beale on guitar; Phillard Williams on percussion; Sherry Scott on vocals, and Chester Washington and Leslie Drayton on horns. The band signed with Warner Bros. Records and released its first album, Earth, Wind and Fire, in February 1971. That November, the band released another album, The Need of Love.
“After that second album, Maurice White reconstituted the band, retaining only Verdine from the original lineup. The group also left Warner Bros. and signed with Columbia Records. Earth, Wind and Fire’s second Columbia album, Head to the Sky, came out in 1973. It reached Number 15 the following year, and included two hit singles, “Evil” and “Keep Your Head to the Sky.” Then, in 1975, the group released what would become its breakthrough album, That’s the Way of the World, which yielded “Shining Star,” a Grammy Award-winning Number One hit on both the pop and R&B charts. Earth, Wind and Fire’s conquest of the Seventies continued with an unbroken run of multiplatinum albums: Gratitude (1975), Spirit (1976),All ‘n All (1977), The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978) and I Am (1979).
“Over the years, Earth, Wind and Fire has won numerous awards and honors. The band has been nominated for 17 Grammys and has won six; it has been nominated for 12 American Music Awards and has won four. In 2002, the group won the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and the following year, the band was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. In 2011, Earth, Wind and Fire received the Legend Award at the Soul Train awards show, and Maurice White and Philip Bailey have received honorary doctorates from the Berkley College of Music.”
Today, Earth Wind and Fire have changed faces but the original band definitely made a mark on myself, and Black music forever.
Now, take some time to listen to what I already know…