Earth, Wind and Fire
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Earth, Wind and Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire
Earth, Wind & Fire (2).jpg
Earth, Wind & Fire performing in 2009
Background information
OriginChicago, Illinois, U.S.
LabelsWarner Bros., American Recording Company, Columbia, Legacy, Sanctuary
Ramsey Lewis, the Emotions, Phenix Horns, David Foster

Earth, Wind & Fire (abbreviated in initials as EWF or EW&F) is an American band that has spanned the musical genres of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, dance, Latin, and Afro pop.[1][2] They have been described as one of the most innovative and commercially successful acts of all time.[3][1][4]Rolling Stone called them "innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing" and declared that the band "changed the sound of black pop".[5]VH1 has also described EWF as "one of the greatest bands" of all time.[4]

The band was founded in Chicago by Maurice White in 1970, having grown out of a previous band known as the Salty Peppers.[6][7] Other prominent members of EWF have included Verdine White, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, Al McKay, Roland Bautista, Sheldon Reynolds and Andrew Woolfolk. The band has won six Grammys from their 17 nominations.[8] In addition, Earth, Wind & Fire has won 4 American Music Awards out of 12 nominations.[1] They have also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and sold over 90 million records, making them one of the world's best-selling bands of all time.[9][6][10]

EWF has been inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame and Hollywood's Rockwalk. The band have also been bestowed with a ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award, BET Lifetime Achievement Award and Soul Train Legend Award altogether.[1][11]

Earth, Wind & Fire is known for its horn section, kalimba sound, energetic and elaborate stage shows, and the contrast between Philip Bailey's falsetto vocals and Maurice White's baritone.[12] Of the band's songs two have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame being "That's the Way of the World" in 2004 and "Shining Star" in 2007. Earth, Wind & Fire also went on to be bestowed with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.[8][1]

Earth, Wind & Fire is the first African-American act to sell out Madison Square Garden and to receive the MSG Gold Ticket Award.[1] As well, the band went on to be bestowed with the 2012 Congressional Horizon Award.[13]


1969-1970: Beginnings

In 1969, Maurice White, a former session drummer for Chess Records and former member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team composing songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends eventually got a recording contract with Capitol Records. Calling themselves "The Salty Peppers" they went on to have a marginal hit single in the Midwestern area entitled "La La Time".[14][15]

The Salty Peppers' second single, "Uh Huh Yeah", did not fare as well. With this being so Maurice moved on from Chicago to Los Angeles. He then added to the band singer Sherry Scott[16] and percussionist Yackov Ben Israel, both from Chicago, and then asked his younger brother Verdine how he would feel about heading out to the West Coast. On June 6, 1970, Verdine left Chicago to join the band as their new bassist. Maurice began shopping demo tapes of the band, featuring Donny Hathaway, around to different record labels and the band was thus signed to Warner Bros. Records.[14][17]

1970-1973: Formation and early years

Maurice's astrological sign, Sagittarius, has a primary elemental quality of Fire and seasonal qualities of Earth and Air, according to classical triplicities. Sagittarius in the northern hemisphere occurs in the autumn, whose element is earth, and in the southern hemisphere, it is spring, whose element is air. Hence the omission of Water, the fourth classical element. Based on this, he changed the band's name, to "Earth, Wind & Fire". Maurice held further auditions in L.A. where he added Michael Beale on guitar, Chester Washington on reeds, and Leslie Drayton on trumpet. With Maurice as a percussionist and lead vocalist Drayton also served as the group's musical arranger. Trombonist Alex Thomas completed the then ten-man EWF lineup.[12][18][17][6]

The band's self-titled debut album, was eventually released in February 1971 on Warner Bros. The album got to No. 24 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart.[19][20]

EWF also performed on the soundtrack of the Melvin Van Peebles feature film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. The soundtrack was released in June 1971 on Stax Records and reached No. 13 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart.[21][22]

Within November 1971 EWF's sophomore album entitled The Need of Love was issued. The album got to No. 35 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart.[23][24]

The band developed a growing popularity on college campuses but, in spite of this, some members of EWF started to become restless and the band broke up after having been together less than six months. With only Verdine left, Maurice decided to re-form the group.

During 1972, Maurice went on to add vocalist Helena Davis, Ronnie Laws on the flute and saxophone, rhythm guitarist Roland Bautista, keyboardist Larry Dunn, vocalist Philip Bailey and percussionist Ralph Johnson to the group. Davis was soon replaced by Jessica Cleaves, a former member of the R&B group The Friends of Distinction.[12][17]

The band successfully auditioned for managers Bob Cavallo and Joe Ruffalo. Cavallo's management of John Sebastian led to a series of gigs as the opening act for the pop/folk singer and The Lovin' Spoonful founder. A performance at New York's Rockefeller Center introduced EWF to Clive Davis, then the President of Columbia Records. Davis was very impressed with the band's performance and bought out their contract from Warner Bros.[17][18]

Their debut album on CBS/Columbia Records, Last Days and Time was issued in October 1972. The album got to No. 15 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart. An album cut entitled "Mom" also got to No. 39 on the Cashbox Top R&B Singles chart.[25][26][27]

Soon thereafter Roland Bautista and Ronnie Laws left the band to pursue new musical opportunities[28][29] Denver native Philip Bailey recommended his former East High School classmate, saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk as a replacement for Laws. Woolfolk had been busy in New York studying sax with sax maestro Joe Henderson and was due to start a career in banking at the time. To fill the void created by Bautista's departure, guitarists Al McKay and Johnny Graham were added to round out the new lineup. Graham previously played with the R&B group New Birth while McKay was a former member of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band.[30][17]

EWF's fourth studio album Head to the Sky was released in May 1973. The album rose to Nos. 2 & 27 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively.[31][32][33] Head to the Sky has also been certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.[34]

An album cut entitled "Evil" got to No. 25 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.[35] Another single being "Keep Your Head to the Sky" rose to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.[36] Jessica Cleaves went on to leave the band after the release of this album.[31][37]

1974-1980: Classic period

The band's follow up album was co-produced by Maurice and Joe Wissert with Charles Stepney serving as an associate producer. Stepney had previously worked with artistes such as The Dells, The Rotary Connection, Terry Callier, Minnie Riperton, and Ramsey Lewis. This LP was recorded at Colorado's Caribou Ranch Studio and issued under the title of Open Our Eyes in March 1974.[15][38] The album rose to Nos. 1 & 15 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums and Top Pop Albums charts respectively.[39][40] Open Our Eyes was also certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

A song from the LP entitled "Mighty Mighty" reached Nos. 4 & 29 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.[41][42][43] An album cut called Kalimba Story also rose to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.[44][45] Another single being "Devotion" got to Nos. 23 & 33 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts altogether.

After Open Our Eyes was issued Maurice's younger brother, Fred White, joined the band.[46] Fred had played in Chicago clubs as a drummer with Donny Hathaway and Little Feat.[12] On April 6, 1974, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the California Jam, a West Coast rock festival that attracted an audience of 200,000. The concert went on to be televised in the US on May 10, 1974 by ABC.[47]

During September 1974 a compilation album entitled Another Time with songs from EWF's first two studio albums was released by Warner Bros. The album got to No. 29 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart.[48][49]

As well the band collaborated with Ramsey Lewis on his album Sun Goddess which was issued in late 1974 by Columbia. The album got to Nos. 1 & 12 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively.[50][51][52] Sun Goddess has also been certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

During 1975, Earth, Wind & Fire was approached by Sig Shore, producer of the motion picture Super Fly, to record the soundtrack to a new film entitled That's The Way Of The World. With a screenplay from Robert Lipsyte the movie was produced and directed by Shore. The film starred Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson, EWF as the "The Group" and Maurice as Early "The Group"'s leader. Keitel played the role of a record producer who hears "The Group" performing and becomes wowed by their act. He is though strongly urged to produce a less talented ensemble despite strides by him against such.[12][53]

When the band saw the film they were convinced that it'll become a box office bomb which it eventually was.[18] With this being so they released the movie's soundtrack before the film's premiere. Co-produced by Maurice White and Charles Stepney and recorded at the Caribou Ranch Studio, That's the Way of the World was issued in March 1975 by Columbia. The album went on to spend three weeks at number one on the Billboard Pop Albums Charts and five nonconsecutive weeks atop the Soul Albums chart respectively. That's the Way of the World was warmly received by critics. Billboard Magazine called the album "a very tightly produced and performed package." The BBC also described That's the Way of the World as a "soul masterpiece". With the LP EWF became the first black act to top both the Billboard album and singles charts. That's the Way of the World has also been certified triple platinum in the US by the RIAA.[54][55][56]

Off the LP came the single "Shining Star" which rose to number one on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts. Shining Star also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.[57][58][8] The album's "title track," also reached Nos. 5 & 12 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles and Hot 100 charts respectively.[59][60]

Because of the album's tremendous commercial success, the band was able to hire a full horn section, which was dubbed the Phenix Horns. The Phenix Horns, were composed of saxophonist Don Myrick, trombonist Louis Satterfield, alongside trumpeters Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris. Myrick and Satterfield had both worked with Maurice during his days as a session drummer at Chess Records.

Subsequent to EWF's first tour of Europe, where they opened for the rock band Santana, Columbia Records wanted another album released as soon as possible. As a result, EWF returned to the studio in June 1975 and from these recording sessions two singles - "Sing a Song" and "Can't Hide Love", the latter written by Clarence "Skip" Scarborough - were spawned.[17] These and other studio recordings were included, along with mostly live concert material from their 1974 and 1975 tours, on the double album Gratitude, released in late 1975. Gratitude rose to and stayed at number one on the pop and R&B charts for three weeks and six weeks respectively; it was also the second bestselling R&B album of 1976 and is certified triple Platinum for sales of over 3,000,000 copies in the US by the RIAA.[61][62]

The band was nominated for Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for the title track, "Gratitude." "Can't Hide Love" was also Grammy-nominated for Best Arrangement For Voices. Earth, Wind & Fire also won a Rock Music Award in the category of Best Soul Album for Gratitude and Down Beat magazine's Readers Poll for favorite Rock/Blues Group in 1975.[63][64]

Additionally, in 1975, Maurice established a production company called Kalimba Productions to which he signed artists such as his former bandleader Ramsey Lewis, singer Deniece Williams, who had once been a member of Stevie Wonder's "Wonderlove" backup group, and girl group The Emotions, who had a run of hits with Stax Records from 1969 to 1974. Maurice loaned the band's signature Phenix Horns and most of the other band members and put on tour with Earth, Wind & Fire these artists and others who were signed to Kalimba Productions.

While co-producing and arranging Earth, Wind & Fire's follow up LP, Deniece Williams's debut album, This Is Niecy, Ramsey Lewis's Salongo, and The Emotions's Flowers their first album on Columbia Records, Charles Stepney died of a heart attack on May 17, 1976 in Chicago at the age of 43. With Stepney's passing Maurice went on to solely produce the band's new LP, Spirit, which was issued in October 1976. With the album's title EWF paid tribute to Stepney.[65][66] The LP rose to No. 2 on both the Billboard Top Pop Albums and Top Soul Albums chart.[67][68] Spirit has also been certified double Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

A cut off the album called "Getaway" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.[69] The single also rose to No. 12 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance Club Play charts.[70][71] Another track entitled "Saturday Nite reached Nos. 4 & 21 on Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively.[72][73] "Saturday Nite" also rose to Nos. 12 & 17 on both the Billboard Dance Club Songs and UK Singles charts.[74][75]

During this period EWF concerts started to become loaded with pyrotechnics, magic, laser lights, flying pyramids, levitating guitarists and elaborate production tricks that included the entire group ascending in a pyramid and a disappearing act. The stage magician Doug Henning was thus with many of their tours with his young assistant and eventual successor, David Copperfield. The band also began to be choreographed by George Faison.[17][76]

In 1977, EWF released their album All 'n All. The album was a hit reaching triple platinum status and spawned the hit singles "I'll Write a Song For You," "Serpentine Fire," "Love's Holiday," and "Fantasy." The album was inspired by Maurice White's month long trip through Argentina and Brazil. The album went on to win two Grammy awards and an American Music Award, and All 'n All became one of Earth, Wind & Fire's most popular albums. The album went to 3 on the Pop Charts and 1 on the Black Albums chart respectively.

During 1978 Earth, Wind & Fire picked up three Grammy Awards with the third won for their cover of The Beatles's "Got to Get You into My Life." At first EWF performed the song while appearing within the 1978 feature film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. "Got to Get You into My Life" was eventually added to the movie's soundtrack. The film though was a commercial failure, as That's The Way Of The World had been years before. With this being so EWF's rendition of "Got to Get You into My Life" was the biggest hit from the movie's soundtrack, reaching Nos. 1 & 9 on the Billboard R&B and Pop singles charts, respectively. The soundtrack was certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.[8][77][78][79][80][81]

Within 1978 Maurice established a vanity label of CBS entitled The American Recording Company and alongside sound engineer George Massenburg, a new recording studio called "The Complex" in West Los Angeles. During November 1978 EWF also issued a compilation album entitled The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1. The album has been certified Quintuple Platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA. Off the LP came another hit single entitled "September".[82][17]

During January 1979 the band performed "September" and "That's The Way Of The World" at the Music for UNICEF Concert. The concert was broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly by NBC. Other artists who performed at the event were ABBA, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. The concert was also Emmy nominated within the category of Outstanding Individual Achievement - Special Class.[83][84][85]

The group's ninth album overall, seventh for Columbia Records, and second released on the ARC label was I Am. It was another smash hit, going double Platinum and reaching numbers 3 and 1 on the R&B and Pop charts, respectively. Singles spawned from this album included "In The Stone," "Can't Let Go," and the sad David Foster/Bill Champlin-written ballad "After the Love Has Gone," which rose to the number 2 spot on the Billboard Pop and R&B charts and won a Grammy for the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group in 1980. Though the band had previously overlooked disco, the summer of 1979 saw EWF topping the dance music charts with their most disco-inspired single, "Boogie Wonderland," which was produced by Maurice and Al McKay and featured The Emotions. (Its lyrics detail the down side of the discothèque genre and lifestyle.) Even with the song's success, Verdine White claims that the band is not a disco band, saying: "I guess you could say we were at the party but didn't get on the dance floor."[86][87]

In October 1980, the double-album Faces was released and rose to number 2 and number 10 and the R&B and Pop charts, respectively; it earned Gold status in the US. In a 2007 interview, when asked which EWF album was his favorite, Maurice White replied: "Probably Faces because we were really in tune, playing together and it gave us the opportunity to explore new areas."[88] After the release of this album, longtime rhythm guitarist Al McKay left the band for personal and professional reasons. He was replaced by returning rhythm guitarist Roland Bautista, who gave the band a bit of a hard rock sound with his style of playing.

1981-1994: Electronic period

White decided that, given the changing musical landscape, the band needed to incorporate into their work more of the electronic sound which was popular at the time. As a result, EWF's eleventh album, Raise!, was influenced by this new electronic sound and released in the fall of 1981. Raise! has been certified platinum in the US by the RIAA for sales of over a million copies and gold in the UK and Canada by the British Phonographic Industry and Music Canada respectively.[89][90][91][92][93]Raise! featured the hit single "Let's Groove," which went Gold in the US.[94] Another single entitled "Wanna Be With You," won EWF a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group. Earth, Wind & Fire appeared at American Bandstand's 30th Anniversary Special, where they performed "Let's Groove" on October 30, 1981.[8][95]

Earth, Wind, and Fire's Maurice White and Philip Bailey performing in 1982 at the Ahoy Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Within 1981 the Phenix Horns also began their frequent collaborations with Phil Collins and his band Genesis altogether.[12][96]

During 1983, EWF contributed the song "Dance, Dance, Dance" to the soundtrack of the animated film Rock & Rule. The soundtrack also featured Debbie Harry of Blondie, Lou Reed and Cheap Trick. Rock & Rule was the first feature film of Nelvana Studios and has since gone on to become a cult classic.[97][98][99][100]

As well, the band's issued Powerlight, their follow up album within that year. which included the singles "Fall In Love With Me," a number 17 pop hit, and "Side By Side". "Powerlight" went Gold.

During late 1983, EWF issued their thirteenth studio album entitled Electric Universe. With Electric Universe came a unique fully new wave and synth pop sound for EWF.[101] The album got to Nos. 8 & 40 on the Top R&B Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively.[102][103] Off the album the single Magnetic rose to Nos. 10 & 36 on the Hot R&B Songs and Dance Club Songs charts respectively.[104][105] Another single entitled Touch also got to No. 23 on the Hot R&B Songs chart.[106]

With the release of this LP Maurice believed the band needed a bit of a break so he put EWF on hiatus in early 1984.

During their hiatus, Philip Bailey released his second and most commercially successful solo project, the gold album Chinese Wall, featuring the Phenix Horns and produced by Phil Collins. The first single from that album, a duet with Collins called "Easy Lover," sold over a million copies, rose to number 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the UK Singles Chart respectively, and was Grammy-nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance By A Duo or Group. The song's video went to the top of MTV's video playlist and won an MTV Video Music Award for Best Overall Performance in 1985. Bailey also released a gospel album in 1986 titled Triumph, which won a Grammy Award for Best Gospel Vocal Performance, Male.

Maurice White, during this time, produced Barbra Streisand on her Platinum album Emotion and Neil Diamond on his Gold album Headed for the Future.[107][108][109][110][111] He also worked with guitarist Lee Ritenour on his 1986 Grammy nominated album Earth Run and Cher on her 1987 Platinum album Cher.[112][113][114][115] White released the self-titled solo album Maurice White in 1985, which included a cover of "Stand by Me" that went to number six on the R&B charts and number eleven on the Adult Contemporary charts. The album also featured an appearance by saxophonist Gerald Albright. Verdine White also produced Standing in the Light, by the English pop rock and jazz-funk band Level 42, with Larry Dunn, and promoted go-go bands like Trouble Funk and E.U.[12]

The compilation album The Collection was released May 1986, stayed at number 5 on the UK singles charts for two weeks, and was certified Gold in the UK by the British Phonographic Industry.[116][92]

In 1987, CBS Records convinced both Philip Bailey and Maurice White that a reunion of Earth, Wind & Fire would be fruitful. As a result, original members Verdine White, Ralph Johnson and Andrew Woolfolk returned to the band with new members guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds, lead guitarist Dick Smith, and drummer Sonny Emory. A new horn section dubbed the Earth, Wind & Fire Horns was also created, made up of Gary Bias on the saxophone, Raymond Lee Brown on the trumpet, and Reggie Young on the flugelhorn and trombone.

The band's reformation fostered the October 1987 studio album Touch the World, which rose to Nos. 3 & 33 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively. Touch the World was nominated for a Soul Train Award in the category of Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year. The album was also certified gold in the US by the RIAA.[117][118][119][120][121] Upon the album was a track penned by an unknown songwriter by the name of Skylark entitled "System of Survival". Released as a single, the song became a hit, going to number one on the Billboard R&B charts and Dance charts. System of Survival was also nominated for a Soul Train Award within the category of Best R&B/Soul Single - Group, Band or Duo.[119][122][123][118] Another single titled "Thinking Of You" got to Nos. 1 & 3 upon the Billboard Dance Club Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts respectively.[119][124][125]

During 1988, the band released the compilation album The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 2. An original album cut, Turn on (The Beat Box) got to No. 26 upon the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. As well, The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 2 has been certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.[126][127][128] Within 1988 EWF went on to be nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Best Vocal Group.[129]

Within 1990 EWF issued their fifteenth studio album entitled Heritage. The album rose to number 19 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[130][131] The album's title track featuring The Boys got to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[132] Another single, "For the Love of You" featuring MC Hammer rose to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.[133]

During 1992, the band released a 55-track anthology of their career up to that point entitled The Eternal Dance.

After 21 years EWF signed once again with Warner Bros. and following this came the release in 1993 of their 16th studio album, Millennium. The album rose to Nos. 8 & 39 upon the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and Billboard 200 charts respectively. Millennium was also nominated for a Soul Train Music Award within the category of Best R&B/Soul Album - Group, Band or Duo.[134][135][136][137] Off the album the single "Sunday Morning," earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. Sunday Morning also got to Nos. 20 & 33 upon the Billboard Hot R&B Songs and Canadian Top Singles charts respectively.[134][8][138][139] Another album cut entitled "Spend The Night," rose to No. 36 upon the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart.[134][140]

On July 30, 1993 former Phenix Horns saxophonist Don Myrick was fatally shot by the Los Angeles Police Department in a case of mistaken identity.[141] Then on October 13, former lead vocalist Wade Flemons died from cancer in Battle Creek, Michigan.[142]

Within November 1993, EWF performed at the American Music Awards 20th anniversary special.[143]

In 1994, Earth, Wind & Fire were inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall Of Fame.

1994-present: Neo-classic period

On September 14 of the following year, the band received another tribute in the form of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[144][145][146]

Earth, Wind & Fire star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey & Verdine White all attended the inauguration ceremony where they were bestowed with the honour before hundreds of fans.[144][146][145]

During 1996, White retired from touring with the band. At the time, he explained that he wanted to take a rest from the rigors of the road. Philip Bailey was given the role of onstage leader of the band.

The studio album In the Name of Love was released in 1997 on Rhino Records. The album went on to be critically acclaimed as being wholly neo soul in its sound and style altogether.[147][148] Off the album the single "Change Your Mind" rose to No. 26 on the Adult R&B Songs chart. Another album cut entitled "When Love Goes Wrong" also got to No. 33 on the Adult R&B Songs chart. [149][150]

EWF played at the 1997 Montreux Jazz Festival and gave an encore performance during the following year.[151][152] A DVD of the band's 1997 performance at the festival entitled Earth, Wind & Fire: Live At Montreux 1997 was released in 2004.[153] As well Earth, Wind & Fire guested on Wu Tang Clan offshoot Sunz of Man's 1998 debut album The Last Shall Be First. The album got to Nos. 20 & 7 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts respectively.[154][155][156]

In 1999, the group performed on the A&E Network show Live by Request.[157] A website entitled was also set up in 1999 in honour of Maurice. Maurice later spoke of an ongoing affliction with Parkinson's disease. Artistes such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine posted messages upon the site for White.[158] Maurice, however, had the disease under control, so much so that he occasionally made appearances at Earth, Wind & Fire performances, and continued to write, record, produce and develop new recordings for Earth, Wind & Fire and other artists.

On March 6, 2000, Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by hip hop artiste Lil' Kim to a standing ovation during the 15th annual ceremony held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson as well as former EWF members Al McKay, Larry Dunn, Andrew Woofolk, Fred White and Johnny Graham attended the ceremony. During the gala they performed "Shining Star" and "That's The Way Of the World" altogether.[6][159]

Earth, Wind & Fire were the specially invited music guests at the June 20, 2000 White House state dinner hosted by President Bill Clinton on the South Lawn of the White House, in honor of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, and Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem.[160] So impressed was the King by the band's performance that he made a successful personal request for EWF to perform in Morocco for his 37th birthday celebration, on August 21, 2000.[161]

In 2001, a biographical documentary of the band entitled Shining Stars: The Official Story Of Earth, Wind & Fire was released, directed by Kathryn Arnold. Following the September 11 attacks of that year, the band members donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross at a September 13 show at Virginia's Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater, the band's first concert since those events took place.[162] February 24, 2002 saw Earth, Wind & Fire performing at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.[163][164]

During June 2002 EWF was honored with the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The award was presented to EWF by ASCAP President and Chairman Marilyn Bergman, Stevie Wonder, and Jimmy Jam.[165] A live album of the band's 1980 performance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, entitled Live In Rio, was released on Maurice White's Kalimba Records label in November 2002.

During May 2003 EWF issued The Promise on Kalimba Records. The Promise rose to number 19 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts and received critical acclaim upon its release, with People Magazine and Blender Magazine describing the album as "musically rich" and "a classy collection", respectively. Upon the album were two previously unreleased songs from the "I Am" recording sessions: "Where Do We Go From Here" and "Dirty".[166][167][168][169] A track entitled "Hold Me" earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. The album cut "All in the Way" which reunited EWF with The Emotions also got to Nos. 13 & 25 upon the Billboard Adult R&B Songs and Adult Contemporary Songs charts respectively.[166][8][170][171] As well, two other tracks being Never and Why? rose to Nos. 17 & 19 upon the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart respectively.[166][172][173] Additionally on July 7, 2003 the band was inducted into Hollywood's Rockwalk. Within September 2003 EWF were also inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.[11][174][10]

On February 8, 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire performed in a tribute to funk at the 46th annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, California. Other artists performing at this tribute were Parliament Funkadelic, OutKast, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. EWF sang "Shining Star" and then at Outkast's request crooned "The Way You Move" with them. Robert Randolph and the Family Band performed their single "I Need More Love" and then all of the bands teamed to sing Parliament Funkadelic's classic "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)".[175][176] EWF also covered Jimi Hendrix's Voodoo Child (Slight Return) on his May 2004 tribute album Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.[177]

On June 8, 2004 EWF were bestowed with the NARAS Signature Governors Award at Los Angeles's Beverly Hills Hotel.[178] On September 27, 2004, former Phenix Horns trombonist Louis Satterfield died, aged 67.[179]

During November 2004 EWF and saxophonist Kenny G issued a cover of Outkast "The Way You Move" on Arista Records. The single got to No. 12 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary singles chart.[180][181] On December 11, 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire were honored at the first annual Grammy Jam held at Los Angeles's Wiltern Theater. At the Grammy Jam artists such as Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams, Sheila E., Miri Ben-Ari, George Duke, Kanye West, and Randy Jackson paid tribute to the band in the form of performances. Other celebrities who attended the event were Pamela Anderson, Tim Allen, Prince, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Nick Cannon, and Suzanne de Passe.[182][183] EWF performed on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2004.[184]

The February 6, 2005, Super Bowl XXXIX pregame show in Jacksonville, Florida saw the band teaming with The Black Eyed Peas to sing "Where Is the Love?" and "Shining Star".[185][186] In March 2005, EWF performed in Russia for the first time.[187]

In 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago embarked upon a joint national tour, which gave rise to a DVD of a concert that took place at Los Angeles' Greek Theater entitled Chicago & Earth, Wind & Fire - Live at the Greek Theatre. This DVD was released on June 28, 2005, and was certified Platinum two months afterward. Chicago and EWF once again toured together in 2005 and collaborated for a new recording of Chicago's ballad "If You Leave Me Now," that was included on Chicago's 2005 compilation album Love Songs. As part of an opening act for the 57th Primetime Emmy Awards held on September 18, 2005, at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, the band once more collaborated with The Black Eyed Peas. This was first time a musical artist had opened at the annual awards show.[187]

EWF released a single entitled "Show Me The Way", on which they paired with neo soul artist Raphael Saadiq on Sanctuary Records in the fall of 2005. The single garnered a Grammy nomination and was featured on Illumination, their 19th studio album, which was released on September 20, 2005. For this album EWF collaborated with artists such as, Kelly Rowland, Outkast's Big Boi, and Brian McKnight. Illumination reached number eight on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Chart and number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another single spawned from the album, dubbed "Pure Gold", reached number 23 on the Adult Contemporary Charts.

The album garnered the admiration of critics, with AllMusic's Rob Theakston referring to the album as an "outstanding record" and Steve Jones of USA Today' remarking that on the album EWF are as "vibrant as ever".[188][189] Illumination received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album and a Soul Train Music Award in the category R&B-soul album. EWF also received a NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Duo or Group.[190]

During 2006, Maurice worked with Maurice Hines, brother of famed entertainer Gregory Hines, to release the Broadway play Hot Feet. Hot Feet was a jukebox musical with its theme being the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice also co-wrote with Allee Willis several new songs for the play.[191] On February 11, 2007 EWF performed "Runaway Love" alongside Mary J. Blige and Ludacris at the 49th Grammy Awards held at Los Angeles's Staples Center.[192]

Earth, Wind & Fire performing at the opening ceremony of the 2008 U.S. Open August 25, 2008

Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, an album featuring cover versions of EWF's material, was released on Stax Records on March 27, 2007. Executively produced by Maurice, the LP featured artists such as Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, Lalah Hathaway, Mint Condition, Dwele, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Angie Stone. The album rose to no. 28 upon the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.[193][194] As well Dwele and Meshell Ndegeocello's renditions of "That's The Way Of The World" and "Fantasy", respectively, were each Grammy nominated for the Best Urban/Alternative Performance.[195][196]

The band was the opening act at a special edition of American Idol entitled "Idol Gives Back" (which aired April 25, 2007) and performed a medley of "Boogie Wonderland", "Shining Star" and "September".[197] At the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, on December 11, 2007, Earth, Wind & Fire performed "Fantasy" and "September". Hosted by Kevin Spacey and Uma Thurman, the Nobel Peace Prize Concert was broadcast to over 100 countries. Other artists who performed included Melissa Etheridge, Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox, and Kylie Minogue.[198]

Earth, Wind & Fire performed on the opening night of one of the largest musical events in Latin America, Chile's Viña del Mar Festival. The band so impressed the audience with their performance that the band was bestowed with the Gaviota de Plata (English translation: the Silver Seagull), the highest award that can presented to an artist performing at the Viña del Mar Festival. The intro to EWF's song "In the Stone" has been used for several years as the introductory theme for the event's broadcasts.[199][200][201][202]

Earth, Wind & Fire tribute, Munich Olympic Walk of Stars on 9 April 2011

On the 10th March 2008 the band was inducted into the Munich Olympic Walk Of Stars.[203]

Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey, and Verdine White each received an honorary degree from the Arts and Media College at Columbia College Chicago during the college's 2008 commencement exercises. During the ceremony Verdine White and Johnson both gave acceptance speeches before all four honorees' gave an impromptu performance of "Shining Star".[204][205] EWF performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 US Open, which was hosted by Forest Whitaker and served to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of tennis's Open Era with a parade of more than 25 former US Open singles champions.[206]

Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the White House on February 22, 2009, for the Governors' Dinner; they were the first musical artists to perform there since Barack Obama took office.[207] The band toured once more with Chicago in 2009 for a tour of thirty US cities.[needs update][208] On April 26, 2009, EWF performed at the 39th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.[209] Less than two weeks prior to this, former keyboard player Robert Brookins died from a heart attack; aged 46.[210]

During 2010, EWF performed at the 40th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Within that same year, the band participated in the recording of the "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" single.[211][212] 2010 was also the year that saw Earth, Wind & Fire's original members Maurice White, Phillip Bailey, Verdine White, Al McKay and Larry Dunn all inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.[213][214]

In November 2011, the band received the Legend Award at the Soul Train Awards at Atlanta, Georgia's Fox Theatre.[215] In 2012, EWF were bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Annual Trumpet Awards, held at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta.[216]

On February 29, 2012, early guitarist Roland Bautista died, aged 60, of natural causes.[210]

Earth Wind & Fire along with former Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton and Charlie Wilson guested on the LL Cool J track 'Something About You. The song went on to appear upon his 2013 album "Authentic".[217][218][219]

Now, Then & Forever, the group's first album in eight years, was released on September 10, 2013.[220] On January 13, 2014, former percussionist Beloyd Taylor, who co-wrote the band's 1976 hit "Getaway" died.[221] Just a few months later on May 2 former vocalist Jessica Cleaves passed away at the age of 65 following complications from a stroke.[222]

On September 13, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at Proms in the Park at Hyde Park with the BBC Concert Orchestra [223] On October 21, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire released their first ever holiday album entitled Holiday.[224] On December 8, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the Kennedy Center Honors, honoring Al Green.[225] On December 14, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the Christmas in Washington event.[226]

Maurice White died on February 4, 2016, after a suffering for some years with Parkinson's disease. He was survived by his wife, his two sons, daughter and his brothers Verdine and Fred.[227]


Earth, Wind & Fire's songs have been covered by artists including Whitney Houston, D'Angelo, Kim Burrell, Dionne Warwick, Taylor Swift, Patti LaBelle.[228][229][230] As well they've been covered by Wynonna Judd, Yolanda Adams, Carmen McRae, Chaka Khan and 112.[229][230][231]

EWF has been sampled by artistes such as Drake, A Tribe Called Quest, Missy Elliott, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, The Fugees, LL Cool J and Common. The band has also been sampled by the likes of Björk, Diddy, The Roots, Will Smith, Nas, TLC, Public Enemy, Lupe Fiasco, Tupac Shakur and MC Lyte.[228][230][232][229]

Earth, Wind & Fire has influenced artistes such as Beyoncé,[233]Usher,[234],[235]Janelle Monáe,[236]Mary J. Blige,[237]Prince,[238]Pharrell Williams,[239]India.Arie,[240]Jon Secada,[241] and Wyclef Jean.[240] As well they've been influential to artistes like Angie Stone,[242]The All-American Rejects,[243]Jesse McCartney,[244]Musiq Soulchild,[240]Solange Knowles,[245]Babyface,[246]Goldfrapp,[247]OutKast, [248] and Gloria Estefan.[249]

Artistes in the like of Jamiroquai,[250]Pitbull,[251]Lenny Kravitz,[252]Amel Larrieux[253]Justice[254]Omarion,[255]Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park,[256]Jill Scott,[240] and Justin Timberlake have also been influenced by EWF[257]. As well the band has influenced artistes such as Bonnie Raitt,[258]Erykah Badu,[259]Jamie Foxx,[260]Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy,[261]Lalah Hathaway,[262]Amy Winehouse,[263] and Meghan Trainor.[264]

Miles Davis described EWF as his "all time favorite band" saying, "they have everything (horns, electric guitar, singers and more) in one band".[265]Quincy Jones has proclaimed himself to be the "biggest fan of Earth, Wind & Fire since day one."[266]Alicia Keys has proclaimed EWF as being "the best band ever".[267]Dionne Warwick has also named Earth, Wind & Fire as her favorite group of all time.[268]David Foster has mentioned Earth, Wind & Fire as his favorite band of all time on the show Hit Man Returns: David Foster and friends (2011). In this concert he showed his respect to Maurice White publicly.

In the movie BAADASSSSS!, the actor Khalil Kain portrayed a young Maurice White leading the early incarnation of Earth, Wind & Fire.[269][270] Released at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was based on Melvin Van Peebles' struggle to film and distribute the movie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and was directed by his son Mario Van Peebles.

Earth, Wind & Fire's songs have also been featured in many movies all over the world & TV shows, including Anchorman, Last Vegas, The Intouchables, Night at the Museum (film series), Caddyshack, The Mentalist, True Blood, The Office, Glee, Daredevil, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.


  • Verdine White - bass guitar, backing vocals (1970-1984; 1987-present)
  • Philip Bailey - lead vocals, percussion (1972-1984; 1987-present)
  • Ralph Johnson - percussion, backing vocals (1972-1984; 1987-present); drums (1972-1984)


  • B. David Whitworth - percussion, vocals (1996-present)
  • Myron McKinley - keyboards, musical director (2001-present)
  • Philip Bailey, Jr. - vocals, percussion (2008-present)
  • Morris O'Connor - lead guitar, vocals (2008-present)
  • Serg Dimitrijevic - rhythm guitar, vocals (2012-present)

Awards and nominations


Studio albums

See also


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Further reading

External links

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