EARTH, WIND & FIRE

R.I.P.  Maurice White (December 9th, 1941 / February 3rd, 2016)




During the 1970s, a new brand of pop music was born – one that was steeped in African and African-American styles – particularly jazz and R&B but appealed to a broader cross-section of the listening public.

 

As founder and leader of the band Earth, Wind & Fire, Maurice White not only embraced but also helped bring about this evolution of pop, which bridged the gap that has often separated the musical tastes of black and white America.

 

It certainly was successful, as EWF combined high-caliber musicianship, wide-ranging musical genre eclecticism, and ’70s multicultural spiritualism. “I wanted to do something that hadn’t been done before,” Maurice explains. “Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music…which somehow ended up becoming pop. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners’ spiritual content.

 

The Funky Soul story - logo Earth, Wind & Fire

 

Maurice was born December 19, 1941, in Memphis, TN. He was immersed in a rich musical culture that spanned the boundaries between jazz, gospel, R&B, blues and early rock. All of these styles played a role in the development of Maurice’s musical identity.

 

At age six, he began singing in his church’s gospel choir but soon his interest turned to percussion. He began working gigs as a drummer while still in high school. His first professional performance was with Booker T. Jones, who eventually achieved stardom as Booker T and the MGs.After graduating high school.

 

Maurice moved to the Windy City to continue his musical education at the prestigious Chicago Conservatory Of Music. He continued picking up drumming jobs on the side, which eventually lead to a steady spot as a studio percussionist with the legendary Chicago label, Chess Records. At Chess, Maurice had the privilege of playing with such greats as Etta James, Fontella Bass, Billy Stewart, Willie Dixon, Sonny Stitt and Ramsey Lewis, whose trio he joined in 1967. He spent nearly three years as part of the Ramsey Lewis Trio. “Ramsey helped shape my musical vision beyond just the music,” Maurice explains. “I learned about performance and staging.

 

Sugar Pie DeSanto - Soulful Dress (1963)

 

Sonny Stitt - Soul In The Night (1966)

 

Billy Stewart - Summertime (1966)

 

The Ramsey Lewis Trio - Wade In The Water (1966)

 

The Funky Soul story - Kalimba

 

Maurice also learned about the African thumb piano, or Kalimba, an instrument whose sound would become central to much of his work over the years.In 1969, Maurice left the Ramsey Lewis Trio and 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 got a recording contract with Capitol and called themselves the Salty Peppers, and had a marginal hit in the Mid-western area called La La Time. That band featured Maurice on vocals, percussion and Kalimba along with keyboardists/vocalists Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead.

 

The Salty Peppers - La La Time part. 1 & 2

 

The Salty Peppers - Uh Huh Yeah

 

 

After relocating to Los Angeles and signing a new contract with Warner Bros., Maurice simultaneously made what may have been the smartest move of his young career. He changed the band’s name to Earth, Wind & Fire (after the three elements in his astrological chart). The new name also captured Maurice’s spiritual approach to music – one that transcended categories and appealed to multiple artistic principals, including composition, musicianship, production, and performance. In addition to White, Flemons and Whitehead, Maurice recruited Michael Beal on guitar, Leslie Drayton, Chester Washington and Alex Thomas on horns, Sherry Scott on vocals, percussionist Phillard Williams and his younger brother Verdine on bass.

 

Earth, Wind & Fire recorded two albums for Warner Brothers: the self-titled 1970 album Earth, Wind And Fire and the 1971 album The Need Of Love. A single from this album, I Think About Lovin’ You, provided EWF with their first Top 40 R&B hit. Also in 1971, the group performed the soundtrack to the Melvin Van Peebles film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’.

 

I Think About Lovin' You

 

 

In 1972, White dissolved the line-up (except he and brother Verdine White) and added Jessica Cleaves (vocals – formerly of the R&B group The Friends of Distinction), Ronnie Laws (flute, saxophone), Roland Bautista (guitar), Larry Dunn (keyboard), Ralph Johnson (percussion) and Philip Bailey (vocals, formerly of Friends & Love). Maurice became disillusioned with Warner Brothers, which had signed the group primarily as a jazz act. Maurice, in contrast, was more interested in combining elements of jazz, rock, and soul into an evolving form of fusion, a truly universal sound.

 

A performance at New York’s Rockefeller Center introduced EWF to Clive Davis, then President of Columbia Records. Davis loved what he saw and bought their contract from Warner Bros. With Columbia Records, debuting with the 1972 album Last Days And Time, the group slowly began to build a reputation for innovative recordings and exciting, live shows, complete with feats of magic (floating pianos, spinning drum kits, vanishing artists) engineered by Doug Henning and his then-unknown assistant David Copperfield. Their first gold album, Head To The Sky, peaked at number 27 pop in the summer of 1973, yielding a smooth tangy cover of Evil and the title track single.

 

Evil

 

 

The first platinum EWF album, Open Our Eyes, whose title track was a remake of the classic originally recorded by Savoy Records group the Gospel Clefs, included Mighty Mighty (number four R&B) and Kalimba Story (number six R&B).

 

Mighty Mighty

 

Kalimba Story

 

 

Maurice once again shared a label roster with Ramsey Lewis, whose Columbia debut Sun Goddess, was issued in December 1974. The radio-aired title track was released as a single under the name Ramsey Lewis and Earth, Wind & Fire. It went to number 20 R&B in early 1975. The Sun Goddess album went gold, hitting number 12 pop in early 1975. Maurice had also played on Lewis’ other high-charting album, Wade In The Water; the title track single peaked at number three R&B in the summer of 1966.

 

Ramsey Lewis - Sun Goddess

 

 

The inspiration for Shining Star (one of EW&F’s most beloved singles) was gleaned from thoughts Maurice had during a walk under the star-filled skies that surrounded the mountains around Caribou Ranch, CO a popular recording site and retreat during the ’70s. The track was originally included in the That’s The Way Of The World movie that starred Harvey Keitel and was produced by Sig Shore (Superfly).

Shining Star glittered at number one R&B for two weeks and hit number one pop in early 1975. It was included on their 1975 multi-platinum album That’s The Way Of The World that held the number one pop spot for three weeks in Spring 1975 and earned them their first Grammy Award. The title track single made it to number five R&B in summer of 1975. It also yielded the classic ballad Reasons, an extremely popular radio-aired album track.

 

Shining Star

 

 

The multi-platinum album Gratitude held the number one pop album spot for three weeks in late 1975. On the album was Sing A Song (gold, number one R&B for two weeks, number five pop), the Skip Scarborough ballad Can’t Hide Love (number 11 R&B), and the popular radio-aired album tracks Celebrate, Gratitude, and the live version of Reasons. In 1976, Maurice decided he wanted to record a spiritual album.

 

Sing A Song

 

Can't Hide Love

 

the Funky Soul story - Charles Stepney

 

The multi-platinum album Spirit parked at number two pop for two weeks in fall of 1976 and boasted the gold, number one R&B single Getaway and Saturday Nite. Spirit is remembered as one of EWF’s best albums and sadly for also being the last project of Producer Charles Stepney. He died May 17, 1976, in Chicago, IL, at the age of 45. Charles was a former Chess Records arranger/producer/session musician/multi-instrumentalist/songwriter and Maurice’s main collaborator on his EWF projects.

 

Getaway

 

Saturday Nite

 

The Funky Soul story - Earth, Wind & Fire - Kalimba Productions

 

During this time, Maurice produced several artists such as The Emotions (1976’s Flowers and 1977’s Rejoice which included the number one R&B/pop hit Best Of My Love), Deniece Williams (1976’s This Is Niecy which included the Top Ten R&B hit Free and Time), Jennifer Holiday and Atlantic Starr.

In the late seventies, in association with Columbia Records, Maurice also launched a record label, ARC.

 

Deniece Williams - Time (1977)

 

The Emotions - Best Of My Love (1977)

 

Jennifer Holiday - Just Let Me Wait (1983)

 

Atlantic Starr - Armed & Dangerous (1986)

 

 

The multi-platinum album All ‘N All peaked at number three pop in late 1977, won three Grammy’s, and had arrangements by Chicago soul mainstay Tom Tom Washington and Eumir Deodato.

The singles were Serpentine Fire (number one R&B for seven weeks) and Fantasy. The group’s horn section, the legendary Phenix Horns (Don Myrick on saxophone, Louis Satterfield on trombone, Rahmlee Michael Davis and Michael Harris on trumpets) became an integral part of the Earth, Wind & Fire sound.

 

Serpentine Fire

 

 

The multi-platinum greatest-hits set The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. I included a cover of the Beatles’ Got To Get You Into My Life went to number one R&B and number nine pop in Summer 1978. The group performed the song in the 1978 Bee Gees/Peter Frampton movie Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Another single, September, made it to number one R&B, number eight pop in early 1978. On the flip side was the enchanting popular radio-aired album track Love’s Holiday from All ‘N All.

 

The Beatles - Got To Get You Into My Life

 

Earth Wind & Fire - Got To Get You Into My Life

 

September

 

The Funky Soul story - Earth, Wind & Fire 03

 

Their live performances were stellar as well. Sellout crowds were spellbound by the band’s bombastic performances. Their performances blasted a cosmic wave of peace, love and other happy vibrations to audiences using a combination of eye-popping costumes, lights, pyrotechnics and plain old good music. Sometimes they even threw in magic illusions. Earth, Wind & Fire’s message was one of universal harmony, in both musical and cultural senses. “We live in a negative society,” Maurice told Newsweek. “Most people can’t see beauty and love. I see our music as medicine.

 

The multi-platinum album I Am hit number three pop in Summer 1979 on the strength of the million-selling single Boogie Wonderland with The Emotions (number two R&B for four weeks, number six pop) and the phenomenal gold ballad After The Love Has Gone, written by David Foster, Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin that stayed at number two R&B/pop for two weeks.

 

Boogie Wonderland (with The Emotions)

 

After The Love Has Gone

 

 

Their Faces album peaked at number ten pop in late 1980 and was boosted to gold by the singles Let Me Talk (number eight R&B), You (number ten R&B), and And Love Goes On.

 

Let Me Talk

 

You

 

The million-selling funked-up Let’s Groove, co-written by The Emotions’ Wanda Vaughn and her husband Wayne Vaughn, was the track that re-energized EWF’s career, parking at number one R&B for eight weeks and number three pop, causing their Raise! album to go platinum (hitting number five pop in late 1981).

 

Let's Groove

 

The Funky Soul story - Earth, Wind & Fire 04

 

Their next gold album Powerlight made it to number 12 pop in spring 1983 and included the Top Ten R&B single and Grammy-nominated Fall In Love With Me.

 

Fall In Love With Me

 

 

Their 1983 Electric Universe album stalled at number 40 pop, breaking the band’s string of gold, platinum and multi-platinum albums.

 

Magnetic

 

 

In 1983, Maurice decided he and the band needed a break. During this hiatus, Maurice recorded his self-titled solo album Maurice White and produced various artists including Neal Diamond, Barbra Streisand and Jennifer Holliday. Reuniting with the band in 1987, EWF released the album Touch The World and scored yet another number one R&B single, System of Survival and embarked on a corresponding nine-month world tour. This was followed by the 1988 release The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol. II.

 

System Of Survival

 

 

In 1990 the group released the album Heritage.

 

Heritage

 

Good Time (feat. Sly Stone)

 

 

Two years later, Earth, Wind & Fire released The Eternal Dance; a 55-track boxed set retrospective of the band’s entire history. The appearance of such a project after a prolonged period of relative inactivity signaled to many listeners that the band was calling it quits but that did not turn out to be case. In 1993, EWF released the album, Millennium that included the Grammy-nominated Sunday Morning and Spend The Night.

 

Sunday Morning

 

 

Earth, Wind & Fire kept recording and in 1996 released Avatar and Greatest Hits Live; followed by 1997’s In The Name Of Love; 2002’s That’s The Way Of The World: Alive In ’75Live In Rio which was recorded during their 1979 I Am World Tour; 2003’s The Promise, which included All In The Way and the Grammy-nominated Hold Me and 2005’s Illumination, which included the Grammy-nominated Show Me The Way.

 

All in the Way

 

 

In 2000, the nine-piece ’70s edition of Earth, Wind & Fire reunited for one night only in honor of their induction into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. In 2001, Eagle Rock Entertainment released the documentary Earth, Wind & Fire: Shining Stars, which contains rarely seen historic video footage along with in-depth interviews with the band members.

 

Even though Maurice is no longer a part of the touring group, he remains the band’s heart and soul from behind the scenes as composer and producer. Maurice reflects, “I wanted to create a library of music that would stand the test of time. ‘Cosmic Consciousness’ is the key component of our work. Expanding awareness and uplifting spirits is so important in this day. People are looking for more. I hope our music can give them some encouragement and peace.”

 

The Funky Soul story - Maurice White

 

February 3, 2016, Maurice White died from the effects of Parkinson's disease at his home in Los Angeles; he was 74 years old.

 

 

> EARTH, WIND & FIRE <

 

> Kalimba Music <

 

> Maurice White <

> Philip Bailey <

> Verdine White <

> Larry Dunn <

 

 

source : Encyclopédie du Rhythm & Blues et de la Soul (éditions Fayard, 2002)

 

the Funky Soul story -  logo Earth, Wind & Fire 02

Discography


1970 / Earth, Wind & Fire

1970 / Earth, Wind & Fire

A1 Help Somebody

A2 Moment Of Truth

A3 Love Is Life

A4 Fan The Fire

B1 C'mon Children

B2 This World Today

B3 Bad Tune


1971 / THE NEED OF LOVE

1971 / THE NEED OF LOVE

A1 Energy

A2 Beauty

B1 I Can Feel It In My Bones

B2 I Think About Lovin' You

B3 Everything Is Everything

 

 


1972 / LAST DAYS AND TIME

1972 / LAST DAYS AND TIME

A1 Time Is On Your Side

A2 They Don't See

A3 Make It With You

A4 Power

B1 Remember The Children

B2 Where All Have The Flowers Gone

B3 I'd Rather Have You

B4 Mom


1973 / HEAD TO THE SKY

1973 / HEAD TO THE SKY

A1 Evil

A2 Keep Your Head To The Sky

A3 Build Your Nest

A4 The World's A Masquerade

B1 Clover

B2 Zanzibar

 


1974 / OPEN YOURS EYES

1974 / OPEN YOURS EYES

A1 Mighty Mighty

A2 Devotion

A3 Fair But So Uncool

A4 Feelin' Blue

A5 Kalimba Story

B1 Drum Song

B2 Tee Nine Chee Bit

B3 Spasmodic Movements

B4 Caribou

B5 Open Our Eyes


1975 / THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD

1975 / THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD

A1 Shining Star

A2 That's The Way Of The World

A3 Happy Feelin'

A4 All About Love

B1 Yearnin' Learnin'

B2 Reasons

B3 Africano

B4 See The Light


1975 / GRATITUDE (live)

1975 / GRATITUDE

A1.1 Introduction

Medley

   A1.2 Africano

   A1.3 Power

A2 Yearnin' Learnin'

A3 Devotion

B1 Sun Goddess

B2 Reasons

B3 Sing A Message To You

C1 Shining Star

C2 New World Symphony

C3 Sunshine

D1 Sing A Song

D2 Gratitude

D3 Celebrate

D4 You Can't Hide Love


1976 / SPIRIT

1976 / SPIRIT

A1 Getaway

A2 On Your Face

A3 Imagination

A4 Spirit

B1 Saturday Nite

B2 Earth, Wind & Fire

B3 Departure

B4 Biyo

B5 Burnin' Bush


1977 / ALL 'N ALL

1977 / ALL 'N ALL

A1 Serpentine Fire

A2 Fantasy

A3a In The Market Place (Interlude)

A3b Jupiter

A4a Love's Holiday

A4b Brazilian Rhyme (Interlude)

B1 I'll Write A Song For You

B2 Magic Mind

B3a Runnin'

B3b Brazilian Rhyme (Interlude)

B4 Be Ever Wonderful


1978 / The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire Vol. I

Earth Wibd & Fire - 1978 / The Best Of Earth Wind & Fire Vol. I

A1 Got To Get You Into My Life

A2 Fantasy

A3 Can't Hide Love

A4 Love Music

A5 Getaway

B1 That's The Way Of The World

B2 September

B3 Shining Star

B4 Reasons

B5 Singasong


1979 / I AM

1979 / IAM

A1 In The Stone

A2 Can't Let Go

A3 After The Love Is Gone

A4 Let Your Feelings Show

B1 Boogie Wonderland (with The Emotions)

B2 Star

B3 Wait

B4 Rock That!

B5 You And I


1980 / FACES

1980 / FACES

A1 Let Me Talk

A2 Turn It Into Something Good

A3 Pride

A4 You

B1 Sparkle

B2 Back On The Road

B3 Song In My Heart

B4 You Went Away

C1 And Love Goes On

C2 Sailaway

C3 Take It To The Sky

C4 Win Or Lose

D1 Share Your Love

D2 In Time

D3 Faces


1981 / RAISES!

1981 / RAISES!

A1 Let's Groove

A2 Lady Sun

A3 My Love

A4 Evolution Orange

B1a Kalimba Tree

B1b You Are A Winner

B2 I've Had Enough

B3 Wanna Be With You

B4 The Changing Times


1982 / POWERLIGHT

1982 / POWERLIGHT

A1 Fall In Love With Me

A2 Spread Your Love

A3 Side By Side

A4 Straight From The Heart

B1 The Speed Of Love

B2 Freedom Of Choice

B3 Something Special

B4 Hearts To Heart

B5 Miracles


1983 / ELECTRIC UNIVERSE

1983 / ELECTRIC UNIVERSE

A1 Magnetic

A2 Touch

A3 Moonwalk

A4 Could It Be Right

B1 Spirit Of A New World

B2 Sweet Sassy Lady

B3 We're Living In Our Own Time

B4 Electric Nation


1987 / TOUCH THE WORLD

1987 / TOUCH THE WORLD

A1 System Of Survival

A2 Evil Roy

A3 Thinking Of You

A4 You And I

A5 New Horizons (Musical Interlude)

B1 Money Tight

B2 Every Now And Then

B3 Touch The World

B5 Victim Of The Modern Heart


1990 / HERITAGE

1990 / HERITAGE

A1 Interlude: Soweto

A2 Takin' Chances

A3 Heritage

A4 Good Time

A5 Interlude: Body Wrap

A6 Anything You Want

A7 Interlude: Bird

A8 Wanna Be The Man

B1 Interlude: Close To Home

B2 Daydreamin'

B3 King Of Groove

B4 I'm In Love

B5 For The Love Of You (feat. MC Hammer)

B6 Gotta Find Out

B7 Motor

B8 Interlude: Faith

B9 Welcome

B10 Soweto (Reprise)


1993 / MILLENIUM

1993 / MILLENIUM

A1 Even If You Wonder

A2 Sunday Morning

A3 Blood Brothers

A4 Kalimba Interlude

A5 Spend The Night

B1 Divine

B2 Two Hearts

B3 Honor The Magic

C1 Love Is The Greatest Story

C2 The ''L'' Word

C3 Just Another Lonely Night

C4 Super Hero

D1 Wouldn't Change A Thing About You

D2 Love Across The Wire

D3 Chicago (Chi-Town) Blues

D4 Kalimba Blues


1995 / LIVE IN VELFARRE

1995 / LIVE IN VELFARRE

A1 In The Stone

A2 September

A3 Let Your Feelings Show

A4 Let's Groove

A5 Sun Goddess

A6 Can't Hide Love

A7 Boogie Wonderland

A8 Fantasy

A9 Reasons

B1 That's The Way Of The World

B2 Africano

B3 I 'll Write A Song For You

B4 Be Ever Wonderful

B5 After The Love Has Gone

B6 Shinning Star

B7 System Of Survival

B8 Sing A Song

B9 Devotion


1997 / IN THE NAME OF LOVE

1997 / IN THE NAME OF LOVE

01 Rock It

02 In The Name Of Love

03 Revolution (Just Evolution)

04 When Love Goes Wrong

05 Fill You Up

06 Right Time

07 Round And Round

08 Keep It Real

09 Cruising

10 Love Is Life

11 Avatar (Interlude)


2002 / THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD : ALIVE IN '75

2002 / THAT'S THE WAY OF THE WORLD : ALIVE IN '75

01 Overture

02 Shining Star

03 Happy Feelin'

04 Yearnin' Learning

05 Sun Goddess

06 Interlude

07 Evil

08 Kalimba Story

09 Reasons

10 Mighty Mighty

11 That's The Way Of The World


2002 / LIVE IN RIO

2002 / LIVE IN RIO

01 Dialog

02 Rock That!

03 In The Stone

04 Serpentine Fire

05 Fantasy

06 Can't Let Go

07 Getaway

08 Brazilian Rhyme

09 Magic Mind

10 Runnin'

11 After The Love Is Gone

12 Rio After Dark

13 Got To Get You Into My Life

14 Boogie Wonderland

15 September


2003 / THE PROMISE

2003 / THE PROMISE

01 All In The Way

02 Betcha'

03 Wiggle

04 Why?

05 Wonderland

06 Where Do We Go From Here?

07 Freedom

08 Hold Me

09 Never

10 Prelude

11 All About Love

12 Suppose You Like Me

13 The Promise

14 She Waits

15 The Promise (Continued)

16 Let Me Love You

17 Dirty


2004 / ILLUMINATION

2004 / ILLUMINATION

A1 Love Together

A2 Show Me They Way

A3 Pass You By

A4 Work It Out

A5 The One

A6 Elevated

B1 This Is How I Feel

B2 Liberation

B3 Love's Dance

B4 Lovely People

B5 The Way You Move


2013 / NOW, THEN & FOREVER

2013 / NOW, THEN & FOREVER

A1 Sign On

A2 Love Is Law

A3 My Promise

A4 Guiding Lights

A5 Got To Be Love

B1 Belo Horizonte

B2 Dance Floor

B3 Splashes

B4 Night Of My Life

B5 The Rush


2014 / HOLIDAY

2014 / HOLIDAY

01 Joy To The World

02 Happy Seasons

03 O Come All Ye Faithful

04 Winter Wonderland

05 What Child Is This?

06 Away In A Manger

07 The Little Drummer Boy

08 Every Day Is Like Christmas

09 The First Noel

10 Sleigh Ride

11 Snow

12 Jingle Bell Rock

13 December


Radioshow


the Funky Soul story S10/E05 - Tribute to Maurice White and EWF


The Black Music Live #23 - EWF

Playlist to radishow The Black Music Live #23 with Earth, Wind & Fire


SETLIST: 0:24 Serpentine Fire / 10:20 Sing a Song / 14:13 Brazilian Rhyme / 16:48 Sun Godess / 25:15 Ben Dowling Piano Interlude / 28:00 After The Love Has Gone / 32:10 Reasons / 46:16 In The Stone / 49:14 Fantasy / 54:15 Jupiter / 56:21 Getaway / 59:20 Magic Mind / 1:02:22 Let Your Feelings show / 1:05:59 September / 1:14:23 Boogie Wonderland / 1:17:12 Lets Groove


PLAYLIST: Serpentine Fire / September / Boogie Wonderland / Let Me Talk / Lets Groove / After The Love Has Gone / Magnetic / System Of Survival / Evil Roy / Thinking Of You / Heritage / Wanna Be The Man