By Lola Rossi
This concert is sure to be another high energy and elaborate stage show with great vocals, top notch musicians, and a hot horn section, with dynamic sound, lighting and great fashion. The music of Earth, Wind and Fire has been a positive influence in the lives of so many people for over 40 years. They have recorded over 50 albums, won numerous awards and sold over 90 million records, worldwide. See the Earth, Wind and Fire web-site for a complete list.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, Maurice White was exposed to jazz, gospel, R&B, blues and early rock, at a young age and sang in the church choir when he was six years old. He took an interest in percussion and started working as a drummer while still in High School. He later attended the Chicago Conservatory of Music and became a studio percussionist at Chess Records. He performed with the Ramsey Lewis Trio for three years.
In 1969, Maurice along with friends Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead formed a songwriting team, who wrote commercials in the Chicago area, and later landed a recording contract with Capitol Records, calling the band The Salty Peppers. Maurice moved to Los Angeles. He had the desire to have a band that played all types of music and re-named his band, Earth, Wind and Fire. This new name captured Maurice’s spiritual approach to music, one that transcended categories and appealed to multiple artistic principals, including composition, musicianship, production, and performance.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Verdine White found he was very attracted to the upright bass and his younger brother Fred played drums, like his big brother. Their father was a Doctor who enjoyed playing the saxophone. He told them “If you’re gonna play an instrument, play it right.” Their mother was a nurse and teacher’s aid. A wide variety of music was always heard in their home. Verdine studied bass with Louis Satterfield, who recorded with Earth, Wind and Fire as part of The Phoenix Horns. Maurice called his brother Verdine to play bass in his band and on June 6, 1970, a date very significant to Verdine, he joined his brother in Los Angeles.
Maurice was always involved in the business side of the “Music Business” from the very start of Earth, Wind and Fire. Every step they took was getting them closer and closer to realizing their dreams. He signed a contract with Warner Brothers Records and the group recorded two albums with them as more of a jazz act with a single, “I Think About Loving You” their first Top 40 R&B hit. However, Maurice was more interested in combining the elements of jazz, rock and soul, into an evolving form of fusion, a truly universal sound.
Ralph Johnson was a working musician born and raised in Los Angeles. Maurice and Verdine attended one of his performances and were impressed with his talent. Although he joined the band in late 1971, he and Verdine are considered the co-founders of the group.
Philip Bailey was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. His voice is angelic, a true gift from God. In 1972, he was invited to become a member of the band. After a performance at Rockefeller Center, Clive Davis, President of Columbia Records, loved the group and bought their contract from Warner Brothers. 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 and vanishing artists; engineered by Doug Henning and his then unknown assistant David Copperfield.
The band runs like a well-oiled machine. Their contributions to the music world have been remarkable. They encountered obstacles along the way, but they stayed focused and worked their way through. Their longevity in the Music Industry is outstanding, with a devoted fan base who continue to see them in concert. Their latest album, Holiday was produced by Philip Bailey and Myron McKinley; released in October of 2014 and was the first Christmas album they ever recorded.
Giving back to the community is something in common with many of the musicians I have interviewed. They realize they need to set a good example for the young people who see them and hear their music. During an interview with Bass Frontiers, Verdine said, “With music, we are like vessels doing God’s work and translating it to the people. Writing from the heart has always been our intention.” Verdine is the co-founder of the Verdine White Foundation, which aims to provide musical education to underprivileged and gifted students. His advice is, “Stay strong, stay healthy, believe in God, believe in yourself.”