Earth, Wind & Fire
About Earth, Wind & Fire
The world didn’t realize it was waiting for a spaceship containing a nine-man squad of cosmic pop/funk/R&B superheroes until Earth, Wind & Fire broke through to stardom in the mid-’70s. Their story actually starts in 1969 in Chicago, where drummer/singer Maurice White started The Salty Peppers with singer/keyboardists Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead. By 1970, they had regrouped in L.A. as Earth, Wind & Fire, and they released their self-titled debut LP the following year. Key elements like Latin grooves, funky riffs, and celestial vocal harmonies were present from the start, but success wasn’t immediate. A sea change came in 1972 when the lineup shifted to include Maurice’s brother Verdine White on bass, singer Philip Bailey, and keyboardist Larry Dunn, who quickly became crucial to their sound. The arrival of Maurice’s old Chicago crony Charles Stepney as producer brought a dazzling eclecticism and sonic sheen to the band’s breakout album, 1975’s That’s the Way of the World, and the funky, party-starting single “Shining Star” became a No. 1 hit. Things rocketed upward from there, as Earth, Wind & Fire became superstars with a long string of smashes that lasted into the early ’80s, including the percolating R&B exultation of “Sing a Song,” the disco floor-fillers “Boogie Wonderland” and “September,” and the Quiet Storm ballad “After the Love Has Gone,” with a punchy horn section becoming a signature. Elaborate stage shows accentuated the band’s image as glam-soul spacemen from a blissful, funky future, solidifying their status as ’70s/’80s icons. Maurice remained the prime mover until his death in 2016; the remaining members continued his mission, bringing their joyous sound to fans around the world.