World of Slick Music – Earth Wind & Fire

Earth Wind & Fire

Hi there it’s time for another edition of slick music!

This time i´m gonna write about one of my favorite bands called Earth, Wind & Fire and i guess these guys you´ve heard about!

Ok not the first name that comes out speeking about slick music but that doesn´t mean they ain´t slick or have made some slick stuff.

Well the band was founded way back in 1969 in Chicago by drummer, composer, kalimba player, band leader and occasional vocalist Maurice White. He worked as a session musician for the Chicago based label Chess Records, mostly as a drummer.

Founder Maurice White as he looks today.

Besides  Maurice the other founding members were Wade Flemmons and Don Whitlock and before they took the name, EWF, they were called “Salty Peppers” and they got a small hit called “La La Time” released on Capitol Records see picture below.

  

 Their second single didn´t make it either and Maurice moved to Los Angeles and added brother Verdine White (bass), percussionist Yackov Ben Israel and singer Sherry Scott and eventually they got a record deal with Warner Bros. Records .

Based on his astrological sign, Sagitarrius, who contained elements of earth, air, fire Maurce decided to change the bands name to Earh, Wind & Fire.

The band got some new members including Michael Beal (guitar), Chester Washington (reeds), Leslie Drayton (trumpet) who became the band´s musical director and arranger.

Trombonist Alex Davis also joined the group and here we had the first 10 piece EWF line up!

First album with the name EWF came in 1971 and guess what they called it…yes you got it, offcourse they called it “Earth, Wind & Fire”, picture above, how original lol!

 Anyway despite the not so original name the album sold quite well and so did the sequel called “The Need of Love”. A single from the second album were realesed and became the bands first top 40 with lead singer Sherry Scott. Later the same year, 1971, they recorded soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles film “Sweet Sweetbacks’s baadasssss song”, picture below.

The album were recorded at Paramount Studios and released on Stax Records and now the band started to get some popularity on some college campuses despite this some members became restless and wanted to go solo. After only 6 months the band broke thou brother Verdine were still there so along with him and some other guys Maurice re-formed the group.

This time with the voice that everyone knows is very much typical for EWF, Phillip Bailey. Further members became keyboardist Larry Dunn, guitarist Roland Bautista, drummer Ralph Johnson, singer Jessica Cleaves, flute/saxophonist Ronnie Laws. This line up’s first album was called “Last Days and Time”, picture below.

Now the problem was that Warner didn´t really know how to promote and laber this band, as record companies always have to put a “laber” on the bands.

After a gig at the Rockefeller Plaza in New York City the president of Columbia Records, Clive Davis, vere so impressed that he bought the contract from Warner.

They made a couple of albums for Columbia and members come and gone, don´t feel like counting each one of them. One i can mention was a third White brother called Fred and was the main drummer from the mid 70:s until the early 80:s.

In 1975 they got a smash hit with “Shining Star” which reached #1 and gave the band a Grammy for “Best R&B Performance by a Duo or a Group With Vocals” and this song was featured on the album “That´s the way of the world”, picture below.

 

Now the band were becoming a huge act selling lots of albums, for example 1977 album “All n’ All” sold triple platinum more exactly 3 million copies!!

Picture showing the “All n’ All album which included the hit singles “Fantasy” and “Serpentine Fire”.

Next album was another smash hit, “I am” which contained hits like “In the stone”, in Sweden this song is perhaps most famous for beeing the “intro song” for the tv-show “Lorry”, disco classic “Boogie Wonderland” (featuring The Emotions), the soulful ballad co-written by super-producer David Foster and ex Chicago keyboardist, vocalist Bill Champlin, “After the love has gone”.

Picture showing the “I am” album which contains hit singles “After the Love has Gone”, “Boogie Wonderland”.

There is a live dvd called “Live at the Greek Theatre” where both EWF and Chicago are jammin’ together and here Bill Champlin is singing this song along with EWF, check it out link below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rp0aAVgy8sU

However in 1980 they released their, according to me, their best album called “Faces”, picture below, and this album contains no “famous” songs like those you always find on the best of/greatest hits compilations.

This shows that if you really want to discover a band/artist you have to go beyond the hit singles. Not saying they´re all bad but hit singles are many times written or produced only to get much air time, to be played a lot on the radio stations. So does this band still exist today? Very much so and last album came 2014 and was a christmas album thou only like 3 “original” members remains, picture below.

 

 

Left to right: Verdine White, Phillip Bailey, Ralph Johnson

They always deliever live but in my opinion they haven’t made any really good studio album for over 30 years! Founder Maurice stopped touring long time ago since he suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. He got the diagnosis in the late 80:s and eventually stopped touring in 1994. In the same year the band were inducted to NAACP Hall Of Fame and got their star on the  Hollywood Walk of Fame, picture below.  On the March 6 in 2000 the band were inducted to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Updated February 8th 2016.

R.I.P. Maurice White

As i mentioned above here founder, creative leader, songwriter Maurice White was suffering from Parkinson’s disease and on the evening of February 4th i got the very sad news that Maurice had left us for good, he passed away the day before in his sleep. He was a very creative and visionary man who wasn’t afraid of blending music from different genres such as african, american and brazilian music. When listening to the music of EWF you can clearly hear the influences from all other. On Facebook countless of people, artists, musician payed their tribute to Maurice and explained how big impact his music has had in their life. I gotta thank my oldest brother for introducing me to EWF thou i really didn’t like it when he first played it at home but a seed was sown without him even beeing aware of it!

Left to right: Verdine White, Maurice White, Phillip Bailey, Ralph Johnson

Anyway the years was passing by i got older began listening a lot to gospel music and my brother had moved out but left his EWF vinyls back home. So one day i decided to listen to them with “new ears” so to speak and man did i like it or what?! I was totally blown away of what i heard and it’s still one of my favorite bands! Maurice you will be greatly missed  by thousands of people but our loss heaven’s gain you’re now free and without any pain and suffering. Keep jamming with the cats up there and maybe one day i can join the party.

The clip shows one of the real, what i believe, last live performances Maurice did on stage with EWF back in 2004.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFN5TISuBRk

The song i´ve choosed is taken from the “Faces” album and is not a major famous smash hit but still really good offcourse and quite slick for beeing EWF and it´s called “Turn into something good”.

Here comes the song “Turn into something good” from the Faces album.                     Enjoy your listening!

 

Tags:

#worldofslickmusic #earthwindandfire #mauricewhite #chessrecords #chicago #wadeflemons #donwhitlock #verdinewhite #yackovbenisrael #sherryscott #warnerbrothersrecords #michaelbeal #chesterwashington #lesliedrayton #alexdavis #melvinvanpeeples #paramountstudios #staxrecords #phillipbailey #larrydunn #rolandbautista #ralphjohnson #jessicacleaves #ronnielaws #columbiarecords #clivedavis #rockefellerplaza #newyorkcity #lorry #sweden #theemotions  #billchamplin #chicagoband

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