ARTIST OF THE MONTH: EARTH, WIND & FIRE
September 1, 2020
With a whole host of new playlists, channels and features approaching to celebrate the band’s fiftieth anniversary, our Artist of the Month for September is the mighty Earth, Wind & Fire.
In one of the shrewdest marketing moves of the 21st century, the 30th anniversary tour of the mighty Earth, Wind & Fire was sponsored by none other than Viagra.
And rightly so; not only had this veritable funk institution gone the distance over a period of three decades, they’ve also continued to go strong for another 20 years and are showing absolutely no signs of slowing down.
Having sold somewhere in the region of 90m albums over an incredible 50 year career, Earth, Wind & Fire are one of the most accomplished, talented and beloved groups on the planet. The brainchild of drummer, percussionist and occasional vocalist Maurice White, the group’s solid funk foundations are the roots from which their endowment and success stems.
Theirs is a heady brew mixing in smooth soul, gospel, the blues, psychedelia, jazz and disco, and it’s precisely this ability to manouevre, absorb and grow within these idioms that’s helped with their longevity.
Indeed, staying power is one thing, but it’s what you do with it that really counts. Their accomplishments in the studio are arguably exceeded by their jaw-dropping stage show. Fronted by the honeyed vocals of frontman Philip Bailey and backed by a crack squad of musicians at the top of their profession – these included mainstays Verdine White on bass and drummer Ralph Johnson.
Earth, Wind & Fire picked up the exuberant baton passed on by antecedents Sly And The Family Stone to deliver breathtaking shows that included daring dance moves, adventurous costumes and the kind of showmanship that was lacking in 70s rock’s more earnest practitioners. Little wonder, then, that their move to arenas was swift and justified, for here was band that grew just as much visually as they did aurally.
Indeed, one of the many joys of returning to Earth, Wind & Fire’s voluminous back catalogue is tracking their development. Signed by the legendary Clive Davis, their early material such as ‘Time Is On Your Side’ and the classic ‘Where Have All The Flowers Gone?’ from 1972’s ‘Last Days’ album, reveals a band already skilled in navigating from the funk of the former to sweet soul of the latter.
Move further along and you’ll encounter the irresistible funk grooves of the Grammy Award-winning ‘Shining Star’ on 1975’s ‘That’s The Way Of The World’ and their breakthrough 1976 UK hit single, ‘Saturday Night’.
And those hits just kept coming: ‘Fantasy’, ‘Jupiter’ and ‘Magic Mind’ – all taken from 1977’s ‘All’n All’ – displayed a band better getting as it went along. As evidenced by the smash-hit singles ‘September’, ‘Boogie Wonderland’ and ‘Let’s Groove’, their embrace of disco saw Earth, Wind & Fire transcend the genre to create something uniquely their own.
Earth, Wind & Fire are such pioneers that it comes as little surprise that even as far as into the new millennium, they’ve managed to work with talents including Raphael Saadiq and Kenny G. Or, for that matter, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016. But it’s that staying power that counts, not least as Earth, Wind & Fire’s story is far from over.
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