Earth Wind & Fire: Capturing the Heart and Minds of an Era

The music of Earth Wind & Fire (EWF) continued the pathway of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Gamble and Huff (the Sound of Philadelphia) of producing dance music with socially conscious lyrics. Armed with the song writing talents of Maurice White, the music of  Earth Wind & Fire spoke to the “our better selves”, inspiring us to reach for what was possible, expanding our vision and horizon. In their classical hit, That’s the Way of the World, EWF declares, That’s the way of the world/ Plant your flower and you grow a pearl. A child is born with a heart of gold/The way of the world makes his heart grow cold. 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.”
Rolling Stone Magazine has described Earth, Wind & Fire as “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing” and has also declared that the band “changed the sound of black pop”. Earth, Wind & Fire were also ranked at number 60 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Rock & Roll.
The sound of EWF is grounded in the vision and song writing of Maurice White. His song writing ability was aided by his exposure to classical African American music-Jazz and other musical genres.  White 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. He landed 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.” 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.

With Columbia Records, debuting with the 1972 album Last Days And Time, the EWF 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. 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.
In 1973, the beginning of the classical recording period for EWF, Maurice White and Charles Stepney and recorded at the Caribou Ranch Studio, the soundtrack to the movie which was also titled That’s the Way of the World. This became Earth, Wind & Fire’s breakthrough album. Called “one of the strongest albums of the 70’s” and EWF’s crowning achievement” by Allmusic’s Alex Henderson and described by Billboard Magazine as “a very tightly produced and performed package,”  That’s the Way of the World included the hit singles Shining Star, and That’s the Way of the World and through the album EWF became the first black act to top both the Billboard album and singles charts. The origins of Shining Star came during a nightly walk by Maurice during the band’s recording of That’s the Way of the World when on looking up towards the starry sky he became inspired and took his concepts for the song to the other band members.
Earth, Wind & Fire’s songs have been covered by artists such as the Jerry Garcia Band, Point Of Grace D’Angelo, Lenny White, Patti LaBelle, The Manhattans, Wynonna Judd, Yolanda Adams, Donny Osmond, Chaka Khan, 112, the Vienna Boys’ Choir, , Herb Alpert link, Musiq and Tito Puente. Their songs have also been sampled by artists some of which include A Tribe Called Quest, Wyclef Jean, Jay-Z, Amerie, The Fugees, LL Cool J, De La Soul, Common, Queen Pen, Naughty by Nature, P Diddy, The Roots, Will Smith link, Cee-Lo link, MC Lyte and Lisa Left Eye Lopes link.
Miles Davis described EW&F as his “all time favorite band” saying “they have everything (horns, electric guitar, singers and more) in one band”. Quincy Jones has proclaimed himself to be the “biggest fan of Earth, Wind & Fire since day one.” Dionne Warwick has named Earth, Wind & Fire as her favorite group of all time. American President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are big fans of Earth, Wind & Fire.

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One Response to “Earth Wind & Fire: Capturing the Heart and Minds of an Era”

  1. revnardintheplace Says:

    This is my Interpretation of “AFter the love is gone”

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