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Earth, Wind & Fire



Earth, Wind & Fire (abbreviated as EW&F or simply EWF) is an American band that has spanned the musical genres of R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco, pop, rock, dance, Latin, and Afro pop. They have been described as one of the most innovative and commercially successful acts of all time. Rolling Stone called them "innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing" and declared that the band "changed the sound of black pop". VH1 has also described EWF as "one of the greatest bands" ever.

The band was founded in Chicago by Maurice White in 1969, having grown out of a previous band known as the Salty Peppers. As well other prominent members of EWF have included Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, Al McKay, Roland Bautista, Robert Brookins, Sonny Emory, Fred Ravel, Ronnie Laws, Sheldon Reynolds and Andrew Woolfolk. The band is known for its kalimba sound, dynamic horn section, energetic and elaborate stage shows, and the contrast between Philip Bailey's falsetto vocals and Maurice White's baritone.

The band has won six Grammys from their 17 nominations and four American Music Awards out of 12 nominations. They have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the NAACP Image Award Hall of Fame, and Hollywood's Rockwalk, in addition to receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. With sales of over 90 million records, they are one of the world's best-selling bands of all time. The band has also received an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award, BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Soul Train Legend Award, as well as a NARAS Signature Governor's Award, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the 2012 Congressional Horizon Award, and the Kennedy Center Honors in 2019.

History



1969–1970: Beginnings

In 1969, Maurice White, a former session drummer for Chess Records and former member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team composing songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends eventually got a recording contract with Capitol Records. Calling themselves "The Salty Peppers", they went on to have a marginal hit single in the Midwestern area titled "La La Time". and percussionist Yackov Ben Israel, both from Chicago, and then asked his younger brother Verdine how he would feel about heading out to the West Coast. On June 6, 1970, Verdine left Chicago to join the band as their new bassist. Maurice began shopping demo tapes of the band, featuring Donny Hathaway, around to different record labels and the band was thus signed to Warner Bros. Records.

Rolling Stone noted a "heavy Sly influence" and the "smooth harmonies" of The Fifth Dimension on the LP. The Detroit Free Press also called the EWF's music a mix of "Afro-gospel-jazz-blues-rock" on the album.

EWF went on to perform the entire soundtrack of the Melvin Van Peebles feature film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. The soundtrack, composed by Van Peebles, was released in April 1971 on Stax Records. The album reached No. 13 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart.

During November 1971, EWF's sophomore album titled The Need of Love was issued. The LP got to No. 35 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart.

Jazz Journal noted that the album has a "timeless quality". The Chicago Sun Times also called The Need of Love "a unique sound" which "works beautifully".

A single from the album called "I Think About Lovin' You" reached No. 44 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.

The band developed a growing popularity on college campuses but, in spite of this, some members of EWF started to become restless. As such the band eventually split apart. With only Verdine left, Maurice decided to re-form the group.

Their debut album on CBS/Columbia Records, Last Days and Time was issued in October 1972. The album got to No. 15 on the US Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 9 on the UK Blues & Soul Top British Soul Albums chart. Record Mirror described Last Days and Time as a "formative" and "interesting" record. Variety also called the album "pulsating".

A single called "Mom" got to No. 39 on the Cashbox Top R&B Singles chart.

Soon thereafter, Roland Bautista and Ronnie Laws left the band to pursue new musical opportunities. Denver native Philip Bailey recommended his former East High School classmate, saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk as a replacement for Laws. Woolfolk had been busy in New York studying sax with sax maestro Joe Henderson and was due to start a career in banking at the time. To fill the void created by Bautista's departure, rhythm guitarists Al McKay and Johnny Graham were added to round out the new lineup. Graham previously played with the R&B group New Birth while McKay was a former member of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band. Head to the Sky has also been certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

Rolling Stone declared that "at its best, the music is fluid and enveloping" with EWF sounding "cosmic" on a "quite satisfying" album. Billboard also noted that the band "does everything well" on the LP.

A single off the LP titled "Evil" got to No. 19 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs and No. 25 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs charts respectively. Another single called "Keep Your Head to the Sky" rose to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart. Jessica Cleaves left the band after the release of this album.

The band's follow-up album was co-produced by Maurice and Joe Wissert. This LP was recorded at Colorado's Caribou Ranch Studio and issued under the title of Open Our Eyes in March 1974. Rolling Stone called Open Our Eyes "a pleasant miscellany of Africana, Latin rhythms, well-mannered funk, smooth jazz, Sly Stone, Stevie Wonder and the Fifth Dimension". The Village Voice's Robert Christgau also described the album as a complete "tour de force". The album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 15 on the Billboard 200 chart. Open Our Eyes was certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

A single from the LP called "Mighty Mighty" reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart and No. 29 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Another single titled "Kalimba Story" rose to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart. A song called "Devotion" also got to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart and No. 33 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

After Open Our Eyes was issued, Maurice's younger brother, Fred White, joined the band. He had previously played in Chicago clubs as a drummer with Donny Hathaway and Little Feat.

On April 6, 1974, EWF performed at the California Jam, a West Coast rock festival that attracted an audience of 200,000. The concert was televised in the US on May 10, 1974 by ABC.

In September 1974, a compilation double album titled Another Time with all the songs from EWF's first two studio albums was released by Warner Bros. The album got to No. 29 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart.

The band then collaborated with Ramsey Lewis on his album Sun Goddess which was produced by Maurice and issued in late 1974 by Columbia. The album got to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. The LP's title track rose to No. 20 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart.

Sun Goddess was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

1975–1980: Ornate sound

During 1975, EWF was approached by Sig Shore, producer of the motion picture Super Fly, to record the soundtrack to a new film titled That's the Way of the World. With a screenplay from Robert Lipsyte, the movie was produced and directed by Shore. The film starred Harvey Keitel, Ed Nelson, EWF as "The Group" and Maurice as Early, "The Group"'s leader. Keitel played the role of a record producer who hears "The Group" performing and is wowed by their act.

When the band saw the film they were convinced that it would become a box office bomb, which it eventually was. They therefore released the movie's soundtrack before the film's premiere. The LP was produced by Maurice and Charles Stepney and recorded at the Caribou Ranch Studio. Stepney had previously worked with artists such as The Dells, Terry Callier and Minnie Riperton and the collective group The Rotary Connection, of which Riperton was a member. Stepney's writing and production style included a more ornate, orchestral flourish, which influenced the production of the soundtrack album.

That's the Way of the World was eventually issued in March 1975 by Columbia. The album rose to No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top Soul Albums charts. The Boston Globe called the LP "a sound you shouldn't miss". The BBC also described That's The Way Of The World as a "soul masterpiece". The album was certified Triple Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

From the LP came the single "Shining Star", which rose to No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts. By this achievement, EWF became the first black act to top both the Billboard album and singles charts. The song also won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. The album's second single was title track, "That's the Way of the World". It reached No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart and No. 12 on the Hot 100 chart.

After their first tour of Europe, EWF returned to the studio in June 1975 for a follow-up release. The band eventually came away with an album of mostly live concert material together with some newly recorded tracks. As a double LP the new album titled Gratitude was issued in November 1975. It rose to No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Soul Albums charts respectively. The album was certified Triple Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

With the LP came the song "Sing a Song", which rose to Nos. 1 and 5 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively. The single "Can't Hide Love" got to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart. "Can't Hide Love" was also Grammy-nominated for Best Arrangement For Voices.

EWF went on to win a Rock Music Award in the category of Best Soul Album for Gratitude. The album's title track was Grammy-nominated in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. EWF also won DownBeat's 1975 Reader's Poll for favourite Rock/Blues Group.

With Gratitude the band's horn section, dubbed the Phenix Horns, were credited for the first time on disc. They were composed of saxophonist Don Myrick, trombonist Louis Satterfield, and trumpeters Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris. Myrick and Satterfield had both previously worked with Maurice during his days as a session drummer at Chess Records.

During 1975 Maurice also established a production company called Kalimba Productions. Artists such as his former bandleader Ramsey Lewis; singer Deniece Williams, who had once been a member of Stevie Wonder's "Wonderlove" backup group; and girl group The Emotions, were signed to the production company. Maurice loaned the band's signature Phenix Horns and most of the other band members and put these and others artists who were signed to Kalimba Productions on tour with EWF.

While co-producing and arranging EWF's follow-up LP, Williams's debut album, This Is Niecy, Ramsey Lewis's Salongo, and The Emotions's Flowers, their first album on Columbia Records, Charles Stepney died of a heart attack on May 17, 1976 in Chicago at the age of 43.

With Stepney's death, Maurice went on to solely produce the band's new LP, Spirit, which was issued in October 1976. With the album's title EWF paid tribute to Stepney. The LP rose to No. 2 on both the Billboard Top Pop Albums and Top Soul Albums charts. Variety called the album "another solid rhythm and blues session" where "a couple of instrumentals break up a lot of smooth, polished vocal instrumental trips." The New York Times also described Spirit as an LP which crosses "any stylistic formats" of music.Spirit was certified Double Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

A single off the LP called "Getaway" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart. The song also rose to No. 12 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance Club Play charts. Another single titled "Saturday Nite reached Nos. 4 and 21 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs and Hot 100 charts respectively. "Saturday Nite" also rose to No. 12 on both the Billboard Dance Club Songs and UK Pop Singles charts respectively. The album cut Earth, Wind and Fire was Grammy nominated for Best Instrumental Composition. EW&F also topped Down Beat's 1976 Readers Poll for best vocal group.

During this period EWF concerts started to become loaded with pyrotechnics, magic, laser lights, flying pyramids, levitating guitarists and elaborate production tricks that included the entire group ascending in a pyramid and a disappearing act. The stage magician Doug Henning was thus with many of their tours with his young assistant and eventual successor, David Copperfield. The band also began to be choreographed by George Faison.

In November 1977, EWF released All 'n All, their eight studio album. It was inspired via a month long trip by Maurice White through Argentina and Brazil. The album rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The New York Times described the LP as moreso "jazz rock". The Village Voice also noted "Focusing soulful horns, high-tension harmonies, and rhythms and textures from many lands" on the album which "cooks throughout". All 'n All won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus. The album was certified Triple Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

A song from the LP called "Serpentine Fire" rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart and No. 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Another single titled "Fantasy" reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart and No. 14 on the UK Pop Singles chart. "Fantasy" was Grammy nominated in the category of Best R&B Song. A track off the LP called "Runnin" won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental.

In April 1978, the band featured on Natalie Cole's special aired on CBS where they performed a medley.

EWF also appeared in the July 1978 feature film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band where they performed a cover of The Beatles's "Got to Get You into My Life". The song was eventually added to the movie's soundtrack. However, the film was a commercial failure, as That's the Way of the World had been years before. EWF's rendition of "Got to Get You into My Life" was the biggest hit from the movie's soundtrack, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard R&B songs chart and No. 9 on the Billboard Pop singles chart. The song was Grammy-nominated in the category of Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. It went on to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s). The movie's soundtrack was certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

In 1978, Maurice established a vanity label of CBS titled The American Record Company (ARC), and alongside sound engineer George Massenburg, a new recording studio called "The Complex" in West Los Angeles. In November 1978, EWF issued a compilation album on the new vanity label entitled The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1. It rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 6 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was certified Quintuple Platinum in the U.S. by the RIAA.

A single titled "September" rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart and No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100. September also got to No. 3 on the UK Pop Singles chart.

In January 1979, the band performed "September" and "That's the Way of the World" at the Music for UNICEF Concert. The concert was broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly by NBC. Other artists who performed at the event were ABBA, the Bee Gees, Olivia Newton-John, Donna Summer and Rod Stewart. The concert was Emmy-nominated in the category of Outstanding Individual Achievement - Special Class.

During June 1979, EWF issued their ninth studio album, I Am. The LP rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. I Am was certified Double Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

The Los Angeles Times proclaimed that the album was "freshly innovative for EW&F". The Baltimore Sun also described I Am as being "faultlessly produced".

A song from the LP titled "Boogie Wonderland", featuring The Emotions, got to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Soul Songs chart and No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was also Grammy nominated in the categories of Best Disco Recording and Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

Another single called "After the Love Has Gone" reached No. 2 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Songs charts. The song also reached No. 3 on both the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs and UK Pop Singles charts. The ballad was Grammy-nominated in the category of Record of the Year. "After the Love Has Gone" also won a Grammy for the Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

During October 1980 EWF issued a double album titled Faces. This LP was in the emerging Post Disco style and was partly recorded on the Caribbean island of Montserrat. The album rose to No. 2 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 10 on both the Billboard 200 and UK Pop Albums charts. Faces was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

In a 2007 interview, when asked which EWF album was his favorite, Maurice White replied: "Probably Faces because we were really in tune...and it gave us the opportunity to explore new areas." Soon after its release rhythm guitarist Al McKay left the band.

The Los Angeles Times called Faces "the R&B album of the year". The Chicago Sun Times also described the album as "a set of intricately produced, high gloss funk".

A song off the LP titled "Let Me Talk" reached No. 8 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart and No. 29 on the UK Pop Singles Chart. Another single called "You" got to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and No. 30 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. As a single, "And Love Goes On" rose to No. 15 on the Billboard R&B Singles chart.

1981–1996: Electric sound

White decided that, given the changing musical landscape, the band needed to incorporate into their work more of the electronic sound which was popular at the time. As a result, EWF's eleventh album, Raise!, was influenced by this new electronic sound and released in the Autumn of 1981. With this album rhythm guitarist Roland Bautista returned to EWF. Bautista went on to give the band's sound a bit of a hard rock feel with his playing. Raise! rose to No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart and No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart. Raise was also certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA. From the LP came the single "Let's Groove," which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. As well "Let's Groove" was Grammy nominated in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. A song called I've Had Enough also got to No. 29 on the UK Pop Singles chart. Another single entitled "Wanna Be With You" rose to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot Soul Singles chart. Wanna Be With You also won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. On October 30, 1981 EWF appeared at American Bandstand's 30th Anniversary Special, where they performed "Let's Groove".In 1981, the Phenix Horns also began their frequent collaborations with Phil Collins and his band Genesis.

During February 1983, EWF issued a studio album titled Powerlight. The album rose to No. 4 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart and No. 12 on the Billboard 200 chart. Powerlight was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

The New York Daily News described Powerlight as a "classy" record. The Village Voice's Robert Christgau also proclaimed that the LP has a "sonic affluence and showtime groove".

The album's first single "Fall in Love with Me" rose to No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and No. 4 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart. "Fall in Love with Me" was Grammy-nominated for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. A second single titled "Side by Side" got to No. 15 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart.

EWF went on to appear on the soundtrack of the April 1983 animated feature film Rock & Rule with the song "Dance, Dance, Dance". Artists such as Debbie Harry of Blondie, Lou Reed and Cheap Trick also featured on the soundtrack. LA Weekly noted "Earth, Wind & Fire's funky club jam Dance, Dance, Dance" as the "standout track" of the soundtrack. Rock & Rule was the first feature film of Nelvana Studios and has since become a cult film.

During November 1983, EWF issued their thirteenth studio album, titled Electric Universe. With the album came a unique fully new wave and synth pop sound for EWF. The album got to No. 8 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart and No. 40 on the Billboard 200 chart.

The Detroit Free Press declared that the LP has "a gritter, funkier approach that returns to the joyfulness of the group's early days". Rolling Stone also described Electric Universe as being full of "sensuous, and at times, rock oriented dance material"."

A song from the album called "Magnetic" rose to No. 10 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart and No. 36 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. Another single entitled "Touch" got to No. 23 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart.

With the release of this LP, Maurice believed the band needed a break, so he put EWF on hiatus in 1984.

During their hiatus, Maurice went on to produce Barbra Streisand on her 1984 album Emotion. Emotion has been certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA. White released the self-titled solo album Maurice White in 1985. The album rose to number 12 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Appearing upon the LP was a cover of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me", with a guest appearance by jazz saxophonist Gerald Albright. White's version of "Stand by Me" got to No. 6 on the Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart and No. 11 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. Another album cut, "I Need You", rose to No. 20 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart and No. 30 on Billboard Hot R&B Singles chart. White went on to co-produce Pieces of a Dream's 1986 LP Joyride. The album reached No. 3 on the Billboard Traditional Jazz Albums chart and No. 18 on the Billboard Top Soul Albums chart. He later produced Neil Diamond on his 1986 album Headed for the Future. Headed for the Future has been certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. He also guested on guitarist Lee Ritenour's 1986 Grammy-nominated album Earth Run and on Cher's 1987 album Cher. Cher has been certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

Philip Bailey also issued his second solo album, Chinese Wall, in 1984 on Columbia. The album was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. A single off the LP with Phil Collins called "Easy Lover," rose to No. 2 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 1 on the UK Singles Chart respectively. He went on to also issue a Grammy nominated Gospel LP entitled The Wonders of His Love in 1984 on Myrrh Records and then appeared upon Kenny Loggins 1985 album Vox Humana. Bailey went on to release his third studio album being Inside Out in 1986 on Columbia. During that year his second Gospel LP, Triumph, was issued and it also won a Grammy. Bailey later featured on Stevie Wonder's 1986 album In Square Circle and Ray Parker Jr.'s 1987 LP After Dark.

Ralph Johnson also produced The Temptations on their 1984 album Truly for You. Verdine White went on to promote go-go bands like Trouble Funk and E.U.. The compilation album The Collection was released May 1986, stayed at No. 5 on the UK singles charts for two weeks, and was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry.

During 1987, Maurice went about reconvening the band. As a result Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey and Andrew Woolfolk returned with new members guitarist/vocalist Sheldon Reynolds, keyboardist Vance Taylor and drummer Sonny Emory. A new horn section dubbed the Earth, Wind & Fire Horns was created, made up of Gary Bias on the saxophone, Raymond Lee Brown on the trumpet, and Reggie Young on the flugelhorn and trombone.

With this came the studio album Touch the World which was issued in November 1987. Touch the World rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart and No. 33 on the Billboard 200 chart. Touch the World was also certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

The Boston Globe called the album "one of the group's toughest" where much of the music "jams vigorously". Touch the World was also nominated for a Soul Train Award in the category of Best R&B/Soul Album of the Year.

On the album was a track written by an unknown songwriter by the name of Skylark titled "System of Survival". Released as a single, the song became a hit, going to number one on both the Billboard R&B and Dance charts. "System of Survival" was nominated for a Soul Train Award in the category of Best R&B/Soul Single – Group, Band or Duo. Another single titled "Thinking of You" got to No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart and No. 3 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

During November 1988, EWF issued a compilation album titled The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 2. The album was certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. With the LP came a new song titled "Turn on (The Beat Box)", which was released as a single and reached No. 26 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart. EWF went on to be nominated for an NAACP Image Award in the category of Best Vocal Group.

During February 1990, EWF issued their fifteenth studio album, entitled Heritage. People magazine described it as an album "with a full dose of energy and creativity". Spin noted "bright, cheery harmonies set in crisp call and response patterns laced together with dreamy musical interludes" on the album.

The album rose to No. 19 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart and No. 18 on the UK Blues & Soul Top British Soul Albums chart. The album's title track, featuring The Boys, got to No. 5 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart. Another single, "For the Love of You" featuring MC Hammer, rose to No. 19 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart.

During 1992, EWF issued a compilation album called The Eternal Dance. The LP was the band's first ever boxset.

During September 1993, came the release of the band's 16th studio album, Millennium issued on Warner Bros. Records. Artists such as Ronnie Laws and Prince appeared on the LP. The album also rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Top R&B Albums chart and No. 39 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Vibe described the LP as being full of "r&b on the visonary/romantic tip." USA Today declared Millennium as having "snappy horns, kalimba (thumb piano), falsetto harmonies, Afro-Cuban influences, instrumental interludes and philosophical lyrics". Millennium was nominated for a Soul Train Music Award in the category of Best R&B/Soul Album - Group, Band or Duo.

The album's first single "Sunday Morning" got to No. 20 on the US Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart and No. 33 on the RPM Top Canadian Singles chart. The song was also Grammy nominated in the category of Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. The second single titled "Spend The Night" rose to No. 36 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart.

On July 30, 1993, former Phenix Horns saxophonist Don Myrick was fatally shot by a Santa Monica Police Department officer. On October 13, former lead vocalist Wade Flemons died from cancer in Battle Creek, Michigan.

In November 1993, EWF performed at the American Music Awards 20th anniversary special. During 1994, EWF was inducted into the NAACP Image Award Hall Of Fame. On September 14 of the following year, the band received another tribute in the form of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.Maurice White, Sonny Emory, Sheldon Reynolds, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, Andrew Woolfolk and Verdine White all attended the inauguration ceremony where they were bestowed with the honor before hundreds of fans.

1996–present: Neo period

During 1996, Maurice launched a new label titled Kalimba Records based in Santa Monica, California. At the label also came a recording studio known as Magnet Vision.

EWF's follow-up studio album, In the Name of Love, was released in 1997 on Rhino Records. The album went on to be noted as one with a digitized neo soul sound and style. USA Today noted that EWF "shows it still has an edge to its funk" on the LP. The Guardian also described In the Name of Love as "a scorching album". The LP reached No. 19 on the UK R&B Albums chart. From the album, a track titled "When Love Goes Wrong" got to No. 33 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart. Another song called "Change Your Mind" was issued as a single in 2006 by Kalimba. Change Your Mind rose to No. 26 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart.

During the previous year, Maurice stopped regularly touring with the band but still appeared on stage occasionally. At the time, he explained that he wanted to take a rest from the rigors of the road. Philip Bailey was given the role of an on stage leader of the band. Maurice though maintained executive control of EWF as its main leader.

Earth, Wind & Fire went on to appear on Wu Tang Clan offshoot Sunz of Man's 1998 debut album The Last Shall Be First. The album got to No. 20 on the Billboard 200 chart and No.7 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. EWF then gave an encore performance at the 1998 Montreux Jazz Festival as the band also played at the 1997 edition of the festival.

During 1999, EWF went on to issue a compilation album titled The Ultimate Collection on Columbia. The album reached No. 34 upon the UK Pop Albums Chart. A remix by UK dance duo Phats and Small called "September '99" got to No. 1 on the Canadian Dance Songs chart and No. 25 on the UK Pop Singles chart.

In 1999, the group also performed on the A&E Network show Live by Request. A website titled www.Startalk.org was set up in 1999 in honor of Maurice. Maurice later spoke of an mild affliction with Parkinson's disease. Artists such as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Isaac Hayes, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine posted messages on the site for White. Maurice, however, had the disease under control, so much so that he occasionally made appearances at EWF performances, and continued to write, record, produce and develop new recordings for EWF and other artists.

On March 6, 2000, EWF was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by hip hop artist Lil' Kim to a standing ovation during the 15th annual ceremony held at New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson, as well as former EWF members Al McKay, Larry Dunn, Andrew Woolfolk, Fred White and Johnny Graham attended the ceremony. At the gala they performed "Shining Star" and "That's the Way of the World" together.

EWF was a specially invited music guest at the June 20, 2000 White House state dinner hosted by President Bill Clinton on the South Lawn of the White House, in honor of His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, and Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Meryem. So impressed was the king by the band's performance that he made a personal request for EWF to perform in Morocco for his 37th birthday celebration on August 21, 2000.

EWF went on to collaborate with Wyclef Jean on his second studio album, The Ecleftic: 2 Sides II a Book, which was issued in August 2000. The album got to No. 3 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 9 on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

In 2001, a biographical documentary of the band titled Shining Stars: The Official Story Of Earth, Wind & Fire was released, directed by Kathryn Arnold. Following the September 11 attacks of that year, the band members donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross at a September 13 show at Virginia's Verizon Wireless Virginia Beach Amphitheater, the band's first concert since those events took place. February 24, 2002 saw EWF performing at the closing ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics held in Salt Lake City, Utah.

On June 17, 2002, EWF was bestowed with the ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California. The award was presented by ASCAP President and Chairman Marilyn Bergman, Stevie Wonder, and Jimmy Jam.

On June 25, 2002, EWF was bestowed with a BET Lifetime Achievement Award. Within July 2002 a compilation album titled The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire was issued by Columbia. The album has been certified Gold in the US by the RIAA. A sampler which featured remixes of Can't Hide Love and Let's Groove also came off the LP. The remix sampler got to No. 4 on the UK Dance Singles Chart. A live album of the band's 1980 performance in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, titled Live In Rio, was released on Kalimba Records in November 2002.

During May 2003, EWF issued The Promise on Kalimba Records. The album peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 5 on the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart. People magazine described the LP as "musically rich". Blender magazine also called the album "a classy collection". On the album were two previously unreleased songs from the I Am recording sessions: "Where Do We Go From Here" and "Dirty". The first single "All in the Way", which reunited EWF with The Emotions, got to No. 13 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart and No. 25 Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. The second single "Hold Me" earned the band a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. Hold Me also reached No. 28 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart. Never and Why? were issued from the LP as singles in 2014 and 2015 respectively "Never" rose to No. 17 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart. "Why?" also got to No. 19 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Songs chart.

On July 7, 2003, the band was inducted into Hollywood's Rockwalk. In September 2003, EWF were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.

On February 8, 2004, EWF performed in a tribute to funk at the 46th annual Grammy Awards held at the Staples Center, Los Angeles, California. Other artists performing at this tribute were Parliament Funkadelic, OutKast, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. EWF sang "Shining Star" and then at Outkast's request crooned "The Way You Move" with them. Robert Randolph and the Family Band performed their single "I Need More Love" and then all of the bands teamed to sing Parliament Funkadelic's classic "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)". EWF also covered Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" on his May 2004 tribute album Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. On June 8, 2004, EWF were bestowed with the NARAS Signature Governors Award at Los Angeles's Beverly Hills Hotel. On September 27, 2004, former Phenix Horns trombonist Louis Satterfield died, aged 67.

On December 11, 2004, EWF was honored at the first annual Grammy Jam held at Los Angeles's Wiltern Theater. At the Grammy Jam artists such as Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams, India Arie, George Benson, Sheila E., Kanye West, George Duke, Usher and Jill Scott paid tribute to the band in the form of performances. Celebrities such as Pamela Anderson, Tim Allen, Prince, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Nick Cannon, Regina King, Suzanne de Passe and Victoria Rowell also attended the gala. EWF performed on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2004.

The February 6, 2005, Super Bowl XXXIX pregame show in Jacksonville, Florida saw the band teaming with The Black Eyed Peas to sing "Where Is the Love?" and "Shining Star".

In 2004, EWF and Chicago embarked upon a joint national tour, which gave rise to a DVD of a concert that took place at Los Angeles' Greek Theater titled Chicago & Earth, Wind & Fire – Live at the Greek Theatre. This DVD was released on June 28, 2005, and was certified Platinum two months afterward. Chicago and EWF once again toured together in 2005 and collaborated for a new recording of Chicago's ballad "If You Leave Me Now," that was included on Chicago's 2005 compilation album Love Songs. As the 57th Primetime Emmy Awards held on September 18, 2005, at Los Angeles' Shrine Auditorium, the band performed as the opening act with The Black Eyed Peas.

During September 2005, Illumination, EWF's 19th studio album, was issued on Sanctuary Records. On this album EWF collaborated with artists such as will.i.am, Kelly Rowland, Outkast's Big Boi, Floetry and Brian McKnight. Illumination reached No. 8 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and No. 32 on the Billboard 200 chart.

Raymond Fiore of Entertainment Weekly described the LP as a mix of "modern beats and retro, horn-lined soul". Steve Jones of USA Today noted that on the album EWF are as "vibrant as ever". Illumination received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album and a Soul Train Music Award nomination in the category of Best R&B-Soul Album. EWF also received a NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Duo or Group.

A song from the album, called "Pure Gold", reached No. 23 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. EWF also covered Outkast's "The Way You Move" featuring saxophonist Kenny G on the album. The single got to No. 12 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. Another single titled "Show Me The Way", featuring neo soul singer Raphael Saadiq got to No. 16 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart. Show Me The Way was also Grammy nominated in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

In 2006, Maurice worked with Maurice Hines, brother of famed entertainer Gregory Hines, to release the Broadway play Hot Feet. This was a jukebox musical with its theme the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice co-wrote with Allee Willis several new songs for the play. On February 11, 2007 EWF performed "Runaway Love" alongside Mary J. Blige and Ludacris at the 49th Grammy Awards held at Los Angeles's Staples Center.Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, an album featuring cover versions of EWF's material, was released on Stax Records on March 27, 2007. Executively produced by Maurice, the LP featured artists such as Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, Lalah Hathaway, Mint Condition, Dwele, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Angie Stone. The album rose to no. 28 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Kirk Franklin's cover of September reached No. 17 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart and No. 26 on the Billboard Hot Gospel Songs chart. As well Dwele's rendition of "That's the Way of the World" and Meshell Ndegeocello's cover of "Fantasy", were each Grammy nominated in the category of Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

On April 25, 2007, EWF played as the opening act at a special edition of American Idol entitled "Idol Gives Back". At the gala the band performed a medley of "Boogie Wonderland", "Shining Star" and "September". At the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, on December 11, 2007, EWF performed Fantasy and September. The concert was broadcast to over 100 countries. Artists such as Melissa Etheridge, Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox, and Kylie Minogue also performed at the concert.

During February 2008, EWF performed on the opening night of one of the oldest and largest musical festivals in Latin America, Chile's Viña del Mar Festival. The audience at the gala was so impressed by EWF's performance that the band was bestowed with the Gaviota de Plata (The Silver Seagull), which is the highest award that can be presented to an artist performing at the festival. EWF's song "In the Stone" has also been used for several years as the introductory theme for the festival's broadcasts.On March 10, 2008, the band was inducted into the Munich Olympic Walk Of Stars.

Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey, and Verdine White each received an honorary degree from the Arts and Media College at Columbia College Chicago's 2008 commencement exercises. During the ceremony Verdine White and Johnson both gave acceptance speeches before all four honorees gave an impromptu performance of "Shining Star". EWF performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 US Open, which was hosted by Forest Whitaker and served to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of tennis's Open Era with a parade of more than 25 former US Open singles champions.

EWF performed at the White House on February 22, 2009, for the Governors' Dinner; they were the first musical artists to perform there since Barack Obama took office. The band toured once more with Chicago in 2009 for a tour of 30 US cities. On April 26, 2009, EWF performed at the 39th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Less than two weeks prior to this, former keyboard player Robert Brookins had died from a heart attack, aged 46.

In 2010, EWF performed at the 40th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Within that same year, the band participated in the recording of the "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" single. 2010 was also the year that saw Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Verdine White together with former EWF members Al McKay and Larry Dunn be inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.

In November 2011, the band received the Legend Award at the Soul Train Awards at Atlanta, Georgia's Fox Theatre. In 2012, EWF were bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Annual Trumpet Awards, held at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta.

On February 29, 2012, early guitarist Roland Bautista died, aged 60, of natural causes.

Earth Wind & Fire, along with former Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton and Charlie Wilson, guested on the LL Cool J track "Something About You". The song went on to appear on his 2013 album Authentic.

Now, Then & Forever, the group's first album in eight years, was released on September 10, 2013.

On January 13, 2014, former percussionist Beloyd Taylor, who co-wrote the band's 1976 hit "Getaway", died. During February 2014 EWF performed alongside Pharrell, Janelle Monae at the 2014 NBA All-Star Game. Just a few months later, on May 2, former lead vocalist Jessica Cleaves died at the age of 65 following complications from a stroke.

On September 13, 2014, EWF performed at Proms in the Park at Hyde Park with the BBC Concert Orchestra. On October 21, 2014, EWF released their first ever holiday album, titled Holiday. On December 8, 2014, EWF performed at the Kennedy Center Honors, honoring Al Green. On December 14, 2014, the band performed at the Christmas in Washington event. In July 2019, the band was selected as a Kennedy Center honoree.

Maurice White died on February 4, 2016, after suffering for some years with Parkinson's disease. He was survived by his wife, his two sons, daughter and his brothers Verdine and Fred.

Legacy

Earth, Wind & Fire's songs have been covered by artists including Whitney Houston, D'Angelo, Donny Osmond, Patti LaBelle, Taylor Swift, Olly Murs and Kirk Franklin. They have also been covered by Wynonna Judd, Maxine Nightingale, Yolanda Adams, Ledisi, Miki Howard, Chicago, Chaka Khan and 112.

EWF has been sampled by artists such as Drake, A Tribe Called Quest, Missy Elliott, Public Enemy, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, the Fugees, LL Cool J, Kid Ink, Salt-n-Pepa and Basement Jaxx. The band has also been sampled by the likes of Björk, Diddy, The Roots, Will Smith, Nas, TLC, Common, Lupe Fiasco, Big Sean, Tupac Shakur and MC Lyte.

EWF has influenced artists such as Beyoncé, Usher, will.i.am, Janelle Monáe, Mary J. Blige, Prince, Pharrell Williams, India.Arie, Jon Secada, and Wyclef Jean. They have also been influential to artists like Angie Stone, Patrice Rushen, The All-American Rejects, Nelly Teena Marie, Musiq Soulchild, Solange Knowles, Babyface, Taylor Dayne, Will Gregory of Goldfrapp, OutKast, and Gloria Estefan.

Artists such as Jamiroquai, Melissa Etheridge, Pitbull, Lenny Kravitz, Vanessa Williams, Joe Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, Justice Omarion, Rob Bourdon of Linkin Park, Jill Scott, and Justin Timberlake have also been influenced by EWF. The band has influenced artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Erykah Badu, Jamie Foxx, Patrick Stump of Fall Out Boy, Lalah Hathaway, Amy Winehouse, and Meghan Trainor. Miles Davis described EWF 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." Alicia Keys has proclaimed EWF as being "the best band ever". Dionne Warwick has named Earth, Wind & Fire as her favorite group of all time. Mark Ronson has also proclaimed that he loves "anything by Earth, Wind & Fire".

In the movie BAADASSSSS!, the actor Khalil Kain portrayed a young Maurice White leading the early incarnation of Earth, Wind & Fire. Released at the Sundance Film Festival, the film was based on Melvin Van Peebles' struggle to film and distribute the movie Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and was directed by his son Mario Van Peebles.

Members



  • Philip Bailey – lead vocals, percussion (1972–1984; 1987–present)
  • Verdine White – bass guitar, backing vocals (1970–1984; 1987–present)
  • Ralph Johnson – percussion, backing vocals (1972–1984; 1987–present); drums (1972–1984)

    with

  • B. David Whitworth – percussion, vocals (1996–present)
  • Myron McKinley – keyboards, musical director (2001–present)
  • John Paris – drums, vocals (2001–present)
  • Philip Bailey, Jr. – vocals, percussion (2008–present)
  • Morris O'Connor – lead guitar, vocals (2008–present)
  • Serg Dimitrijevic – rhythm guitar, vocals (2012–present)

    Awards and nominations

    Discography

    Studio albums
  • Earth, Wind & Fire (1971)
  • The Need of Love (1971)
  • Last Days and Time (1972)
  • Head to the Sky (1973)
  • Open Our Eyes (1974)
  • That's the Way of the World (1975)
  • Spirit (1976)
  • All 'n All (1977)
  • I Am (1979)
  • Faces (1980)
  • Raise! (1981)
  • Powerlight (1983)
  • Electric Universe (1983)
  • Touch the World (1987)
  • Heritage (1990)
  • Millennium (1993)
  • In the Name of Love (1997)
  • The Promise (2003)
  • Illumination (2005)
  • Now, Then & Forever (2013)
  • Holiday (2014)