Saturday, April 23, 2011

Earth Wind And Fire

Earth ,wind and fire...the classical , if not chemical elements of the world...but hold on...full stop,mate...aren't there four of them? What happened to water? Well it turns out that group founder Maurice White's astrological sign is Sagittarius and this sign has the primary elemental quality of fire , and the seasonal qualities of earth and air. Hence, no water. Get all that? Good. As it turns out, the name Earth Wind And Fire is sufficiently long enough that we will herein refer to the band as EWF , and given the fact that the group's former name was The Salty Peppers , I think we all can appreciate Mr. White's wise decision.

EWF is a band that uses a potent combination of African , Latin , jazz , and r&b styles to create a distinctive funk sound aided further by the raspy tenor of Maurice White , the falsetto of vocalist/percussionist Philip Bailey , and the heavy use of the kalimba , a hand held piano-like instrument originating from the African continent.Added to this is a dynamic horn section giving them an impressive sonic arsenal. The band was first formed in Chicago and later relocated to Los Angeles.

The band's line up during what I consider their prime period was former Ramsey Lewis Trio drummer and founder Maurice White on lead vocals,percussion and Kalimba , bassist and brother Verdine White , lead vocalist/percussionist Philip Bailey , guitarists Johhny Graham , Al McKay and Roland Bautista (at various times individually and together) , Andrew Woolfolk on woodwinds , keyboardist Larry Dunn , and drummer Ralph Johnson . Saxophonist Ronnie Laws and former Friends Of Distinction vocalist Jessica Cleaves were also members of the group early on.  

Starting out on the Warner Brothers label , EWF later signed with Columbia Records , where on that label and later their own Columbia-distributed ARC label , they have been ever since. During their career the group has received eight Grammy Awards , five American Music Awards , induction into the NAACP Hall Of Fame in 1994, induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2000,and numerous other items of recognition. They performed on the  soundtrack to Melvin Van Peebles' "Sweet Sweetback's Badass Song" . Also movie-wise , EWF filmed a motion picture , "That's The Way Of The World" starring themselves and Harvey Keitel. When the band screened the finished product , they came to the conclusion that the film basically stunk. In what was probably one of the top five best decisions ever made by a band , they decided instead to release the soundtrack . It was their biggest selling album , making them the first r&b group to top Billboard's album and singles charts.

For a look at the classic EWF line up in an early killer performance, go here:
You won't be sorry.

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