Earth, Wind and Fire est un groupe de funk toujours d’actualité formé en 1969 à Chicago par Maurice White.
Sa plus notable particularité est la capacité vocale du chanteur qui couvre une très grande gamme d’octaves.
Earth, Wind & Fire is an American band that fuses different genres of music, formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1969 and is led by Maurice White. They have had many hits such as « Shining Star« , « Fantasy« , « September« , « Let’s Groove« , « Boogie Wonderland« , « Sing a Song« , « That’s The Way of the World« , and « After The Love Has Gone« .
Maurice White, batteur de Ramsey Lewis trio, décide à la fin des années 1960 de créer son propre groupe. Le nom de Earth, Wind and Fire (en français : Terre, vent et feu) est une association des éléments de l’astrologie, l’élément originel « air » (air) ayant été remplacé par « wind » (vent).
L’idée de White est de former un groupe pour les jeunes de sa génération à l’aspect spirituel et émotionnel mais il engage des musiciens qui ne correspondent pas à ce concept. Aussi, Bob Cavallo, son premier manager l’incite à changer tous les membres par de nouveaux, plus jeunes.
C’est ainsi qu’arrivent au fur et à mesure des musiciens dont la plupart viennent de Memphis comme le leader : Verdine White le bassiste, Philip Bailey le percusionniste et chanteur à la voix de fausset, Ralph Johnson le batteur et chanteur, Larry Dunn le joueur de synthétiseur, andrew wolfock le saxophoniste, Al McKey le guitariste pop, Johnny Graham le guitariste blues, Freddie White le batteur tandis que Maurice White avant d’être l’un des chanteurs du groupe pour contrebalancer la voix de Philip BAILEY commence batteur. Ce cocktail nourri par différentes sources musicales comme le jazz, blues ou le gospel donnera une identité très ancrée noire au groupe.
Maurice White en 1974 souhaite donner plus de musicalité aux prochaines chansons. Pour ce faire, il choisit comme producteur Charles Stepney qui va s’impliquer dans son rôle jusqu’à arranger, composer et donner des techniques de chants, en plus de gérer les intérêts du groupe. Sa mort quelques mois plus tard sera si regrettée que Earth, Wind and Fire composera en son hommage dans Spirit la chanson éponyme de l’album.
Celui de 1975 That’s the way of the world marque un tournant car le succès englobe même le public Blanc. En enchainant les hits, le groupe voit de plus en plus grand ; pour ses concerts géants dans les stades, il engage le couturier Bill Whitten puis intègre de la prestidigitation derrière quelques idées de Doug Henning et David Copperfield et enfin appelle George Faison pour les chorégraphies.
A la fin des années 1970, le groupe emprunte une voie plus commerciale en réalisant des titres disco, très en vogue à l’époque. Earth, Wind and Fire atteint son apogée avec les albums « all’n all » , »best of volume1« ‘I am de 1979, année où ils rempliront Wembley 5 soirs de suite.
Dès lors, les maisons de disque voudront s’accaparer les décisions artistiques du groupe pour qu’il continue de produire des hits. Mais cette contrainte coïncide avec le déclin amorcé au début des années 1980. Petit à petit, les éléments du groupe s’en vont, les tournées épuisent le leader Maurice White et l’année 1983 marquera le premier arrêt du parcours du groupe.
Le retour de Earth, Wind and Fire s’opère en 1987. À partir de là, les albums sont plus espacés dans le temps. De nouveaux éléments intégrent le groupe comme le chanteur et guitariste Sheldon Reynolds, les tournées continuent mais sans la participation de Maurice White, atteint de la maladie de Parkinson, qui pourtant apporte sa contribution aussi bien compositrice que vocale à chaque nouvel album.
Récemment, Wyclef Jean et Eric Benet ont participé aux derniers opus.
Earth, Wind and Fire (1970)
Touch the World (1987)
The Need of Love (1971)
All’N All (1977)
Last Days and Time (1972)
I Am (1979)
Head to the Sky (1973)
In the Name of love (1997)
Open Our Eyes (1974)
Raise ! (1981)
The Promise (2003)
That’s the Way of the World (1975)
Electric Universe (1983)
Born in Memphis in 1941, bandleader and founder Maurice White moved to Chicago as a teenager and found work as a session drummer for Chess Records.
By 1967, he was the new drummer in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, replacing Red Holt.
In 1969, Maurice left the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team which wrote songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol, and called themselves the « Salty Peppers« , and had a marginal hit in the Midwestern area called ‘La La Time’.
The Salty Peppers’ second single, « Uh Huh Yeah » didn’t fare as well, and Maurice decided it was time for a change of location – and a change in the band’s name, which turned into Earth, Wind & Fire. This was based on the fact that White’s astrological sign being Sagittarius, had a primary elemental quality of Fire, but also had seasonal qualities which are Earth, and Air, hence the omission of water.
White recruited Chicago singer Sherry Scott, along with local percussionist Phillard Williams, and then asked his younger brother Verdine whether he’d like to head out West. Verdine White, joined the band in 1970 as their new bassist.
Maurice held auditions in L.A., adding Michael Beale on guitar, Chester Washington on reeds, Leslie Drayton for trumpet and initially the group’s musical arranger, and trombonist Alex Thomas to the lineup. With Flemons playing vibes and electric piano and vocals, and Verdine on bass, percussion and vocals, a ten-member Earth, Wind & Fire was born.
Their self-titled debut album, Earth, Wind & Fire, was released in 1970 to great critical acclaim, as was The Need of Love (1971). A single, from this album « I Think About Lovin’ You » provided EWF with their first Top 40 R&B hit. However, some members of EWF were feeling decidedly restless and the band broke up after being been together for less than six months. Maurice White decided to re-form the group and he started holding auditions.
In 1972, White dissolved the line-up (minus himself and brother Verdine White), and added Jessica Cleaves (vocals), Ronnie Laws (flute, saxophone), Roland Bautista on guitar, Larry Dunn (keyboard), Ralph Johnson (percussion) and Philip Bailey (vocals, formerly of Friends & Love).
Warner Bros. did not know how to promote this new combo – the only other funk band on their label was Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. An audition for managers Bob Cavallo and Joe Ruffalo led to an association that continued uninterrupted until 1983, and Cavallo’s management of John Sebastian led to a series of gigs as opening act for the popular pop/folk singer. A performance at New York’s Rockefeller Center introduced EWF to Clive Davis, then President of Columbia Records. Davis loved what he saw and bought their contract from Warner Brothers.
In the spring of 1972, EWF headed to the studio to record Last Days And Time, their CBS debut. The album featured mostly original material but Philip Bailey had suggested the Pete Seeger song, « Where Have All The Flowers Gone » and the group threw in a cover of the Bread hit « Make It With You » for good measure. Last Days And Time was also the first album that prominently featured Maurice White playing the Kalimba on the instrumental track « Power« .
The album Head to the Sky was released in 1973, and with this album some personnel changes took place. By this time, Ronnie Laws and Roland Bautista had left to pursue new musical opportunities. Philip had recommended former Denver classmate Andrew Woolfolk, who had been busy in New York studying sax with sax maestro Joe Henderson and was on the verge of taking up a career in banking when Bailey called; guitarist Al McKay who had been performing with The Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band; and guitarist Johnny Graham rounded out the lineup, after playing with R&B favorites New Birth.
The album yielded the group’s first two legitimate hit singles: « Evil, » co-written by Maurice and Philip; and the title track, « Keep Your Head To The Sky, » both top 30 R&B and top 60 pop charts.
In 1974’s the album Open Our Eyes was released which was the group’s first platinum album, a major hit. Jessica Cleaves, a former member of the Friends of Distinction, left after the « Head to the Sky » album.
« Open Your Eyes » was the turning point in providing EWF with its first Top 30 pop hit (« Mighty Mighty« ) In May 1974, « Mighty Mighty » became Earth Wind & Fire’s first top 30 hit on the pop charts, peaking at #29. Their second hit single (« Devotion« ) was a song with a strong spiritual message.
Earth, Wind & Fire’s true breakthrough came in the form of the soundtrack to That’s the Way of the World in 1975. In 1974 Earth Wind & Fire worked with Sig Shore, the creator of the motion picture Superfly, on a new film about the dark side of the recording industry. That’s The Way Of The World starred Earth Wind & Fire as « The Group, » a new recording act.
In the film, Harvey Keitel hears « The Group » performing, and produces their first album. The film’s title is repeated throughout the film as a shrug of the shoulders to the music world. Earth Wind & Fire performed the songs in the film, and Maurice had a small speaking part as leader of « The Group. »
Though the film was not a success, the song « Shining Star » became a huge mainstream hit and launched the band’s career. and Johnson turned to vocals. It was the first time that the band could afford a full horn section.
Many of the early hits came from long years of touring and soundchecks, and improvisation. Their second song to reach the pop Top 10, « Sing A Song » (Columbia 10251), found its genesis in a soundcheck.
Younger brother Fred White (whose Chicago background had included playing local clubs as a drummer with Donny Hathaway, later playing with Little Feat) joined the group and after returning from their first European dates with Santana, CBS wanted another album. Also at that time Ralph Johnson turned to vocals.
EWF’s June ’75 sessions produced « Sing A Song » and « Can’t Hide Love« , the later written by Clarence « Skip » Scarborough, who wrote or co-wrote many of EWF’s biggest hits. These songs helped take Gratitude to a double-platinum status, an unheralded occurrence for any black group of the day; for the first time, the group’s horn section (Don Myrick and Louis Satterfield, both from Maurice’s Chicago session dates, and Michael Harris) which had become an integral part of the EWF sound was credited on disc.
Aside from his EWF duties, Maurice had been developing his Kalimba Productions and had signed two acts – vocalist Deniece Williams, White produced Top 10 hits like « Free » and « It’s Gonna Take A Miracle » for Williams, a former member of Stevie Wonder’s Wonderlove backup group. Another track Maurice produced, for the r&b group The Emotions, who had a run of hits with Volt Records from 1969 to 1974 the track « Best Of My Love » , went to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts.
Earth Wind & Fire released Spirit in 1976; and had hits with singles such as « Getaway » come from outside the group. Verdine White heard « Getaway » for the first time from someone who was producing Bobbi Humphrey. He indicated to him, that this song would be a great song for Earth, Wind & Fire. The individual wanted to produce it for EWF but that didn’t occur so they got the tune, took it into the studio and recorded it. It became a hit song.
In 1976, after helping co-produce and arrange Earth Wind & Fire’s Spirit album and Deneice Williams’ « This is Nicey » album, producer and songwriter Charles Stepney died of a heart attack at the age of 45.
Their concerts during this time were loaded with pyrotechnics, magic, laser lights, flying pyramids and levitating guitarists. Magician Doug Henning directed many of their tours throughout the 1970’s, and the band included Larry Dunn (keyboards), Al McKay (guitar, sitar), Fred White (drums) and Andrew Woolfolk (sax, flute).
In 1977, the group released another album, All ‘N All. With its mystical cover and replete with songs with metaphysical themes (« Jupiter », « Fantasy » and « Be Ever Wonderful »), All’n All became the group’s fifth successive double-platinum album.
Back on the road, EWF were wowing increasingly larger audiences with their spectacular stage show, featuring elaborate production tricks that included the entire group ascending in a pyramid and a disappearing act which saw EWF literally vanishing from sight.
Maurice White in the midst of this started to put on the tour some of the acts that he was also producing at the time, such as The Emotions, Deneice Williams and Ramsey Lewis.
1978 marked the year wherein EWF picked up three Grammy Awards, the third for their version of The Beatles « Got To Get You Into My Life« , featured (as were the group) in the movie, « Sgt.Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band« . The film itself was a commercial bomb, and although the soundtrack shipped triple platinum, allegedly it was returned triple platinum.
It was also the year that Maurice and managers Cavallo and Ruffalo worked out a deal for the launch of ARC (American Recording Corporation) to be distributed through CBS and the creation of a recording studio in Los Angeles, The Complex. The year ended with another hit single, « September » (sometimes called ‘Dancing in September« ), an additional track added to The Best of EWF (Volume 1), which inevitably reached double-platinum status.
Also Bobby Harris of the Dazz Band at this time requested and got Philip Bailey, the vocalist of Earth, Wind & Fire, to produce the group’s first album, Kinsman Dazz. Bailey would co-produce the second album, Dazz, and had a major input into the group’s vocal arrangements. In 1979, the band performed « September » at the Music for UNICEF Concert, broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly. They donated their royalties from the song to UNICEF.
A good portion of 1979 was spend overseas headlining shows in Europe and Japan. Mid-’79 saw EWF topping the dance music charts with « Boogie Wonderland« , produced by Maurice and Al McKay, and featuring The Emotions. Verdine White claims that « Boogie Wonderland » really was capturing the tail end of the disco era.
Maurice loaned Earth Wind & Fire’s signature Phenix Horns – Don Myrick on saxophone, Louis Satterfield on trombone, Rahmlee Davis and Michael Haris on trumpets – to his other production projects, the Emotions, Ramsey Lewis and Deniece Williams. In the eighties, Phil Collins came in contact with EWF’s horn section, and worked on Genesis songs like « No Reply At All » and « Paperlate, » and on his solo hits like « I Missed Again » and « Sussudio« .
The double-album Faces was released in (1980) went gold. After the release of this album longtime rhythm guitarist Al McKay left the band to pursue production interests and was replaced by returning electric guitarist Roland Bautista, giving the band a bit of a hard rock feel (compared to McKay).
Raise! released in (1981) featured their hit single « Let’s Groove« , and the Grammy Award-winning « I Wanna Be With You« . « Raise! » went double platinum. Powerlight was released in early 1983 and included the hit singles « Fall In Love With Me, » and « Side By Side. » « Powerlight » went gold.
Also In 1983, Earth, Wind & Fire contributed the song « Dance, Dance, Dance » to the soundtrack of the animated film Rock & Rule. White disbanded Earth, Wind & Fire in 1983 after the synthesized Electric Universe was released in late 1983 to poor sales and reviews. Maurice White attributes the album’s lack of success to its release so quickly after Powerlight. It was their last release for four years.
During the hiatus, Philip Bailey released his second solo album, « Chinese Wall« . While it was not his first solo album (Bailey recorded a series of gospel LP’s for the Myrrh and Word labels), it was his most successful. The first single from that album, a duet with Phil Collins called « Easy Lover » went gold, and the music video of Bailey and Collins rehearsing their collaboration hit #1 on MTV’s video playlist.
Meanwhile, during the hiatus, Verdine White worked behind the scenes, writing and directing videos. He produced a Level 42 album, and promoted go-go bands like Trouble Funk and E.U..
In 1987, CBS Records convinced Philip Bailey and Maurice White that a reunion of Earth Wind & Fire would be beneficial for all parties. Their comeback hit, « System of Survival » [#1 on the Billboard R&B charts], was penned by a then-unknown songwriter, Skylark. A 1987 Earth, Wind & Fire reunion (featuring new member, lead and rhythm guitarist Sheldon Reynolds) brought about the double-platinum album Touch the World this album brought forth the earlier mentioned number one R&B and dance hit « System Of Survival, » and another R&B and dance hit « Thinking Of You« .
The band continued to release new albums, including 1988’s The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol II featuring one new track « Turn On The Beat Box« , Their final Columbia album 1990’s Heritage and the Warner Brothers release 1993’s Millennium. The song « Sunday Morning » from Millennium was nominated for a Grammy Award.
On July 30, 1993, saxophonist Don Myrick was fatally shot by the Los Angeles Police Department in a case of mistaken identity. Five years later, Maurice White announced that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. On October 13th 1993 former Earth, Wind & Fire member from 1970-1972 Wade Flemmons died in Battle Creek, Michigan.
On September 15th, 1995, Earth, Wind & Fire was honored with a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame. All the original members of the group showed up — including the group’s founder Maurice White. He attributed EWF’s success to the support of their fans. During this time, Maurice White retired from touring with the band to pursue more production responsibilities and to concentrate on producing and developing new Earth, Wind & Fire recordings. In The Name of Love was released in 1997 on Pyramid Records.
EWF was the special musical guests in Washington, D.C. June 20, 2000 at a White House state dinner. The event, which was held in a tent on the White House lawn, was honoring His Majesty Mohammed VI, King of Morocco. The band was first contacted just a week before the show by White House staff, and they quickly agreed to do the show. The entire group flew to Washington June 19.
Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003. In addition, Earth, Wind & Fire were inducted into Hollywood’s RockWalk on Monday, July 7, 2003.
Maurice White released two new Earth, Wind & Fire albums on his own label, Kalimba Records, in 2002: Live In Rio, a live album from the 1980 tour, and The Promise in 2003, the band’s first studio album in six years. The Promise received good reviews upon its release, and was first issued in the United States and Japan; it was issued in Europe in early 2004. The Promise included strong songs reminicent of classic EW&F such as the kalimba-laden track All In The Way, Betcha’, She Waits and two previously unreleased songs from the « I Am » sessions Where Do We Go From Here and Dirty.
In the summer of 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire signed an exclusive record deal with Sanctuary Urban Records Group, owned by Mathew Knowles, father and manager of rhythm and blues musician Beyoncé. The album Illumination, the band’s 23rd, was released September 20, 2005. The album’s first single was the Grammy Award-nominated « Show Me the Way« , featuring Raphael Saadiq. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album in 2005.
EWF was nominated for a Soul Train Music Award in the category R&B-soul album, group, band or duo for the album Illumination.
On September 18, 2005, they performed their hit « September » (along with the Black Eyed Peas) as part of an opening act showing memorable television moments from the 2004-2005 season for the 57th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on CBS.
And for the past two years, EWF has been touring in a wildly successful double bill with the band Chicago for unforgettable evenings in which both bands play separately, then come together for a grand finale switching off on each other’s tunes. Philip’s live lead on Chicago’s classic ballad « If You Leave Me Now » was so sweet, it was added as an enticing bonus to Chicago’s 2005 Love Songs compilation.
For the 2005 holiday season as part of Target Corporation’s advertising, they recorded a song titled after Target’s slogan, « Gather Round« . David Foster and Earth Wind & Fire have recorded « Gather ‘Round« . The track, which is written by David Foster, Maurice White and Philip Bailey and is produced and arranged by Foster.
On April 25th 2007, the band was the opening act for the highly touted and publicized special edition of the reality TV series American Idol, « Idol Gives Back« . EWF played a medley of their top hits.
1970 Earth, Wind & Fire
1971 The Need of Love
1972 Last Days and Time
1973 Head to the Sky
1974 Open Our Eyes
1974 Another Time
1975 That’s the Way of the World
1977 All ‘N All
1979 I Am
1983 Electric Universe
1987 Touch the World
1997 In the Name of Love
2003 The Promise
Compilations and live albums
1978 The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1
1981 Oakland Live 12-31-1981
1986 The Collection – 24 Essential Hits
1988 The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 2
1992 The Eternal Dance
1992 The Very Best of Earth, Wind & Fire
1995 Definitive Collection
1996 Elements of Love
1996 Greatest Hits Live
1996 Boogie Wonderland – The Very Best of Earth, Wind & Fire
1998 Super Hits
1998 Greatest Hits
1999 The Ultimate Collection
2002 The Essential Earth, Wind & Fire
2002 That’s the Way of the World: Alive in 75
2003 EWF Live in Rio
2004 Love Songs
Videos & DVDs
* Earth, Wind, & Fire in Concert (1982 Crystalite prodictions)
* Earth, Wind, & Fire Live in Japan (1990)
* Earth, Wind, & Fire Live-1994 ( (c)1995 MM Image Entertainment, Inc.)(Maurice White’s last live video)
* Earth, Wind, & Fire Live at Montreux-1997 ((c)2004 Eagle Rock Entertainment, Plc.)
* Live by Request | Earth, Wind, & Fire-1999 Automatic Productions, Inc.
* Earth, Wind, & Fire-Shining Stars: The official Story of Earth, Wind, & Fire ( (c)2001 Eagle Rock Entertainment, Plc)
* Chicago/Earth, Wind & Fire – Live at the Greek Theatre ( (c)2004 MMV Image Entertainment, Inc.)