Earth, Wind & Fire

Earth, Wind & Fire

“When you wish upon a star,
Your dreams will take you very far…”

Few groups defined the direction of r&b in the late 1970’s as effortlessly well as Earth, Wind & Fire. Under the skilled hand of leader Maurice White, this talented group of musicians mixed several different styles of music into their own unique brand of pop-soul and earned countless hit albums and singles from the mid-70’s to the early 80’s. In the process, they became one of the most successful and influential r&b groups of all time.

Earth, Wind & Fire began when veteran musician Maurice White left jazz legend Ramsey Lewis’s band to pursue his own musical vision. He enlisted his brother, Verdine, to create a band that could synthesize rock, blues, soul, jazz, pop and even traditional African elements into a singular style that would have universal appeal. They gathered a gifted ensemble of players and began working out their ambitious style on record. They made their first big impression in 1973 with Head To The Sky and hit the r&b Top-10 with “Mighty Mighty,” a horn-driven dance track with joyous harmony vocals.

The band had clearly arrived by 1973, but their major success began when they did the soundtrack for the film That’s the Way of the World in 1975. The group also appeared in this exposé of the music business as, appropriately enough, an up-and-coming r&b group. The soundtrack album gave them their first pop hit with “Shining Star,” a song that matched intense, horn-driven funk with lush harmonies and uplifting lyrics that told listeners everywhere, “you’re a shining star/no matter who you are.” Both the song and album became #1 smashes and were followed by another hit in the title track, a gorgeous and harmony-drenched ballad.

Earth, Wind & Fire began 1976 with a bang when they topped the charts with Gratitude. This double-live album showed off the group’s versatility as they performed everything from pop-soul to instrumental jazz. They also released another studio album, Spirit, and had major pop hits with “Sing A Song” and the relentlessly-grooving “Getaway.” They scored another strong single in 1977 with “Saturday Night.” That year, Maurice White also produced a major hit for the female r&b trio the Emotions in “Best Of My Love.” This joyous fusion of gospel and disco shot straight to #1 on the pop charts.

1978 was a major year for Earth, Wind & Fire. In January, All ‘N’ All hit #3 on the album charts. It also spun off two hit singles in “Fantasy,” a harmony-driven tribute to the imagination, and “Serpentine Fire,” a funk tune with fantasy lyrics and gorgeous harmony vocals. They also hit the charts with their jazzy rendition of the Beatles classic “Got To Get You Into My Life” from the soundtrack of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (which they appeared in as well). The group ended the year with a sold-out U.S. tour that featured visual effects designed by magician Doug Henning.

Earth, Wind & Fire commemorated their early success at the end of 1978 with The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire. It topped the charts in January of 1979 and contained a new track, “September,” that became a Top-10 hit and is now considered one of their signature tunes. Later in the year, the group released the I Am album, containing a disco-tinged hit in “Boogie Wonderland,” which also featured the Emotions on backup vocals. The lovely yet melancholy ballad “After The Love Has Gone” gave this album another top single hit, peaking at #2.

As the 1980’s began, Earth, Wind & Fire released a double album called Faces. It went Top-10 and was followed the next year by Raise. That album featured a #3 single in “Let’s Groove,” a dance track driven by an electronic voice that chanted “we can boogie down.” They continued to record until 1983, when White disbanded the group to concentrate on his side career as a record producer. After years apart, the group returned in 1987 with Touch the World. The newly-revitalized Earth, Wind & Fire landed a #1 hit on the r&b charts with electronic-styled “System Of Survival.”

Earth, Wind & Fire moved into their third decade in 1990 with Heritage, an album that featured MC Hammer as a guest artist. They also continued to tour and found success on a worldwide scale. In 2003, the band released their first studio album in six years, the critically-acclaimed The Promise, followed by the Grammy-nominated Illumination in 2005. Four years later, they were the first band to perform at the White House following the inauguration of President Obama. Their most recent album to date is Now, Then and Forever which was released in 2013.

The band still shows little sign of slowing down. After almost four decades, their ambitious blend of musical styles remains as popular as ever, as do their live performances, proving that Earth, Wind & Fire’s cosmically-conscious style of pop-soul is a timeless one. As far as “after the love is gone,” we may still have to wait a long while to see that happen.

If you are fan of this great R&B band, we hope you’ll take a moment to share you favorite Earth, Wind and Fire memories with all of us in our comments section below.

One Response to “Earth, Wind & Fire”

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  1. Gina says:

    I love “After the Love Is Gone”. Even though the lyrics talk of a sad thing like a romance ending, the sound is upbeat.

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