Earth, Wind & Fire
The late 70’s was a big deal for Earth, Wind & Fire. In 1975, their hit song ‘Shining Star’ peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. They continued to crank out chart topping hits like ‘Sing a Song’, and one of my favorites ‘September’. It’s only my favorite because I don’t know much about the band or their music but who hasn’t heard ‘September’? My earliest memory of Earth, Wind, & Fire is driving with my father and flipping through a stack of cd’s he had in the console. There amongst the familiar Beatles and Bob Marley, I discovered Earth Wind & Fire. It was a long time ago and I don’t remember what CD it was or what song I listened to but I do remember they had a dynamic sound and the music made me feel like I was entering another dimension like on another planet. It was “out of this world”. Pretty ironic since the band’s name is Earth, Wind, and Fire. Maybe it was the horns or the groovy rhythm. Whatever it was, they sounded pretty cool considering it was my father’s music. Not hip enough to add to my collection back then but still memorable. Fast forward to 2016, when you type in Earth, Wind & Fire into the YouTube search bar the first song that pops up is ‘September’. Clearly, it’s their most popular song with over 75 million views. So I listened and watched, and ‘September’ doesn’t have that metaphysical thing going on, but watching the video certainly made me a little jealous that the era of the disco was before my time. It looked and sounded like a whole lot of fun. The clothes and the sound and the dancing-it all seemed like a really nice party. Then again it could’ve just been because they were all tripping on acid or high on cocaine. After all, the seventies disco scene at Studio 54 was all about sexy clothes, psychedelic drugs, and really groovy music. ‘September’ is a nice dance song with a cool horn arrangement and catchy lyrics. Back to that YouTube search. Next up was ‘Let’s Groove’, and this was that metaphysical psychedelic quality I remembered hearing as a kid. Watching the video put the pieces together. There are stars flying and brightly-colored blurred silhouettes, and the backdrop is somewhere in the clouds, and then you hear Maurice singing “your outta sight”. Yea, Earth, Wind, & Fire are “out of this world” funk, rhythm, blues, disco, and psychedelic soul music. The track has instrumentation of a synthesizer keyboards, and electric guitars. It’s another fun uptempo dance track. It made it to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1981. What’s really cool about Earth, Wind & Fire is how huge the band was and all the instruments they used in their music. The sax, trumpet, clarinet, the flutes, the piano, electric keyboards, the electric guitars, and probably some others that my ear is not so highly trained to identify or detect. It is pretty impressive that they had a mini orchestra. Maurice’s vocals are pretty on point too. He has a solid voice that you don’t mind listening to, or rather listening and dancing to. Maurice also wrote many of their songs and he wrote hit songs for other artists as well like Barbara Streisand and The Emotions. He was a talented guy he started the band in Chicago and he created a lot of the artwork for their album covers. He provided a lot of the creative direction for the band. So the next track I listened to was ‘Reasons’ it’s a ballad and more R&B than disco. Also, Philip Bailey is on lead vocals for this song. Philip cowrote ‘Reasons’ with Maurice. What is most striking about this song are the fiercely high falsetto notes that Philip is singing. He goes pretty high up. Surprisingly, ‘Reasons’ never topped any charts though the song has endured. At this point, I’m surprised at how many Earth, Wind & Fire songs I didn’t know I already knew. ‘Shining Star’ for example, arguably the bands biggest hit, is a song I’ve heard plenty of times I just never realized it was Earth, Wind, & Fire. Well, now I know! ‘Shining Star’ was a pop-disco song. I guess back in ’75 people really liked this song because it made it to the top of the charts and earned the group a Grammy award. In fact, Earth, Wind & Fire were nominated for 20 Grammy Awards and they won 6 including the Lifetime Achievement Award. They have won 4 American Music Awards, and they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Hall of Fame. They are a well accomplished band and have certainly left their mark. I didn’t know I was an Earth, Wind & Fire fan. I know all their songs and I’m wondering when did I listen to these songs? They have somehow seeped into my subconscious memory. Thanks dad!