R&B, soul, funk, jazz, disco and Afro-pop. Earth, Wind & Fire have conquered them all.
It was all thanks to Maurice White, who in 1969 founded Earth, Wind & Fire. We wonder if White would have believed us back then, if we’d told him that by 2020 his band would have sold over 90 million records worldwide! Not to mention all the other accolades EW&F would receive! 6 Grammy’s, 4 AMA’s and a star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. Not bad, really!
EW&F have gone from strength to strength, and produced hit after hit. Rolling Stone described them as “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanising”. What’s your favourite track?!
So, what makes Earth, Wind & Fire so addictive?! It goes without saying that a huge contributor to the classic sound is the incredibly dynamic horn section. One only needs to listen to the first 20 seconds of “September”, “Let’s Groove” or “Boogie Wonderland” to get a taster of the brass presence in their tracks. And that brings us on to the next ingredient of the Earth, Wind & Fire recipe – the elaborate stage shows! Often with a lot of band members on stage, including the charismatic chorus of horns, there’s so much to see and enjoy in EW&F’s performances.
Get a taster for yourself with this incredible performance from 2017!
EW&F were also praised for their use of the kalimba sound. The kalimba is an African instrument, traditionally played by the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It is made of wood and has metal tines attached, which when plucked, is what makes the sound! You can hear a perfect example of this in the video below!
On top of it all, the beautiful contrast between the falsetto of Philip Bailey and Maurice White’s baritone voice is another element that makes them so distinctive.
It will probably come as no surprise what-so-ever that the track we’ve included on our Bass Grade 5 syllabus is “September” – without shadow of a doubt one of Earth, Wind & Fire’s most successful songs. It was released as a single in 1978 with Columbia Records, and included as a track for The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire Vol.1, the band’s first compilation album. “September” was such a huge hit that it reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B chart, number 8 on the Hot 100, and number 3 in the UK Singles chart.
Fun fact: songwriter Allee Willis was at first bothered by the gibberish lyric of “ba-dee-ya”! However, when the song came together, Willis said, “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him [Maurice White], which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove”. Here at RSL, we couldn’t agree more. Preventing a groove like “September” is pretty much a crime! “Ba-dee-ya” forever.
The syncopated bassline of “September” is truly iconic, and the epitome of funk. There was no way we could be without it in the bass syllabus. Enjoy grooving out to this one!
To be described as a favourite by the likes of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones really does make a statement about your music. Earth, Wind & Fire have inspired, and continue to inspire, some of the biggest names in music today. Oh, and in case you haven’t noticed, they are sampled ALL the time! By the likes of Drake, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, Public Enemy and TLC… Only some of the most well-known stars – no biggie.