It was a little over a year ago, as I was doing research for other music articles; I came across an item about my favorite band: Earth Wind and Fire. I found a small segment of song and an accompanying note stating that Earth Wind and Fire had recorded new music and would release an album soon. The music fan inside me rejoiced at the notion of new Earth Wind and Fire music. I thought about how I would listen to each track, soon after locate what would be my favorite songs, and play them more than the others on the album. I thought about how I would sometimes sit quietly and put on my headset and listen to the entire album, and then drift off to sleep and awaken as it was still playing. And then I started to think like the person who understood how the music business works. I began to wonder if this short piece, that incidentally sounded awesome, would ever be released to the public. I wondered if this new music, like so much of the new music of out time, would find its way to the shelf of the record company and gather dust.
Well, I put it in the back of my mind, not forgetting about what I heard, but continuing with other business and listening to and enjoying other music, all while patiently waiting and hoping there would be an album someday. Moving ahead to last month, September 10, 2013, Earth Wind and Fire released their first album in eight years entitled Now, Then and Forever. I immediately downloaded the album for my collection and I am not disappointed. In order to really appreciate Earth Wind and Fire we music look at how they started. Like most bands, EWF had their challenges with group members coming and going in large numbers. However, toward the mid-1970’s the band would settle upon the members that would help them make musical history.
For me, at the top of the list of things that separate EWF from other bands is the fact that they were formed in Chicago. Band leader Maurice White was a session musicians at the historic Chess Records when he decided to form The Salty Peppers, who would later be known as Earth Wind and Fire. The south side of Chicago is the birth place of a lot of jazz and blues music, and this fact created a backdrop for the sound which would uniquely belong to EWF. Largely contributing toward that sound was a full horn section, which was dubbed the Phenix Horns. The Phenix Horns, who became an integral part of the band’s sound, were composed of saxophonist Don Myrick, trombonist Louis Satterfield, and trumpeters Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris. Myrick and Satterfield both worked with Maurice during his days as a session drummer at Chess Records.
Of all the things we have discussed about the EWF sound, the most amazing thing is that the band’s sound has continued to remain the same despite changes in the overall musical landscape. After their start in the early 1970’s as a funky R&B outfit, disco was born toward the late 1970’s, and Earth Wind and Fire produced the best disco music possible, all while continuing to keep their signature sound. As the 1980’s gave birth to electronically based music, EWF adapted while keeping their sound, although utilizing more electronic instrumentation.
Now EWF has come full circle, producing new music to a multi-age worldwide fan base that identify with, and love their signature sound. With only three original members, EWF has never stopped touring while performing from a full library of popular songs, has added to their repertoire with the stellar album Now, Then and Forever. I remember Sybil Wilkes stated while EWF was interviewed on the Tom Joyner Morning Show, “the band still sounds the same after all these years“. Ralph Johnson of EWF offered as chief reason that “the method of songwriting continues to be a group effort“. So true! The EWF group effort is now well over forty years old, without any signs of slowing down. Please everyone get the album Now, Then and Forever, and enjoy another great Earth Wind and Fire musical experience.