Star continues to shine for Earth Wind & Fire
Perhaps the most influential soul music band, Earth Wind & Fire, is still hot.
Its latest album, “Illumination,” is a celebration of the band’s influence and enduring musicianship.
“It was one of the best records that we have done in a long time from the standpoint of creativity and we had the chance to work with some great producers,” said bass player Verdine White, an original member and brother of band leader Maurice White. “It was really rewarding because in the beginning of your career, when you’re first starting, it’s a given you are going to do good work. But to keep the same level of quality can be a challenge.
Earth Wind & Fire continues to meet the challenge, touring as much as it ever has. It performs Friday, July 13, for an outdoor concert at Harveys Arena at Stateline.
The band is known for its live shows as much as is for dozens of pop and R&B hits. Earth Wind & Fire introduced dancing and showmanship along with its new sound to arenas in the 1970s. Within a few years it was destined for greatness.
“When Clive Davis signed us to Columbia in 1972, that’s when we figured it out,” White said. “If it hadn’t been for that signing, I don’t know if we would have had the big opportunity. It took a great executive like him to take us to the next level.
Davis, who each year signs the winner and runner up of “American Idol,” wrote about Earth Wind & Fire in his autobiography:
“They were black but they didn’t play straight rhythm and blues material. They needed to find their own special category … They also understood the importance of sex appeal and showmanship. … I felt that their music would cross all the artificial barriers, appealing to blacks and whites equally.”
Maurice White disbanded the Salty Peppers and in 1970 recruited his little brother into Earth Wind & Fire.
“He asked me if I wanted to come out to California and I did,” Verdine White said. “I was 18 years old and I met everybody I’d read about from Jimi Hendrix to Janis Joplin. And of course you know the idea of creating this type of music that we ended up creating. You have to remember this type of music hadn’t been created until we had done it. So it was actually a big accomplishment what we pulled off.”
Maurice White, who is dealing with Parkinson’s disease, no longer tours with the band.
“Maurice is doing great,” Verdine White said. “On Fourth of July he came over to the house. He looks great. He’s still part of the whole thing. He’s like the CEO and we’re like acting presidents.”
Drummer singer Ralph Johnson remains with the band along with Philip Bailey, whose falsetto voice helped create the singular sound of Earth Wind & Fire.
Verdine White was looking forward to the Tahoe show.
“It’s a great place and we know some people there,” he said. “It’s going to be a fun concert to do. We’ve got a new generation of people who have discovered us. … It’s really kind of cool.