Earth, Wind & Fire’s music transcends generations, races and genres. Maurice White formed the band in 1969, when it was originally named the “Salty Peppers.”
In 1972, he restructured the band and the name to be after the three elements in his astrological chart. The band consisted of his brother Verdine White (on bass), Jessica Cleaves (vocals), Ronnie Laws (flute, saxophone), Roland Bautista (guitar), Larry Dunn (keyboard), Ralph Johnson (percussion), and Philip Bailey (vocals- falsetto).
Earth, Wind & Fire had an all-encompassing vision of jazz, soul, pop, rock, blues, folk, African music, and, later on, disco. Their foundation of funky up-beat music bridged the gap between white and black audiences.
In the 1980s, the band dispersed due to White suffering from Parkinson’s Disease (he died in 2016). Bailey has led the group ever since, alongside Verdine White and Ralph Johnson. In parallel with writing music for the band, Bailey has created 12 solo albums through the years. One of his most successful singles, “Easy Lover,” was with Grammy award-winning singer Phil Collins.
“Coming together with Phil Collins was very natural, I think that the timbre of our voices complimented each other. He could be exactly who he was and I could be exactly who I am and it all just made sense,” Bailey said.
His latest album “Love will Find A Way” was released on June 21. On the album, he addresses the issue of racism and police killings of unarmed black men in the United States.
On top of his solo career, he created the foundation “Music is Unity” with his daughter Trinity. The program supports foster youth transitioning into adulthood.
They partner with advocacy organizations that address the various issues that surround youth in foster care. MIU’s newest program, “Backstage Soundcheck Tour Experience” is designed to help student’s who are interested in the music industry get a look at various careers in the field.
Bailey will be hosting one of the experiences Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Chastain Park.
“We introduce the youth to all the many facets of our touring entourage and what they do and so forth,” Bailey said.
The band has won several awards through the decades, including a BET and Grammy Lifetime Achievement award. Recently, EWF made history as the first R&B group to receive recognition by the Kennedy Center. There have only been three other groups to be acknowledged with this distinction: Led Zeppelin, the Eagles, and The Who.