Earth, Wind & Fire

Article Index

In the summer of 2004 Earth, Wind & Fire signed a record deal with Sanctuary Urban Records, owned by Mathew Knowles (father and manager of r&b/pop singer Beyoncé). Gary Bias and Bob Burns, Jr. of the Earth, Wind & Fire Horns were featured on Queen Latifah's The Dana Owens Album, which was released on September 28, 2004, and reached 16 and 11 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album charts, respectively, and was certified Gold. On September 27, 2004, former Phoenix Horns trombonist Louis Satterfield died, aged 67.[61]

Kenny G's cover of "The Way You Move", which was released in November 2004 and charted at number 12 on the Adult Contemporary singles chart, featured the band with Maurice and Philip on lead vocals. EWF and Kenny G performed "The Way You Move" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in January 2005.[62]

On December 11, 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire were honored at the first annual Grammy Jam held at Los Angeles's Wiltern Theater, where several artists such as Stevie Wonder, Yolanda Adams, Sheila E., Miri Ben-Ari, George Duke, Kanye West, and Randy Jackson paid tribute to the band in the form of performances. Other celebrities who attended the event were Pamela Anderson, Tim Allen, Prince, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Nick Cannon, and Suzanne de Passe.[63] EWF performed on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve on December 31, 2004.[64]

EWF released a single entitled "Show Me The Way", on which they paired up with neo soul artist Raphael Saadiq on Sanctuary Records in the fall of 2005. The single garnered a Grammy nomination and was featured on Illumination, their 19th studio album, which was released on September 20, 2005. For this album EWF collaborated with artists such as will.i.am, Kelly Rowland, Outkast's Big Boi, and Brian McKnight. Illumination reached number eight on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Album Chart and number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100. Another single spawned from the album, dubbed "Pure Gold", reached number 23 on the Adult Contemporary Charts.

The album garnered the admiration of critics, with AllMusic's Rob Theakston referring to the album as an "outstanding record" and Steve Jones of USA Today' remarking that on the album EWF are as "vibrant as ever".[65][66] Illumination received a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album and a Soul Train Music Award in the category R&B-soul album. EWF also received a NAACP Image Award nomination for Best Duo or Group.[67]

The February 6, 2005 Super Bowl XXXIX pregame show in Jacksonville, Florida saw the band teaming up with The Black Eyed Peas to sing "Where Is the Love?" and "Shining Star".[68][69] In March 2005 EWF performed in Russia for the first time.[47]

In 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire and Chicago embarked upon a joint national tour, which gave rise to a DVD of a concert that took place at Los Angeles' Greek Theater entitled Chicago & Earth, Wind & Fire – Live at the Greek Theatre. This DVD was released on June 28, 2005 and was certified Platinum two months afterward. Chicago and EWF once again toured together in 2005 and collaborated for a new recording of Chicago's ballad "If You Leave Me Now", that was included on Chicago's 2005 compilation album Love Songs. As part of an opening act for the 57th Primetime Emmy Awards held on September 18, 2005 at the Shrine Auditorium, Los Angeles the band once more collaborated up with The Black Eyed Peas and this was first time a musical artist had opened at the annual awards show.[47]

In 2005, EWF released their first Christmas-themed track entitled "Gather Round", produced and arranged by Foster and written by Maurice White, David Foster and Philip Bailey.[70] In 2006, Maurice worked with Maurice Hines (the brother of famed entertainer Gregory Hines) to release the Broadway play Hot Feet, which was a jukebox musical whose theme was the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. Maurice wrote along with Allee Willis – who wrote "September", "Boogie Wonderland", "In the Stone" and "Sunday Morning" for the band – several new songs for the play. EWF performed alongside Mary J. Blige and Ludacris "Runaway Love" at the 49th Grammy Awards held at Los Angeles's Staples Center.[71]


Interpretations: Celebrating the Music of Earth, Wind & Fire, which is a cover album of EWF's material, was released on Stax Records on March 27, 2007. Executively produced by Maurice, the album featured artists such as Chaka Khan, Kirk Franklin, Lalah Hathaway, Mint Condition, Dwele, Meshell Ndegeocello, and Angie Stone. Dwele and Meshell Ndegeocello's renditions of "That’s The Way Of The World" and "Fantasy", respectively, were each nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

The band was the opening act at a special edition of American Idol entitled "Idol Gives Back" (which aired April 25, 2007), and performed a medley of "Boogie Wonderland", "Shining Star" and "September".[72] At the Nobel Peace Prize Concert in Oslo, Norway, on December 11, 2007, Earth, Wind & Fire performed "Fantasy" and "September". Hosted by Kevin Spacey and Uma Thurman, the Nobel Peace Prize Concert was broadcast to over 100 countries. Other artists who performed included Melissa Etheridge, Alicia Keys, Annie Lennox, and Kylie Minogue.[73]

Earth, Wind & Fire performed on the opening night of one of the largest musical events in Latin America, Chile's Viña del Mar Festival. The band so impressed the audience with their performance that the band was bestowed with the Gaviota de Plata (English translation: the Silver Seagull), the highest award that can presented to an artist performing at the Viña del Mar Festival. Ironically, the intro to EWF's song "In the Stone" has been used for several years as the introductory theme for the event's broadcasts.[74][75][76][77]

Maurice White, Ralph Johnson, Philip Bailey, and Verdine White each received an honorary degree from the Arts and Media College at Columbia College Chicago during the college's 2008 commencement exercises. Verdine White and Bailey both gave brief speeches during the ceremony, followed by all four honorees' giving an impromptu performance of "Shining Star".,[78][79] EWF performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 US Open, which was hosted by Forest Whitaker and served to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the founding of tennis’s Open Era with a parade of more than 25 former US Open singles champions.[80]

Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the White House on February 22, 2009, for the Governors' Dinner; they were the first musical artists to perform there since Barack Obama took office.[81] The band toured once more with Chicago in 2009 for a tour of thirty US cities.[needs update][82] On April 26, 2009, EWF performed at the 39th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.[83] Less than two weeks prior to this, former keyboard player Robert Brookins died from a heart attack; aged 46.[84]

In 2010, EWF made a repeat performance at the 40th New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. In that same year bandmembers Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson participated in the recording of the "We Are the World 25 for Haiti" single.[85] 2010 was also the year that saw Earth, Wind & Fire's original members Maurice White, Phillip Bailey, Verdine White, Al McKay and Larry Dunn all inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame.[citation needed]

In November 2011, the band was given the Legend Award at the Soul Train Awards at Atlanta, Georgia's Fox Theatre.[86] In 2012, EWF were bestowed with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Annual Trumpet Awards, held at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Atlanta.[87]

On February 29, 2012, early guitarist Roland Bautista died, aged 60, of natural causes.[84]

On April 30, 2013, Earth Wind & Fire were featured vocalists on 'Something About You' taken from LL Cool J's new album "Authentic (LL Cool J album)", along with former Pussycat Doll Melody Thornton and Charlie Wilson.

Now, Then & Forever, the group's first album in eight years, was released September 10, 2013.[88] On January 13, 2014, former percussionist Beloyd Taylor, who co-wrote the band's 1976 hit "Getaway", died;[89] and on May 2 former vocalist Jessica Cleaves died, aged 65, following complications from a stroke.[90]

On September 13, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at Proms in the Park at Hyde Park with the BBC Concert Orchestra [91] On October 21, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire released their first ever holiday album entitled Holiday.[92] On December 8, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the Kennedy Center Honors, honoring Al Green.[93] On December 14, 2014, Earth, Wind & Fire performed at the Christmas in Washington event.[94]

Maurice White died on February 4, 2016, after a suffering for some years with Parkinson's disease. He was survived by his wife, his two sons, and his brothers Verdine and Fred.[95]