"From my youngest days, I always felt certain affinities with the idea of being a preacher," Maurice White once reflected.
Today - Feb 4, 2020 - marks 4 years since the Earth, Wind & Fire leader passed away. Driving one of the top touring acts in the United States throughout the 70's and 80's, the singer spread enlightened funk and sophisticated soul with one of music's most influential and iconic bands. Heralding elements of spirituality, hope, positivity, harmony and depth within an intricate blend of disco, jazz, Latin, soul rhythms, White unified millions through his band's music.
We honor the legendary musical visionary with a compilation of some of his classic hits with the band. What's your go-to EWF track?
Written by White, Verdina White and Eddie del Barrio, this 1978 single took everyone's hopes and dreams and brought them to life with unabashed enthusiasm. White shared with Melody Maker, "The song 'Fantasy' is motivated about escapism in the sense of living on a world that is untrue, a world that is unjust, a world that is very selfish and envious, there is a place that everyone can escape to which is their own fantasy. I had to write the song in the sense of sharing this place with people." With a refrain like "We will live together, until the twelfth of never," White became the world's real-life Peter Pan, taking all hopeful souls along on an eternal adventure.
2. "Got to Get You Into My Life"
EWF took an already beloved Beatles hit and put it on fire. Rewiring The Beatles tune with explosive horns and and a harmonic vocal groove, EWF covered "Got to Get You Into My Life" for the 1978 film Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The film flopped - but the song carried on just fine on its own.
3. "Keep Your Head to the Sky"
It's necessary to understand the staggering power of EWF at their height by contextualizing the band at their start - tracing back to their 1973 release Head To The Sky. The EWF sound is more raw and unpolished here, but it's this airy quality that enables White's sequences on an electrified Kalimba - a small African instrument - to soar on a heavenly level.
4. "Shining Star"
White may have chanced upon a shooting star as he went for a peaceful evening stroll as the band was recording their 1975 album That's The Way of the World - he looked into the sky and was inspired to write this fiery funk classic. Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it was the single flying straight to No. 1.
5. "After the Love Has Gone"
Earning EWF a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, White produced this iconic slow jam in 1979 in collaboration with songwriters David Foster, Jay Graydon and Bill Champlin. The only thing that beat breaking it down to a sweaty EWF funk tune was holding someone close to this sensual groove.
6. "Sing a Song"
Another Top 10 single in the seemingly endless discography of the EWF legacy, "Sing a Song" emerged victoriously to score the No. 1 spot on Billboard's R&B Charts, pushing the band's 1975 album Gratitude to the 3 million milestone and beyond.
7. "Brazilian Rhyme (Beijo)
No one could resist the call of the flirty falsetto in this 1977 groovy interlude. For its 80-second worth, the track proved instrumental to the growth of hip hop, with everyone from A Tribe Called Quest to Black Eyed Peas borrowing the track for some groundbreaking rhymes throughout hip hop's earliest days.
8. "Boogie Wonderland"
This disco number was the lovechild of The Emotions and EWF, peaking at No. 6 on Billboard in July 1979. Swinging in full soulful stride, the brassy boogie-loving track presented the demise of disco in its tantalizing dark lyrics, "You dance and shake the hurt, dance!"
9. "Let's Groove"
The Eighties swiftly heralded the end of the disco drama, but EWF navigated the turbulence with some electronica-fused synth funk in this Grammy-nominated hit. "It's really just knowing the feelings and fundamentals involved in producing a hit." described White to NME. "Just like writing a story. It's not less honest than a piece of jazz. Take the new record, ' Let's Groove.' It's real honest. We just went in and done it - a natural giving thing. Just saying, Hey man, enjoy this with me. Share this with us." Did we mention the trippy music video of the band dancing in space yet?
Nothing screams sentimental soul more passionately than Philip Bailey's riffing falsetto in this timeless masterpiece. Most recognizable of all in this legendary EWF track is White's underlying love of penning blissfully optimistic anthems.