Artpark will groove to the sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire on Tuesday. It’s the first sold-out show of the season — with good reason — Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the most beloved and recognized bands in recorded music history.
Formed in Chicago 50 years ago in 1969 as The Salty Peppers, Earth, Wind & Fire is the recipient of 17 Grammy Award nominations, the winner of six, 12 American Music Award nominations, they won four of those and they are Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Hall of Fame inductees. They also have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The list of awards is much longer, but those are the highlights.
The band’s name comes from founder Maurice White’s astrological sign, Sagittarius. The first incarnation of the band, The Salty Peppers, had moderate commercial success when they were based in Chicago but it wasn’t until White moved to Los Angeles that the band signed a national recording contract.
After two moderately successful albums in 1971 on the Warner Brothers label, Earth, Wind & Fire signed with Columbia. Their fourth album, “Head to the Sky,” began a streak of eight consecutive Platinum selling albums from 1973 to 1981.
The group’s 1975 album “That’s the Way of the World” propelled them to super-stardom, reaching the top of the Billboard albums chart and achieving Triple Platinum sales certification. The album was the soundtrack to a largely forgotten movie of the same name about the recording industry. The album also included the hit “Shining Star.”
Other songs that charted for Earth, Wind & Fire in the 1970s include, “September,” “After the Love Has Gone,” and “Let’s Groove.”
The group’s best-selling album of the era was the compilation “The Best of Earth Wind & Fire Vol. 1” which included two previously unreleased singles, “September” and the group’s remake of The Beatles classic “Got to Get You into My Life.” The latter song appeared on the soundtrack for the 1978 film “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The group also appeared in the film performing the song. (EWF is the fifth performer in the Tuesday series with members that performed on the “Sgt. Pepper” soundtrack or appeared in the film. The previous ones are Peter Frampton, Jeff Beck, Steven Tyler, and David Paich of Toto)
Earth Wind & Fire are the third act with hits during the disco/funk era to appear in the Tuesday series this year, The O’Jays and Parliament Funkadelic headlined shows earlier this season. Of the three, Earth Wind & Fire had the broadest commercial appeal and remains the most popular.
Maurice White passed away in 2016, and the group’s current lineup features longtime members Philip Bailey, Verdine White (Maurice’s brother and considered one of the greatest bass players of all-time) and Ralph Johnson. Bailey is known for his falsetto voice and had a massive hit as solo artist in 1984 with Phil Collins called “Easy Lover.” His son, Philip Jr. is a current member of EWF as well.
It’s a sold-out show so you will have to purchase tickets on the secondary market. If you are one of the lucky people that scored tickets you can look for my review and photos of the show next week.
Thom Jennings covers the local music scene for Night and Day.