When Memphis-born Maurice White left his plum gigs as a Chicago session drummer and member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio - as the '60s became the '70s - he had a plan. He wanted to form a band that abolished the lines between musical genres, freely borrowing from all styles without regard to convention. "I wanted to do something that hadn't been done before," Maurice explains. "Although we were basically jazz musicians, we played soul, funk, gospel, blues, jazz, rock and dance music...which somehow ended up becoming pop. We were coming out of a decade of experimentation, mind expansion and cosmic awareness. I wanted our music to convey messages of universal love and harmony without force-feeding listeners' spiritual content."
Earth, Wind & Fire made a crucial move to Columbia Records where their next three albums, Last Days and Time (1972), Head to the Sky (1973) and Open Our Eyes (1974), ushered them onto the radio. The group put major stock in their live shows, performing in any and every club, college and theatre that would book them, typically on double bills with bands from the rock, jazz and soul arenas. A broader demographic within their underground following began to amass, but it was the soundtrack to an ill-fated film that broke EWF wide open. That's the Way of the World (1975) was a stiff at the box office (twice), but Earth Wind & Fire's galvanizing 8-song Lp was a sales and cultural phenomenon. The group earned its first #1 single ("Shining Star"), first Grammy Award and first double platinum sales award from that now-classic album.
The music and showmanship of Earth, Wind & Fire remains a natural for traditional media and new media alike. VH1, HBO and the Arts & Entertainment Network have all aired top rated concert performances with A&E releasing its 1999 Live By Request program on DVD. The Eagle Vision video company released the EWF ..ary Shining Stars, which contains rarely seen historic video footage along with in-depth interviews with the band members. As always, EWF continues to appear on numerous network television shows from "Oprah" to "Leno." And Hollywood continues to have a love affair with their mass appealing music, commissioning new Earth, Wind & Fire music for films such as Roll, Bounce ("Love Together"), Robots ("Love's Dance") and Hitch, ("This is How I Feel"), as well as tapping their classics for films such as Be Cool ("Fantasy"), Soul Food ("September") and Muppets in Outer Space ("Shining Star").