Maurice White and I

Photo Credit: Creative Commons

By: Ethan Rampersaud

As it is nearing September 21st, I cannot stop thinking about the band “Earth, Wind and Fire” and their recently deceased bandleader, Maurice White. Why do I pair this seemingly insignificant day with a band such as Earth, Wind and Fire? The band stated this day openly in the titular song of “September” in this verse, “Do you remember the 21st night of September?” This song, along with their other popular song, “Let’s Groove,” has become popular in pop culture and people can find it in TV shows, commercials, sporting events and video games, according to NPR music. Nevertheless, before the death of Maurice White, music legends such as Prince, Marvin Gaye and the king of pop Michael Jackson had overshadowed this band. While it did have a significantly large fan base, it had taken a backseat to singers and bands with much larger ones. However, with the death of Maurice White, many have mourned his death and people have started to hear more of Earth Wind and Fire’s songs, including myself.

Before I had really became a fan of the band, I had recognized some of their songs, such as “Let’s Groove,” but had never truly known the band. Early in February of 2016, when I was surfing on the internet, I heard an Earth, Wind and Fire song that piqued my interest, although I did not know at the time. Wanting to know the name, I found “Let’s Groove” music video, and it was love at the first song. Over the months, I had listened to the band’s music and had bought some of their albums, and I was interested at their enthusiasm, energy and spirit throughout every song.

Nevertheless, the band did have some problems with their singing. When it came down to comprehending the lyrics, I could only understand a few words. However, the louder background music could partly be to blame, which is overall superb and well done. In fact, the background is so outstanding that it becomes the star of every song. Furthermore, while the lyrics of the band’s songs are hard to decipher, you cannot help but enjoy their enthusiasm as they sing the lyrics with robustness and satisfaction. Who can resist a band that is into their own music so much that they dance and boogie to it as if they were hearing their own song? This band has unparalleled spirit and joy that even most songs in the modern day cannot compare to.

Earth, Wind and Fire was quite extravagant during live performances from the 1970s to now. White often wore vivid, exotic and flashy clothing while dancing to his own band’s rhythm and music in every song. This really made the band have its own unique identity that stood out from other bands and musicians in the 1970s. The band did not seem like the same band formula that musicians and bands excessively use today. While other musicians in the 60s and 70s, such as David Bowie, had started making their stylish and extravagant identity, Earth Wind and Fire had already made and perfected theirs to a whole other level.

According to NPR, White started his own band, the Salty Peppers in Chicago in 1969. White, along with his brother Verdine White, then moved his band to Los Angeles, where they adopted the name “Earth, Wind and Fire,” which originated from the band members’ astrological signs’ elemental qualities. The band started becoming relatively successful in the 1970s, with albums that gained critical acclaim and a few awards. However, as the band entered the 1980s and the 1990s, more popular singers and bands of the time, such as Prince and Michael Jackson, had overshadowed this exemplary band. While they were not as popular as these singers or bands, they still kept making music and still endured the 80s, 90s and even into the 2000s.

Earth, Wind and Fire had many historical and cultural influences in their music. The band had blended traditional African rhythms, Latin rhythms, disco, jazz, and blues to create their immersive and beautiful songs and albums. Ancient Egypt also influenced them, as their vivid and eye-popping album cover art shows many instances of Ancient Egyptian architecture, such as the pyramids and the obelisks, and they use ancient hieroglyphs, such as the Eye of Ra and the ankh.

The band Earth, Wind and Fire had also had made a lasting legacy and impact on the music industry today. Many singers, including Prince, Pharrell Williams, and Beyoncé have the band to thank for influencing them, their songs and their style. A plethora of artists, including Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick and Patti LaBelle, have covered Earth, Wind and Fire’s songs a countless number of times, and many artists such as Jay-Z and Cee-Lo Green,  have also sampled the band’s songs. Furthermore, movies such as Night of the Museum and Anchorman, and several television shows such as The Office and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno feature Earth, Wind and Fire’s songs. Additionally, celebrities such as Dionne Warwick and Steve Harvey enjoy Earth, Wind and Fire’s music. To me, it is no surprise that Earth, Wind and Fire has left such a legacy on popular culture. The band was phenomenally exceptional in performing their music and delivered their songs with spirit and enjoyment. I can only hope that more people enjoy their music for years and decades to come.

Originally Published on September 18th, 2016

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