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Earth Wind and Fire Biography

Home > Music > E > Earth Wind and Fire > Biography

Birth Place: Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Years Active: 1969–present
Genres: R&B, Funk, Soul, Jazz, Disco

Earth, Wind & Fire is an American R&B and funk band formed in Chicago, Illinois, in 1969 by Verdine and Maurice White. Also known as EWF, the band has won six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards. They have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. The band's music contains elements of African, Latin American, funk, soul, pop and rock music, jazz and other genres. The band is known for the dynamic sound of their horn section, and the interplay between the contrasting vocals of Philip Bailey's falsetto and Maurice White's tenor. The kalimba (African thumb piano) is played on all of the band's albums.

The band's self-titled debut album, “Earth, Wind, Fire,” was released February 1971 to critical acclaim, as was November 1971's “The Need of Love.” Both albums were produced by Joe Wissert and a single, from The Need of Love called "I Think About Lovin' You" provided EWF with their first Top 40 R&B hit.

The album “Head to the Sky” was released in the spring of 1973 and gave the group their first two legitimate hit singles, "Evil", which was co-written by Maurice and Philip, and "Keep Your Head to the Sky", both of which reached the top 30, the top 60 and the R&B pop charts respectively.

Released in 1974, the album “Open Our Eyes” was another commercially successful LP. In May 1974, the single "Mighty Mighty" became Earth, Wind & Fire's first top 30 hit on the pop charts, peaking at No.29.

In the same year, Earth, Wind & Fire worked with Sig Shore, the creator of the motion picture “Super Fly, “on a new film about the dark side of the recording industry. “That's The Way Of The World” starred Earth, Wind & Fire as "The Group", in the role of a new recording act. The film was an eventual flop. However, the movie's soundtrack, which was also titled “That's the Way of the World, “became Earth, Wind & Fire's breakthrough album. “That's the Way of the World” included the hit singles "Shining Star" and "That's the Way of the World" and because of the album, EWF became the first black act to top both the Billboard album and singles charts.

“Spirit,” released in 1976 reached number 2 on the Billboard Pop and R&B Albums Chart and has been certified double platinum. Charting singles included “Getaway", “On Your Face" and "Saturday Nite."

“All 'N All,” released in 1977, reached number three on the Pop Album chart and stayed at number one on the Black Album chart for nine weeks. “All 'N All” was also the bestselling R&B album of 1978 and has been certified triple platinum in the United States for sales of three million copies by the RIAA. The single "Serpentine Fire" reached #1 on the R&B chart and #13 on the Hot 100 chart.

“I Am” followed in 1979 and features the singles "Boogie Wonderland" with The Emotions and "After the Love Has Gone." The album has been certified double platinum by the RIAA. "After The Love Has Gone" won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus and "Boogie Wonderland" also won a Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance. "After The Love Has Gone" and an instrumental version of Boogie Wonderland also garnered Grammy nominations for Record Of The Year and Best Disco Recording respectively. Bandleader Maurice White was also Grammy nominated for Producer of the Year.

“Faces,” a double-LP, was released in 1980 and reached #2 and #10 on the Billboard Black and Pop albums charts. It has been certified gold by the RIAA. The lead-off single was "Let Me Talk". The songs "You", and "Sparkle" followed as single releases.

“Raise!,” released in 1981 returned to platinum status and was the bestselling R&B album of 1982. The album featured the #1 R&B and #3 Pop hit “Let's Groove.” The single "Wanna Be With You" won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group.

“Powerlight” was released in February 1983 and went to number 12 and number 4 on the Pop and R&B album charts and the single “Fall in Love with Me” reached number 17 and number 4 on the Pop and R&B charts. “Fall in Love with Me” was also Grammy nominated for Best R&B vocal performance by A Duo or group.

“Electric Universe” was released in November 1983 and went to number 40 and number 8 on the Pop and R&B album charts. After a short hiatus the band reunited in 1987. The band's reunion fostered the 1987 Gold album “Touch the World,” which went onto number 3 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number 33 on The Billboard 200. Featured on the album was a song penned by an unknown songwriter by the name of Skylark called "System of Survival". Released as a single the song became a hit reaching number one on the Billboard R&B charts and Dance charts, and another single called "Thinking Of You" peaked at number one and number 3 on the R&B and Dance charts.

“Heritage” (1990), “Millennium” (1993), “In the Name of Love” (1997), “The Promise” (2003) and “Illumination” (2005) have been released since “Touch the World” but have failed to equal in sales or chart success.

To date, the band has won six Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards. They have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They have sold over 90 million albums worldwide earning them a place on the list of best-selling music artists where they are ranked as the seventh best selling American band of all time.