Earth, Wind & Fire has been one of the most electrifying groups in the music business for almost five decades, racking up 20 Grammys, charting 50 gold records and selling more than 90 million albums on its way to a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
Today, three original members still tour with the group — bassist Verdine White, vocalist Philip Bailey and percussionist Ralph Johnson — and they have a full complement of musicians (including Bailey’s son) to bring high-energy songs like September, Shining Star and Boogie Wonderland to the stage. Keith Loria spoke with White about their upcoming performance at the Stamford Palace on May 30.
Keith Loria: Preview a bit of what fans can expect when you come our way to Stamford?
Verdine White: It’s going to be high energy and a lot of fun with five generations of audience members in the crowd. We’ve been on the Trolls soundtrack and Dr. Strange, so a lot of people are still discovering our music.
KL: What was the goal of the band back when you were first forming in 1969? What did you set out to be?
VW: We took things one day at a time back then. It was a different era and you just went for it. Our intention was always to be a great band, and obviously, we did succeed at that level. There are acknowledgments that everyone agrees that we have done some good work and have really impressed humanity.
KL: Your brother (and original member) Maurice died in 2016. Do you still feel his presence when on stage, and how do you carry on what he brought to Earth, Wind & Fire?
VW: It’s not that deep, as the music is always going to carry on, but we do a special dedication for Maurice that I think everyone is going to appreciate.
KL: What has been the winning formula for so many hits and the secret for them standing the test of time?
VW: I think the secret is that the dynamics just sound great and people love them. They have been a part of people’s lives for over 40 years and they are still going strong.
Loria: Earth, Wind & Fire has such a strong legacy. You can’t go to a wedding or party without hearing one of your songs.
VW: True, people like us and they play our songs. People come up to us all the time and tell us where they were when they first heard a song, or how a song has had a special place in their lives. One lady came up to us the other night and told me she named her yacht after the band.
KL: You must get stories like that all the time. What’s the craziest thing someone has told you they have ever done?
VW: There are so many of them. The heartfelt ones are the ones that stand out. We worked with a music director who had twins and the middle names for them were Verdine and Maurice. He dedicated that to us and I found that really cool.
KL: In addition to the tour, you’re doing your first-ever residency in Las Vegas beginning this month. Why were you interested in doing that?
VW: We’re really looking forward to it. Residencies are really in style nowadays. Lionel Ritchie has done it, Lady Gaga has done it, and we’re excited as a band to do that sort of thing. We definitely have the audience to do it.
KL: What do you still enjoy about getting up and playing live on stage? How does it compare to the early part of your career?
VW: It’s still great and I have learned to appreciate it even more.
KL: What does the rest of 2018 look like for the band?
VW: We’re just going to be finishing up our residency in Las Vegas and then headed to Europe this summer. That’s going to be a good time.
KL: You’ve experienced a lot of changes in the music industry over the years. What has been the biggest change for the good?
VW: The Internet has allowed people to discover us every day. It’s really allowed them to connect to us. They know when we are going to be in their area and they can hear old and new projects. This allows different generations to travel with us and connect with us.