Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White (left) and Philip Bailey performing in 1982 at the Ahoy Rotterdam, The Netherlands. White died on February 4th. Photo | Chris Hakkens, CC BY-SA 2.0.
When I reflect on the pivotal moments of my life, my timeline goes back to my ’70s love affair with FM radio. Earth, Wind & Fire
were among my favorites bands, with the college stations on the left side of the dial playing esoteric cuts from Last Days and Time
and Head To The Sky
, while commercial stations on the right side aired selections from That’s the Way of the World
, All n’ All
and I Am
. However, the word on the street was the only real way to experience EWF was live in concert. As much as I longed to see them play, I knew it would be a damn-near impossible sell to my parents. But, luck intervened in the form of my grandmother’s friend’s granddaughter. She was a little older, but not old enough to go alone to a concert, so she suggested taking me. I knew she didn’t like me much, but our mutual desire to see a stellar show made us perfect frenemies. After a long discussion of what clothes I should wear (she wasn’t fond of my bohemian wardrobe), we worked out a plan to get me fresh gear, and, if lucky, some extra spending money for a t-shirt or two.
At school, I casually mentioned to my classmates I was heading to the EWF concert, and I suddenly became an ultra cool kid. By the time I joined the capacity crowd at the venerable Spectrum, I knew I was in for a concert experience the would go down in the annals of great concerts. The show kicked off when the booming voice of the emcee took to the public address to announce — “Presenting the elements of the universe: Earth! Wind! And Fire!” The incendiary band hit the stage and by incorporating the skills of illusionist Doug Henning and fantastical outfits, EWF dazzled their faithful attendees with a sophisticated mix of funk, jazz, Africana and soul.
“The first time I went to an Earth, Wind & fire concert was when they came to the Spectrum in 1977 with The Emotions,” recalls Philadelphia-based professional musician Rhonda Lancaster. “I was hoarse for three days. I screamed the whole concert.” Read more »