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Interview with Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire

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Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire.

May 17, 2011. "We always did have music around the house...that was always a big part of our life" says Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire. In the midst of recording new music, a demanding tour schedule and mentoring young musicians, Verdine White speaks as original member and bass player of Earth, Wind & Fire celebrating the band’s 40th Anniversary! EWF has garnered multiple platinum albums, gold records, has been Grammy nominated twenty times and has won six Grammys, The band has forged timeless, mega hits including “Shining Star,” “Sing A Song” and “That’s The Way of the World,” has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, performed Super Bowl half time and continues to perform live embarking upon a 2011 extensive tour. Verdine White met with OFC Official Fan Club to chat about the EWF early days, latest musical efforts and tour.

 


OFC: Good morning Verdine and thanks for being here. It is a privilege! Are you on the road currently, where are you right now?
VW: We’re in New York. We did a concert last night here and we’ll be in New York for a couple of days. But we’re switching hotels so we gotta check out in a few minutes.


The performance at SunFest a few weeks back, hands down EWF was the most jammed packed with fans. Fabulous show, set list 18 songs, what was pretty incredible was every song was a huge hit. After 40 years being a part of the band, what was your reaction to the show and the fans?
Oh, it was a great, good audience, a lot of fun. Of course we have about four or five generations who come see us, so that was amazing.

 

The music of Earth, Wind & Fire is highly recognizable. How do you feel when you see EWF featured as the quintessential sound that defines the seventies decade?
We don’t think about it too much.  We don’t really think about it that much saying “the seventies.” It was just an era we started in. A great era of course but we don’t like say “oh seventies, seventies.” We don’t really do that.


Going back to the legacy and the history of the band, the founding members are yourself,  Maurice…
...Phillip Bailey


And Phillip Bailey. And you come from a prodigious Chicago family, your father was a doctor. How was it that you and your brother Maurice followed the path of music?

Well, we always did have music around the house.  So that was always a big part of our life, you know what I mean, having music around the house. So it just kind of flowed from one thing to another.


Were you involved in the early days of the Chess Record studio sessions?

No, no that was  before my time.  Maurice was.

 

EWF 1970 the self entitled album debuts and a follow up album after that and there were hits on the charts. But right after the band entirely replaces all the band members with the exception of Maurice and yourself. What prompted such a major change early on?
Long story and we’ll get to that in the next interview. But after that we went to Clive Davis and his records (Columbia Records). That’s when it actually really took off for us. It really, really took off you know.


I understand the name Earth, Wind & Fire came from Maurice’s spiritual foundation and astrology.

Astrological chart, it was his astrological chart.

 

Was the spirituality thing was that a “band thing” or was that more Maurice’s?
His thing but the name of the band came out of his astrological chart

 

Did his astrology and his being rooted in spirituality, did that drive any of the creativity and the energy of the band?
Well, some of it did, as I said before, his astrological chart made him come up with name Earth, Wind & Fire because in his chart it only had earth, wind and fire in his chart. So that’s what he did.


Who of the original members are still in the band today touring?
Of course it’s myself, Phillip Bailey, Ralph Johnson. We’ve got a great horn section, great band.  And so we’re going to rock it, we’re going to rock it!  And we’re really happy to still be here after all these years and things are going great for us.

 

EWF has done some prestigious gigs, Winter Olympics and the Nobel Peace Prize Concert and The White House. What was the highlight for you personally?
They all were the highlight but the recent highlight, of course, was playing for the President. That was incredible, fantastic, great!


Did you meet the President and First Lady Michelle?
Yeah. Yes twice we’ve performed. We’ve worked with them twice already.


Are you producing anymore Verdine. Back in the seventies (eighties) you had produced Level 42, how did you get involved with an English pop band back then?
We were in London and they came to the show and we got to talking and we decided to work together. That was a really great record. Big record, too.

 

Do you plan to do anymore producing or working with young upcoming bands?
Well, I have my foundation which I am doing in Los Angeles. So in terms of young people, I’m doing a lot of things with young folks.

 

As a bass player, are there any other bass icons or musicians that you particularly admire?
Well the greats of all time, of course, Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller. My good buddy Nathan East, Bootsy Collins, you know all the greats, Mark King, Victor Wooten. These are all my good friends and wonderful people as well.


Marcus Miller played SunFest a year ago. It was clearly a program featuring strong bass with Marcus. Have you ever or would you like to venture into a solo bass career?
No, I don’t have the time (laugh).  I don’t have the time.

 

What do you think Verdine about some of the covers coming out today of EWF. Are you flattered by the covers?
I don’t listen to a lot of them.  But I hear there are quite a few covers on us.

 

As a musician of pedigree and legacy, what do you think of musicians today who take snippets and samples of hits and infuse them into completely different songs?  What are your thoughts about that as music?
Oh, well that’s just how they create. That’s the age we live in and it’s just a different part of creating music.

 

I see you are mentoring. Is the foundation you mentioned the Verdine White Foundation – Wright Life Center for Performing Arts?
That’s right exactly, yes.


Recent efforts - Earth, Wind & Fire was featured on “Hit Man” David Foster.  David Foster wrote some of the EWF hits, is that correct?
He wrote “After The Love Is Gone” that’s what he wrote.


Were you on the tour with David Foster and Friends or just a few of the shows?

No, we did the PBS special with him. And we’ve known David forever. David’s a good buddy of ours. Wonderful person and good friend of ours.


EWF band members were you included on latest E (Escovedo) Family CD "Now & Forever?”

Yeah, for Sheila yeah. And she’s great too! And the song was written by our drummer John Paris. That was a great session.


Is there any new music, albums on the horizon for EWF?
Yeah we do.  We’re in the middle of working on a record now and then we recorded two nights at the Hollywood Bowl with LA Philharmonic which we’re very excited about!

 

Thank you very much Verdine. I really appreciate your time. It’s been a pleasure and privilege.  Fans can find the latest tour and band news on earthwindandfire.com





Click HERE to find tickets for Earth, Wind & Fire on Ticketmaster

Earth, Wind & Fire Greatest Hits on Amazon

 


 

Earth, Wind & Fire Set List - West Palm Beach May 1, 2011
Boogie Wonderland
Sing A Song
Shining Star
Getaway
Jupiter
Serpentine Fire
Sun Goddess
Kalimba Story
Evil
Brazilian Rhyme
That's The Way Of The World
After The Love Is Gone
Reasons
Got To Get You Into My Life
Fantasy
September
Let's Groove
Mighty Mighty

 


(mobile users can view the interview on youtube.com/v/DRTKNbEDyzM)

 

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