After an eight-year absence from the studio, in 2013, Earth, Wind & Fire’s (EWF) 20th studio album – “Now, Then & Forever” – was released, and this autumn marks the of the super band’s first seasonal collection, “Holiday.” “Holiday” features brand new recordings of seasonal standards (“Winter Wonderland,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bell Rock”), beloved carols (“Joy to the World,” “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” “What Child Is This?,” “Away in a Manger,” “The First Noël”), a traditional Japanese winter song (“Snow”), a modern day Christmas song (“Every Day Is Like Christmas”) and future Earth, Wind & Fire classics: “Happy Seasons” (inspired by “Happy Feelin’”), and “December” (inspired by “September”) featuring original vocals from Maurice White.
Lead vocalist and Earth, Wind & Fire co-founder Philip Bailey said, “This album is the band’s first and only holiday music project. We are very proud to offer it as a labor of love to all of our fans and soon to be.”
Bailey joined EWF’s second line up in 1972, three years after the band’s inception in Chicago by musical mastermind Maurice White. As White guided Bailey and the band into a wild musical ride of mysticism, magic and high spirituality, it was Bailey’s vocal prowess that help push the band from experimental obscurity to mainstream explosion. Today, Bailey is an eight-time Grammy winner, and is author of “Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind & Fire” (Viking, $27.95).
After being signed by recording titan Clive Davis, EWF went on to produce a remarkable series of platinum and gold albums and headline stadiums around the world. As Bailey and White were profoundly influenced by genius producer the late Charles Stepney, as well as famed arranger David Foster, EWF elevated Sly Stone’s multi-ethnic “I Wanna Take You Higher” message to an even higher level.
According to Bailey, the group’s music is an extension “of the way we were raised, and the times that we were living in. There was such a need for whoever who had a voice of any significance to use it for the betterment of humanity. Even, when you mention Sly Stone, who we were very inspired by, listen to them and the message in his music and in his songs. We were just picking up where he was in certain respects — as were many artist of that day. I guess it was in vogue at that point and in those days from Donnie Hathaway, to folk music from Joni Mitchell, whom I was a big fan of. There were a lot of messages in the music, and people didn’t mind that. It was inspiring.”
Eventually, Bailey hit the wall due to fame, fortune and the excesses of global success. “Shining Star” goes behind-the-scenes with the true story of what happens when real life exceeds your dreams, when the power and pain of building a legacy brings both joy and faith-testing challenges.
“I am a reader too, and I didn’t want a book to be just flattery,” explained Bailey of the writing process. “I wanted it to have a purpose, so those things are in the book, that in my case, their humble or strange beginnings don’t define who they are or who they become. And, never forget who you are and where you’re from. I think that’s important too. No matter what I have done, I never could have dreamed of things that music has afforded me the opportunity to do coming from Denver, or anywhere for that matter. At the same time, I’m still a Denver boy at heart, and I want to keep that connection because it kind of roots me with the ordinary people and the ordinary cares of the day.”
WDAS’ Patty Jackson interviews music legend Philip Bailey about the Earth, Wind & Fire’s rise to global fame and Bailey’s own professional and spiritual journey at Mother Bethel AME Church, Saturday, Nov. 15. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $40.