Earth, Wind & Fire is an American R&B and disco 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. Rolling Stone has described them as “innovative, precise yet sensual, calculated yet galvanizing” and has also declared that the band “changed the sound of black pop”. In 1998, they were ranked at number 60 on VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of Rock N’ Roll.
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 is played on all of the band’s albums.
In 1969, Maurice White, a former session drummer for Chess Records and member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Wayne T, Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team composing songs and commercials in the Chicago area. The three friends got a recording contract with Capitol, and called themselves the “Salty Peppers,” and had a marginal hit in the Midwestern area called “La La Time.”
The Salty Peppers’ second single, “Uh Huh Yeah,” did not fare as well, and Maurice left Ramsey Lewis Trio and moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. White added to the band singer and percussionist Yackov Ben Israel both from Chicago, and then asked his younger brother Verdine how he would feel about heading out to the west coast. June 6, 1970, Verdine left Chicago later joining the band as their new bassist. Maurice began shopping demo tapes of the band, featuring Donny Hathaway, around to different record labels and was then signed to Warner Bros. Records.