Since its formation in 1969, Earth, Wind and Fire has been a gleaming bastion of positivity and artistry. Enduring through major changes of musical tastes du jour, political landscapes and a fan base that has evolved with them, Earth, Wind and Fire continue on a four-decade path in which they have never sacrificed the ethos that they set out with. Influencing scores of contemporary artists with their good nature and infectious tunes, Earth, Wind and Fire soldiers on with a light that only gets brighter with the passage of time.
Earth, Wind and Fire performs Sunday, June 27 at Hard Rock Live, and I recently had the opportunity to speak with founding member Verdine White, who anchored the band's rhythm section with his incredible (and downright maniacal) bass-playing. True to the funky R&B rock that he's speared, the gent was one of the cooler cats I've ever spoken to and true to the myth that afflicts fan boys, I had to scramble with my questions and keep it professional without delving into full-fledged gaga fanaticism.
After 40 years, how do you manage to maintain the high-octane energy that you bring to the stage?
First of all, I love music and music is always first. The fans are always first too man, together it fuels my love and I love going out there man, that's what drives me. That's where I get my energy.
Given your work with charitable organizations and the currently bleak outlook on musical education, what are your thoughts regarding the importance of music in our school's curriculum?
Well, I've been doing what I do because of those limitations and budget cuts. I try to aid in whatever way possible to help out these schools and programs that are in need of music, that's how we grew up, I don't know about you and how you grew up, but we grew up with music and that outlet, having that available is what kept us off the streets. It's a shame, but I'll keep at it in whatever way I can.
These past 40 years have seen many incredible and sad things, how does EWF manage to remain positive in these trying times?
Being positive is what we have been all about since day one. That's how we set out, that's how we are and that's what we believe in. Things happen, yes, but we keep on that positive outlook.
I saw you guys perform two years ago at the Fillmore in Miami Beach and some rumors concerning Maurice's health were circulating at the time, how's his health nowadays?
Maurice was diagnosed with Parkinson's some time back and he's been dealing with that but we've always let our fans know about that and their support has been great. As of right now, he's doing all right, one day at a time.
Are there any contemporary bass players that you like?
Man, I'm still into the same guys that I grew up admiring, you know Stanley Clarke, Freddie Washington, Paul McCartney, old school guys, I'm still into them and admire their work.
What is the touring schedule and are there any plans for recordings anytime soon?
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Well, right now we're in Washington D.C. and we'll be heading to Virginia and North Carolina before hitting your neck of the woods. Then we'll pretty much spend the rest of the summer in Europe and in the fall, in September, we'll be doing a show at the Hollywood Bowl with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Then later in the fall we'll be hitting the studio to record the fortieth year anniversary album and get it ready for release in 2011.
Do you have any advice for young musicians out there?
Hey, what I say all the time man, you've got to stick with it!