Friday Open Thread | Earth, Wind and Fire Week

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this week’s tribute to Maurice White and the group he built that will touch music forever: Earth, Wind & Fire.

What struck me when doing research about Mr. White is that he was MUSICIAN, first and foremost. It was what he went to school to study. It was his craft. He was a MUSICIAN – always challenging himself.

How many current entertainers could be considered MUSICIANS?



Maurice White, a Voyager Who Traveled Countless Musical Paths
FEB. 5, 2016

Maurice White, the boundless funk voyager and smooth-soul maestro who died this week at 74, was one of music’s most gifted alchemists of style. The floor-shaking hits he created with Earth, Wind & Fire were more than marvels of pop fusion — though with their precision blend of urbane jazz, Afrofuturist R&B and fluorescent disco, they were surely that. Mr. White, who had formative experience in the vanguard of African-American art music, brought the full spectrum of those interests to the table as a tunesmith, bandleader, producer and singer. His music was populist and positivist even as it arced toward a stratospheric level of harmonic and rhythmic sophistication.

Mr. White was born and raised in one heavily musical city, Memphis, and elected to move to another, Chicago. There, as a session drummer for Chess Records, he played on hit tunes like “Rescue Me,” by Fontella Bass. He also formed a close rapport with Charles Stepney, a classically trained arranger who introduced him to the mathematical rigors of the music theorist Joseph Schillinger, who also advised George Gershwin and Léon Theremin. The systematic slant of that approach probably appealed to Mr. White, who found deep resonance in astrology (he named Earth, Wind & Fire after the elements in his natal chart).

He was also exposed to African-American experimentalism at a pivotal place and time. At the Affro-Arts Theater, a cultural hub for the late-1960s black consciousness movement in Chicago, he gravitated to Phil Cohran, a former trumpeter in the Sun Ra Arkestra and a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. Mr. Cohran played the “Frankiphone” — an amplified kalimba, or African thumb piano, which Mr. White later brought into mainstream use with Earth, Wind & Fire, making it a kind of talisman for the band.

But first he spent several years in the Ramsey Lewis Trio, led by one of the savviest jazz pianists of the era. You can hear Mr. White playing kalimba on “Uhuru,” a track from Mr. Lewis’s 1969 album “Another Voyage.” It was one of a string of Ramsey Lewis albums produced by Mr. Stepney, whom Mr. White also enlisted as a co-producer for Earth, Wind & Fire.

Making those connections was one of Mr. White’s special skills, and he continued to bring together artists and ideas that crossed format and genre lines. In 1974, well into the popular ascent of Earth, Wind & Fire, he gave Mr. Lewis a crossover hit with “Sun Goddess,” a simmering R&B track stamped by one of his trademarks: an ethereally funky vocal hook bobbing through extended jazz harmonies.

Some of Earth, Wind & Fire’s most undeniable hits feature similar flashes of formal invention, woven so ingeniously into the fabric of the songs that they feel functional, even essential. Mr. White was often the architect of these moments, applying his galactic musical insight to the airtight design of unbeatable pop songs. His genius has always been there in plain sight — by no means hiding, yet somehow expertly hidden.

earth wind and fire jet

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of Earth Wind & Fire  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

UNSPECIFIED – CIRCA 1970: Photo of Earth Wind & Fire Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

This entry was posted in African Americans, Black History, Culture, Music, Open Thread, Politics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Friday Open Thread | Earth, Wind and Fire Week

  1. eliihass says:

    Gregory Meeks releasing a statement in February 2016 – ‘defending’ President Obama’s honor against Bernie Sanders’ so called criticism of the President in 2011 – has to be the funniest and frankly, the most insulting thing ever..

    Do these CBC fools really think we haven’t been paying attention ..?

    Folks like Meeks are so ridiculous in this embarrassingly painful and pedestrian version of their long-outdated massa give me shrimp hustle…it’s mind-blowing their how shallow and obvious they all are..

    Does anyone recall seeing or hearing Gregory Meeks all these past 8 years effusively defending or supporting President Obama – or advocating for any of the President’s policies – which by the way Meeks is paid by taxpayers to fashion, legislate and help move along…

    Does anyone recall ever hearing Gregory Meeks defending the black First Lady’s honor as she’s been so viciously maligned in the most dehumanizing of ways…

    Does anyone recall seeing or hearing Gregory Meeks on television – or via his press releases -speak out as black lives have been snuffed out – and black kids and families have been deliberately poisoned by fellow elected officials..

    But Gregory Meeks wants to now use some bogus accusation targeted at Bernie Sanders, to help rally foolish black folks around Hillary…

    Even as Meeks himself can still barely hide his own disdain for President Obama…and is muted and tries to be clever by half, as he dances around words, and won’t give the President much credit – and tempers whatever incidental compliment he pays President Obama – and only as a segue on his way to cooning hard for, and elevating Hillary – with a shady twist of words and shady eye movements that also sends a clear message that he’s not really there for President Obama as much as it’s all about Hillary for Gregory Meeks..

    • yahtzeebutterfly says:

      I need to scroll down quickly past this chocolate mousse cake or I just might eat the whole thing! :)

  2. rikyrah says:

    The trouble with Bernie
    A moralizing scold, but for the left

    Here’s my problem with Bernie Sanders. With few exceptions, I agree with his positions on issues. But I don’t like him or his political temperament. He’d be an awful president.
    I followed him carefully when I was editor of the Burlington Free Press in Vermont. Sanders was the state’s sole congressman, lived in Burlington, and would periodically visit with the newspaper’s editors and publisher.

    Considering that the Free Press’ editorial positions were very liberal, reflecting the nature of a very liberal Vermont community, one might think that meetings with Sanders were cordial, even celebratory.

  3. yahtzeebutterfly says:

    Roberta Martin was born on this day in 1907.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Born in Helena, Arkansas on February 12, 1907, Martin moved to Chicago with her family in 1917, where she studied piano. Although a high school teacher inspired her to dream of becoming a concert pianist, her future course was changed after accompanying the Young People’s Choir at Ebenezer Baptist Church. She came into contact with Thomas A. Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music, through her work as the pianist for the youth choir. With Dorsey’s help, she and Theodore Frye organized the Martin-Frye Quartet, a youth group consisting of Eugene Smith, Norsalus McKissick, Robert Anderson, James Lawrence, Willie Webb and Romance Watson, in 1933. Martin renamed the group the Roberta Martin Singers in 1936 and added Bessie Folk, Myrtle Scott and Delois Barrett Campbell to the group in the 1940s. The group set the standard for the gospel choir and mixed group, and had an extremely successful recording career, featuring such hits as “Only A Look,” and “Grace.” Most of these songs were published by Roberta Martin Studio of Music, a publishing house in Chicago that she incorporated in 1939, and would eventually publish outstanding compositions by gospel artists ranging from Professor Alex Bradford to James Cleveland. Her first composition, “Try Jesus, He Satisfies,” was an immediate hit in 1943. She was also the choir director of the Pisgah Baptist Church in Chicago for many years.”

  4. rikyrah says:

    Updated: 9:27 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016 | Posted: 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016
    Fairborn officer placed on leave for Facebook comment

    By Breaking News Staff
    FAIRBORN — UPDATE@9:30 p.m.:
    Fairborn police officer Lee Cyr will be placed on paid administrative leave for a Facebook comment he allegedly posted on a story about a Black Lives Matter activist who committed suicide, according the police chief.
    The comment, “Love a happy ending,” was posted on the Ohio Politics Facebook page two days after MarShawn McCarrel killed himself on the front steps of the Ohio Statehouse on Monday.

    – See more at:

  5. Liza says:

    Tamir Rice & Emmett Till both tragic symbols of search for freedom in America.— Isabel Wilkerson (@Isabelwilkerson) February 12, 2016


  6. yahtzeebutterfly says:
    “Dr . Martin Luther King Jr . and other leaders pose below the Lincoln Statue at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.

  7. rikyrah says:

    Not a shock, but Bobby Jindal left Louisiana in a financial shambles. So much so, that the new Governor is threatening the state university system, warning what’s gonna happen if they don’t come correct with funds.

  8. rikyrah says:

    tell it, Al.

    AlGiordano @AlGiordano

    Let’s look at this for what this is. Clinton & Sanders supporters are hardened. Only votes left to get are us Obama Democrats. Rest is noise

  9. rikyrah says:

    Good Morning, Everyone :)

    Got a 4 day weekend. (Thank you Lincoln and Washington)

    Off to the mechanic to get my brakes done.

  10. Ametia says:

    Happy FRY-day, Everyone! :))))

Leave a Reply