March 26, 2019 Interview – Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire
One of the most unique bands of all-time, Earth, Wind & Fire’s sound is a melting pot of styles ranging from R&B, Funk, Jazz, Pop, and Dance to Rock-n-Roll and Blues. There is really no way to define them by just one title, but it is best to just refer to them for their innovative approach to music. Something they have been proudly creating for nearly 5 decades, Earth, Wind & Fire has won 6 Grammys, while earning 17 nominations, won 4 American Music Awards, out of 12 nominations, are members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and hold the title of being one the biggest selling acts of all-time.
The vision of the late, great Maurice White, the legacy lives on with Verdine White, Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson, along with the mass of talent that make up the band’s mighty sound as they continue to tour. Currently amidst a early spring residence in Las Vegas, come May they will embark on an extensive summer tour that will light up venues coast to coast.
Ready to rock and roll, Co-Founder and Bassist Verdine White sat down to chat about the history of the band, the admiration he has for his brother Maurice, the potential of new music, plus more.
Cryptic Rock – Earth, Wind & Fire has sold multi-millions of records, received countless awards, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and been going strong for nearly 50 years. Briefly tell us, how would you describe the incredible journey of the band?
Verdine White – It’s incredible, just like you said. You never know how you are going to do; you can’t predict these things, they aren’t predictable. We have been extremely blessed and fortunate. I would have to say we are fortunate, lucky, and blessed to be doing this.
Cryptic Rock – What is truly exceptional about the band’s style is the extensive diversity. There are so many genres of music mixed into what makes Earth, Wind & Fire who they are. When it all began, was it always a clear objective to keep the band’s sound as colorful and diverse as it is?
Verdine White – We really have to thank my late brother Maurice for that, he was the one who put the concept together. We pretty much just followed along. He had it all in his head and knew exactly what he wanted to do.
Cryptic Rock – Maurice certainly had a great vision for the band. When you look at the history of Earth, Wind & Fire, you also see how you transitioned from decade to decade and evolved. Was that a challenge to continue to move forward as musical styles changed?
Verdine White – It can be, because sounds change. I think the nice thing about it was we have a very identifiable sound, so everybody knows what we sound like.
Cryptic Rock – Absolutely, the band’s sound is truly unique. Speaking of Maurice, we sadly lost him a few years ago from the effects of Parkinson’s disease. Truly a driving force for the band, how important is it to you and the band to keep things going in Maurice’s memory?
Verdine White – It’s exactly what you said, we are just going strong in his memory. We respected and loved Maurice. We were blessed to have him as our leader and as our guiding light.
Cryptic Rock – He is truly missed and it is great that the band is still going strongly after all this time. Speaking of which, Earth, Wind & Fire have been very active touring in recent years and will be out touring well into the summer. Always an exceptional live band, how exciting is it for you to get out there and perform?
Verdine White – Very. We’re in Las Vegas right now. The tour is going to be great. We are going to be playing some great places like The Hollywood Bowl and The Chicago Theater, which is in my hometown. It’s going to be a lot of fun!
Cryptic Rock – It should be a great tour. As mentioned, the band is really spectacular live with so much energy on stage. Speaking of which, you were one of the select bands at the special Classic East show held at Citi Field in New York back in 2017.
Cryptic Rock – It really was. Playing so many shows, what is your fondest memory from performing live after all these years of touring?
Verdine White – There is a lot of them, not just one. When you do so many, there are a lot of different memories. It is hard to pinpoint.
Cryptic Rock – Understandable, there are probably many. With so much material at your disposal, what can fans expect from the live shows coming up?
Verdine White – We going to play a lot of great music. We never know what we are going to do until we get out there. Like you said, the nice thing is we have so much great material, in that way we are very lucky.
Cryptic Rock – Yes, and it is fun to keep things a surprise. The band did release a holiday album back in 2014, and Now, Then & Forever a year earlier. That all in mind, is there the possibility of new music in the future?
Verdine White – We might, we are thinking about it. We haven’t started writing yet, we are too busy touring doing our thing. We will think about it though.
Cryptic Rock – That is something to look forward to. Through everything, you, Ralph Johnson, and Philip Bailey have been at the core of the band. What is the chemistry like between you three?
Verdine White – It’s great, we’re like brothers.
Cryptic Rock – Furthermore, you have worked together so long, so the bond must be quite strong. Beyond Earth, Wind & Fire, you have also offered your talents to other artists and produced records as well. Are there any new projects you will be working on?
Verdine White – Last year I worked with Diane Ross’ son, Evan Ross, for his EP with Ashlee Simpson, Ashlee + Evan. That was a great project and I might do some more things with him in the future.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool, you did all the production for that EP, so it would be exciting to see you produce more in the future. You had done some production in the past, including Level 42’s 1983 album, Standing in the Light. Seeing that you have devoted so much life and time to Earth, Wind & Fire, what is like working with other artists?
Verdine White – It’s great. It’s continuous and you always learn something new.
Cryptic Rock – Right, everyone has something different to offer. You also have your foundation, the Verdine White Foundation, which aims to provide musical education to underprivileged and gifted students.
Verdine White – Absolutely, it’s going great! They can come by the foundation every Wednesday and get a free healthy breakfast; yogurt, orange juice, and coffee for their parents.
Cryptic Rock – That is really cool. It is also important to provide musical education, it is extremely enriching. Someone who was turned on to music at a young age, what were some of the things that influences?
Verdine White – Miles Davis, John Coltrane, The Beatles, Blues music, etc. Really a variety of music.
Cryptic Rock – There is so much great music there. Speaking of getting music out to younger generations, your music has also been featured in films in recent years.
Verdine White – Yes, a few of years ago we re-recorded “September” for Trolls (2016) with Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick. Because of it, a lot of younger kids are listening to our music. I thought that was really great.
Cryptic Rock – That is awesome. It has to be cool to see a younger generation of listeners dig songs 30-40 years old.
Verdine White – Yes, the songs are timeless.