Who would ever think that a legendary group like Earth, Wind & Fire would look to today’s contemporary artists like Beyonce and Alicia Keys as some of the greatest music makers of this era? But longtime band member Verdine White, younger brother of EWF leader, Maurice White, said that the two songstresses know how to belt it out and they are among the best making music today.
There are great artists today, just as there were when EWF came along four decades ago, he insisted. “I don’t think you should compare any era. You should take every era for what it is, I love the music today. I love what’s going on today. You’ve got Adele, you’ve got Esperanza Spalding, and you’ve got Alicia Keys, Beyonce. These are great artists, you know?”
Keys, likewise, has much love for the ground-breaking group, having said the band is “the best band ever.”
But despite the talent of those uniquely gifted performers White singled out, many EWF fans say comparisons are inevitable, and there are no artists today that can touch the signature sound of Earth, Wind & Fire, with its fusion of horns, array of instruments and the undeniable vocals that have belted out show stopping hits like Reasons, That’s the Way of the World, and Shining Star.
That’s why thousands are expected to converge on the downtown waterfront in West Palm Beach, May 1 as the legendary R & B band headlines, SunFest, the largest waterfront music festival in Florida. Now in its 29th year, SunFest will be five days of non-stop musical entertainment with groups ranging from pop to rock to country and jazz, and more.
The festival began on Wednesday, April 27 and runs through Sunday, May 1. Ziggy Marley will bring a Caribbean flair on Saturday, April 30 at 3:30pm, while the outrageous Cee Lo Green, who recently made his first Oprah appearance on her popular, soon – to –end television show, will no doubt electrify the crowd when he takes the stage on Thursday, April 28, at 8pm.
But the fans are counting down to the finale, May 1, featuring the 8-Time, Grammy Award winning legends who will take to the stage at 7:45pm. White, who was inducted into the Song Writer’s Hall of Fame, in 2010, said the group has sustained for 40 years simply because they create music that people like. He credits the band’s crossover appeal to just great music.
“I think it’s the music that everybody loves,” said White, who said they never set out to cross over to a wider audience from the traditional R & B crowd. “The goal was just to make good music,” he added.
But despite their invincible music which is lyrically superb, socially conscious as well as sometimes spiritual, White says he doesn’t classify the group as musical geniuses, or even gifted.
“We never use those two words in describing ourselves,” he said. “We just make great music.” He says their long-standing career has been a blessing.
The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. In 2009, the group performed for President Barack Obama at the White House. The President said in a Rolling Stone Magazine interview that the group was one of his all-time favorites.
The group’s founder and leader, Maurice White, no longer tours with the group for health reasons. “He doesn’t tour with us, but he’s very involved with the band,” said Verdine, when asked about his brother. “Maurice is doing fine.”
White said he looks forward to their West Palm Beach performance, and has a special message for the crowd.
“It’s going to be a great, high energy show. You’re going to have a great time, and you’re going to get home before midnight!”
That’s probably music to the ears of those “over- 40” fans who can only party for so long!
For the complete SunFest line-up or for ticket information visit www.sunfest.com or call 1-800-SUNFEST.
Daphne Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org