A recent story in American trade bible Billboard claimed a revival of interest in veteran soul acts, citing new recording deals for The OJays, The Whispers and Patti LaBelle as evidence.
This view is supported by legendary R&B stalwarts Earth Wind & Fire, whove arrived in the UK for four shows, coming to Birminghams NIA Academy tonight.
I hear the tickets are selling really well, smiles founding member Verdine White. I guess theyre probably going to be doing a lot of screamin and hollerin when they see us out there. I dont know whether the audience is going to be quiet now, or whether theyre going to be enthusiastic. Were looking forward to seeing whats going to go on. Its gonna be great, it feels really good and we cant wait to get out there. Theres going to be a whole new generation waiting to see us. They really want the music now and for us to keep doing it is really great.
Earth Wind & Fires line-up for this tour features bass guitarist Verdine, brother of founder Maurice White who no longer travels with the band, alongside lead vocalist Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson (vocals and percussion), augmented with a squad of young musicians. Theyve been with us for a while, theyre part of the team. Verdine says.
Interestingly, Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson were all born in 1951, within a couple of months of each other.
Were like brothers, were joined at the hip, thats true. the long-haired bass player says. The three principals are having to fill the space left by Maurice White, who quit the road after recording 1996s Greatest Hits Live in Japan.
Sadly, in March 2000, on the eve of Earth Wind & Fires induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Maurice announced he was suffering from Parkinsons disease.
Parkinsons doesnt affect my brothers work at all, Verdine attests. Theres nothing he could do before the diagnosis that he cant do now.
Indeed, Maurice White was on hand to co-produce The Promise, Earth Wind & Fires first new studio album for seven years, released in the UK next month by Londons Charly Records through Snapper Music. All In The Way, the opening single, features a reunion with The Emotions, the three Chicago sisters who collaborated with the band on 70s classics like Best Of My Love and Boogie Wonderland.
He was with us last month at the Grammy Awards, when we did Shining Star and performed with Outkast. Multi-Grammy winners in the past, EW&F attended this years Awards because Hold Me from The Promise received a nomination for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance.
It was the first time wed ever performed at the Grammys, it was amazing. Outkast asked if wed perform with them. It was a great moment for us because a lot of todays generation saw us with Outkast, so it made us pretty hip to them. We also performed at [RCA chief] Clive Daviss Grammy party with Alicia Keys and Patti LaBelle, which was great.
Maurice White, born in Memphis Tennessee 19 December 1941, formed Earth Wind & Fire with brother Verdine in 1970, after pursuing a lucrative career on the Chicago session scene, playing drums on numerous hit records such as Betty Everetts Youre No Good and Rescue Me by Fontella Bass, while drummer with The Ramsey Lewis Trio.
After a false start with Warners Bros, vocalist Philip Bailey and percussionist Ralph Johnson joined in 1972, when the band were signed by Clive Davis, then boss of Columbia Records.
Over the following two decades EW&F became the biggest selling act on the label, scoring world-wide hits with Shining Star, September, After The Love Has Gone, Got To Get You Into My Life and Lets Groove, amassing sales of over 40 million in the US alone.
Philip Bailey enjoyed solo success with Easy Lover in the company of Phil Collins, while also becoming well known of the gospel circuit. Meanwhile, EW&Fs stage shows became, quite literally, magical.
They hired illusionist Doug Henning and his assistant, an unknown David Copperfield, to design their elaborate sets incorporating pyramids and space ships. But after 20 years with CBS, the band returned to Warners Bros, releasing Millennium in
Although he was born in the Windy City, Verdine White is based on the West Coast, where the warm weather obviously suits the 52 year-old musician.
Weve lived in LA since the early seventies, he says. I havent lived in Chicago since I was 18. My wife looks after me and I have a son whos just turned 30, hes a great kid. I take care of myself really well, As a matter of fact, most people think I look pretty much the same as I did 25 years ago. Im glad you think I look good.
l Earth Wind & Fire can be seen at Birmingham NIA Academy tonight Monday 22 March 7.30pm, Tickets £32, £28. Box Office 0870 909 4144 / 0121 607 8888 / 0870 444 5556 and online from www.ticketline.co.uk. The Promise is released by Charly Records through Snap-per Music on 5 April.