‘Shining Star’ band blows into Toledo ZooWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Next month, Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
“A strong melody, great lyrics and a great hook” are the elements of a good song, according to percussionist Ralph Johnson.
The Grammy Award-winning group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 thanks to memorable songs from the 1970s and early 1980s — “Shining Star,” “September,” “After the Love Has Gone,” “Getaway,” “Serpentine Fire,” “Let’s Groove” and “Boogie Wonderland.”
“It was the right music at the right time and, certainly, Maurice White’s sparkling productions on great songs really make a difference,” Johnson said. “It’s just really feel-good music from that period, people still think it’s timeless and it still makes them feel good, and that’s why we get people at the concerts to see us perform.”
The band will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. June 1 at the Toledo Zoo. Tickets are $37.50 and $55.
While Maurice White no longer tours, original members Johnson, vocalist and percussionist Bailey and bass player Verdine White will be joined by 10 musicians, including a horn section.
“Maurice wanted a band that could play all styles of music and have a great live presentation, so that’s what we worked toward, you know, and as it turns out, the music did bring people together; it still does,” Johnson said. “We had God’s blessing on the music.”
It doesn’t hurt to have presidential support. President Bill Clinton invited the group to the White House in 2000 to perform at a state dinner. In February 2009, Earth, Wind & Fire returned to D.C. to play at a social event hosted by the Obamas in the White House.
“How many times do you get into the White House to perform? We’d been there for President Clinton, but to perform for this administration was indeed special, especially for us,” Johnson recalled during a phone interview from his home in Woodland Hills, Calif. “It was kind of surreal, I have to tell you. Both the president and Mrs. Obama, the first lady, very gracious, very warm people.”
It didn’t take long for things to heat up after the band released its self-titled debut in 1970.
“I started off as the drummer in 1971. And sometime after we filmed ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,’ ” Johnson paused, laughed and continued, “I was brought out front to help support the front end of it with vocals and choreography.”
Earth, Wind & Fire is planning a release to celebrate its anniversary.
“If you think about it, it’s not easily done in the music business, but we’ve been able to hold it together and still give the people what they want and we’re proud of the fact that we’re still here,” Johnson said. “And we’re looking forward with great expectation to celebrating our 40th year.”