By Micha Green
Fans of celebrated musical group Earth, Wind & Fire and legendary featured lead singer Philip Bailey learned the “Reasons,” why the band’s sound has touched the hearts of audiences for five decades, and what led them to their recent induction into the esteemed Kennedy Center Honors.
On Dec. 8, Grammy winning and celebrated musical group Earth, Wind & Fire made history as the first Black band to be instated into the Kennedy Center Honors. Members Verdine White, Ralph Johnson and Bailey accepted the Kennedy Center Honor on behalf of the band and posthumously the group’s instrumental singer, songwriter and producer, Maurice White.
The following day at Eaton Workshop, Bailey sat down with music journalist and Eaton Radio host John Murph, for an intimate conversation on his career, the Kennedy Center Honors and the band’s impact and legacy on the world.
In a surprising share, Bailey jumped right into the conversation thanking D.C. for its contributions to the band’s career.
“Earth, Wind & Fire was kind of born in the D.C. and Philly area,” Bailey said. “We were playing colleges and the Carter Barron and those kind of places,” the singer added, garnering a large applause from the D.C. audience.
“We owe D.C. a debt of gratitude because they kind of birthed us,” the singer said.
An audience member yelled, “Welcome home,” and Bailey affirmed the comment when he replied, “Thanks. It’s kind of like being home.”
In a conversation that lasted over an hour, Bailey shared stories about his introduction into the band, trials within music making and how the group was able to develop such a classic sound that has survived five decades.
“The fact that we’ve been doing this for 50 years, that’s a surprise,” Bailey told the audience.
He explained how his famous falsetto and Maurice White’s voice were able to blend beautifully to create Earth, Wind & Fire’s famous harmonies, such as those found in their fourth studio album, ‘Head to the Sky,’ which was released in 1973.
“We found the right rhythm section and me and Maurice decided to do all the vocals, because we just connected well. We understood it was easier for him to tell me what he wanted and was hearing and stuff, than three other guys who really weren’t singers. So we developed a sound of just molting our voices- with all the high and low,” Bailey said. “So that was it. ‘[Keep Your Head] Head to the Sky’ was the first record where we started to do that and the sound really started to develop as a whole.”
With a glowing reputation as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire and a celebrated solo career, Bailey also shared his passion for giving back to foster children, and talked in depth about his foundation “Music is Unity.”
“By no fault of their own, children’s parents could’ve died, gone to jail, or whatever, where they’re no longer able to support them, but basically there’s such a large portion of society walking among us everyday needing so much help and aid,” Bailey said. “And because they don’t look like they are in the shape they are, no one’s saying anything. We’re working and supporting the foundation and organizations that are changing the law and bringing more awareness to the fact that there’s so many people in that condition.”
Bailey explained what keeps the organization passionate about the work they’ve been doing for over a decade to assist foster children.
“Keep the focus that every life is really valuable. And if you can help one person’s life and make it better, then stay focused on that.”
He also explained how people can help Music is Unity. “You can go to musicisunity.org and see what we’re doing- what we’ve been doing for over 10 years- and get involved and champion the cause.”
With Music is Unity, Earth, Wind & Fire and a successful solo career, when asked how he felt about receiving the Kennedy Center Honors and all the accolades of his lifetime the singer said, “I’m humbled.”
“I hope that in my life I would finish strong making a positive impact to the highest degree that I can,” Bailey said closing the intimate evening.