They say that disco is dead—but if there’s one disco-era band that is still in high demand, it’s Earth, Wind and Fire.
Founded in Chicago in 1971 by the great Maurice White, who died earlier this year, the band has been an innovator in the R&B genre while also finding its way into funk, jazz, psychedelic soul and, yes, disco. The group will be bring its high-energy show to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino this Friday, July 29.
During a recent phone interview, bassist Verdine White explained what has kept Earth, Wind and Fire together despite various comings, goings, struggles—and now the death of Maurice White.
“I think it’s obviously the music: People love the music,” White said. “They love what it is we’ve been doing, and now we’re seeing a younger generation of people who are coming to the shows. That’s an amazing thing. I think they’ve heard the songs through movies and television shows, and through their parents and some of their friends.”
Earth, Wind and Fire last won a Grammy Award in 1983 for hit-single “Wanna Be With You,” but the band has been nominated regularly through the last decade and was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this year.
“I think every group would love to have longevity like that, along with a few Grammy Awards,” White said. “Of course, we were given the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award this year, and that was a wonderful thing for us.”
White—a man of few words who speaks those few words rapidly—said the band still loves touring after all these years.
“I really love it,” he said. “We recently got back from Europe, and we did Glastonbury with Adele and Coldplay. It’s always a great thing to work with modern artists of that caliber. We’re really pleased and feel fortunate for all of that.”
White said Earth, Wind and Fire lives on through the modern EDM scene and DJs remixing the band’s songs. For starters, one can find several different remixes of 1978 single “September” online.
“I think it’s kind of fun, because they do the mashups and things like that,” White said. “The best DJs, like David Guetta and people like that, play our music. To me, it’s actually a compliment.”
Earth, Wind and Fire has also been sampled by hip-hop artists including A Tribe Called Quest, Snoop Dogg, The Roots, Will Smith and many others. White said that he, unlike some other musicians, is not upset about sampling.
“It hasn’t bothered me yet, because it’s been done the right way,” he said. “I really love what A Tribe Called Quest did with our stuff. They did a good musical rendition with it too.”
Losing Maurice White—Verdine’s older brother—earlier this year was difficult. However, Earth, Wind and Fire had already been touring without him for more than two decades, following his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis in 1994, although he stayed active in the band’s business side. Verdine White his fellow band members are keeping on in his spirit.
“We’re just carrying on the work that he started,” Verdine White said. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We just take it a day at a time, and right now, we’re doing great things like Glastonbury, Bonnaroo and things like that. We’re right on track.”
Anyone who has seen an Earth, Wind and Fire concert knows the group always puts on a good show. White promised a good time for Fantasy Springs attendees on Friday.
“We’re going to have a lot of fun, and that’s what we’re looking forward to,” he said. “Everyone will have a good time when we’re there.”
Is there anything new in the works from Earth, Wind and Fire?
“We’re thinking about it now—and you’ll be the first to know!” White said.
Earth, Wind and Fire will perform with at 8 p.m., Friday, July 29, at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $49 to $79. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.