News-Verdine White: “I never thought we’d still be around”

Verdine White, Earth, Wind & FireVerdine White: “I never thought we’d still be around”

Earth, Wind & Fire bassist reflects on 21 albums, 45 years built on soul roots

By Jon Liebman
January 19, 2015

Verdine White joined Earth, Wind & Fire in 1970, a year after the seminal soul/funk band was founded by his older brother, Maurice, whom Verdine credits with teaching him “how to dress and how to be cool.”  In the decade that followed, the band churned out a long list of mega-hits, including “Fantasy,” “Shining Star” and “Got To Get You Into My Life.”  Verdine looks back on those early days with great fondness.  “There was nothing like being on stage,” White told The Telegraph.  “We came alive with our energy, our bedazzling outfits and our back-up orchestra.”  EWF’s success seemed unstoppable.

By 1983, however, the lukewarm reception of the fully synthesized Electric Universe album prompted the band to take a breather.  During the period that followed, Verdine traveled to the U.K. and produced the band Level 42, fronted by rock’s slap bass icon, Mark King.  The time off enabled Verdine “to appreciate everything we had accomplished with EWF,” he recalls.  “We had become one of the best-selling bands of all time, selling more than 100 million records, winning countless awards, renowned for our stage shows, versatile repertoire and outfits.”

After the band’s hiatus, which lasted four years, getting everyone back together proved to be a daunting process.  “We had to work really hard at rebuilding our audience as people had moved on to other bands,” recalls White.  “There was a new generation to convert to our sound. The Internet was just beginning to take off, and without it we might have disappeared, but it’s made the younger generation want to know about us.”

White remains forever grateful for the nurturing environment provided by his parents.  “Dad was a doctor and Mum was a schoolteacher,” he says.  “They did a great job of raising all of us nine kids.”  Where most parents might show disdain for their children’s choice of a career in music, White’s Mom & Dad “were very encouraging to us with our music.  Dad even bought a larger house for us so we’d have a basement to practice in.”

Verdine is surprised at the band’s longevity.  “I never thought we’d still be around 40 years later, playing our hits like ‘Boogie Wonderland’ and ‘After the Love Has Gone.’”  Part of that longevity is attributable to the way the band has constantly reinvented itself, embracing new technology, while never losing sight of its soul roots.  “And yes, I can still fit into all my old sequined outfits.”

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