Earth, Wind & Fire at San Manuel Casino

Posted January 31, 2008 in

Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White is one wily cat, a freewheeling musical force with a keen ear for what constitutes a hit record, and he wasted little time in exploiting that gift, as EWF quickly proved themselves to be into one of the chart-topping-est R&B-funk acts in history. Born in—ah, so—Memphis, White grew up within earshot of fabled all-black radio station WDIA, and after he moved north to Chicago in the mid-1950s, he effectively jumped from one hotbed of musical creativity to a locale where the players were expanding vernacular African-American idioms even more feverishly than the crew in Tennessee had managed. In Chi-town, White worked as a drummer, often playing on sessions at the notorious pioneering blues and rock & roll indie Chess Records, home to Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Etta James. Great gig, but not the most lucrative one in town and in short order, the talented trapsman was on the riser behind jazz titan Ramsey Lewis. This powerhouse background in the bedrock of blues and jazz could lead but one direction—straight to funk, and by ’69, Earth, Wind & Fire were already poised to reap the rewards of a burgeoning style popularly proposed two years earlier by James Brown and Sly Stone. You know the rest of the story: the band began issuing a series of classic soul-funk jams, becoming fixtures in the Top 40, and despite time’s wear and tear, a break up and reunion, the band continues as a stellar example of American funk ingenuity. “Mighty Mighty,” indeed. (Jonny Whiteside)

Earth, Wind & Fire at San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino, 777 San Manuel Blvd., Highland, (800) 359-2464. Doors at 6:30PM, tickets $50–$70



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