The Innovative Sounds of Earth Wind and Fire

By: Gabrielle Brim

On April 6, 2018, my class and I watched Earth Wind and Fire’s 2004 concert with the Chicago band at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, California.  Some of the members of this group included Phillip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Maurice White. Bailey was one of the lead vocalists in the concert as well as Johnson. Bailey also played the kalimba, while White played the bass and tambourine. Other musicians, including musicians from the Chicago band, contributed some of the instrumentation, such as the trombone, saxophone, trumpet, bass guitar, piano, and drums. Some of the songs that were performed in the concert were “Getaway”, “Serpentine Fire”, “After the Love Has Gone”, “That’s the Way of the World”, “Got to Get You into My Life”, “Kalimba Story”, and “Reasons”.

The songs were cheerful, lively, upbeat, and contained a colorful timbre. In addition, the tempos of the songs were moderate and fast, and the pitch varied between high and low. The pitch was typically high within the choruses but low during the verses or solo parts of some songs. For instance, in “Reasons”, Bailey sang the verses and chorus in high pitches but also sang low pitches while doing vocal improvisations.


The lyrics of the songs, contained content about love, humanity, relationships, an African instrument, etc. There were a variety of percussive instruments that contributed to the sound, such as the chimes, sekere, tambourine, cow bell, and congas. In addition, Bailey introduced the audience to the kalimba, which is an African thumb instrument that was significant for starting the band. This instrument had a light and peaceful timbre. The instrument variety made the overall mood of the concert celebratory, joyful, energetic, and interactive. The members of the band interacted with the audience by having them clap rhythms, sing along, wave their hands in the air from side to side, and stand up and talk to one another. In addition, they provided energy and excitement by dancing while playing and singing.

This live concert experience has opened my eyes to a very talented and creative musical group. These musicians are very skilled and have great improvisations. My favorite part about the concert was Bailey’s vocal improvisation. I find it unique how he can shift from a low to a very high pitch both smoothly and artistically. In addition, the creative and polyrhythmic sounds of the various instruments was also delightful and relaxing. Nevertheless, the style of the performance was well-arranged, and contributed to the colorful timbre of the music.

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