【Gratitude to Mr. Maurice White】
“Gratitude to Mr. Maurice White”
Feb 5, 2016
Written by Masaharu Yoshioka, The Soul Searcher, music journalist and radio DJ based in Tokyo, Japan (with help from Dexter Thomas)
I walked down the road to the Budokan to see Earth Wind & Fire live in concert, for what would be the first of three days in a row.
The first day, I was floored. I was overwhelmed by what I saw, and I couldn’t understand what was happening on the stage. I was so astonished by everything. The music was so groovy, hard-edged, and amazing.
The second day, I was able to calm down a little bit, and enjoy the show more.
The third day, I saw every second of the show with both eyes and ears, using my whole body and soul. I watched closely as the bass player (Verdine White) floated in the air. I saw the band members enter a pyramid, one by one, and observed as the pyramid raised high into the air and exploded, only to reveal the band members standing on the stage, as if they’d instantly teleported to safety. It was an amazing magic show, but after three days of watching closely, I’d finally figured out the secret.
That was the first time I’d attend same artist’s same concert in a tour again and again. After that, if an artist was coming who I really loved, I tried to attend many shows as possible in one tour to really experience the show. Thanks to my Earth Wind & Fire experience, I saw Michael Jackson perform 14 times in 3 weeks – that’s every show from his 1987 Japan tour.
I visited the Complex Studios in LA (built by Maurice White) to interview Philip Bailey. After the interview was done, a person from the management or the record company gave me a tour around the studio. Then, outside the building I saw a Porche (I think it was black) in the parking lot. My guide told me that it was Maurice’s Porche. I’ve forgotten what kind of conversation I did with Bailey (but it’s on a cassette tape somewhere), but I remember very vividly the thinking about the fact that Maurice was driving a cool Porche under the clear blue sky in California. That was one of my very good memories of the summer of ’83.
I have had the opportunity to write the liner notes for many of Earth Wind & Fire albums, as well as articles about the group for various publications here in Japan. In 1997, I compiled and produced a 6 CD Earth Wind & Fire boxset, released from Sony Music House. In that boxset, I wrote a lengthy and detailed history of Earth Wind & Fire in Japanese, complete with a detailed discography, that I was very proud of.
19 years after the summer of 1983, Earth Wind & Fire, including Maurice White, came to Japan to do some concerts. I had the opportunity to interview Ralph Johnson and Verdine White together, and Maurice White one-on-one for 30 minutes. I was supposed to write liner notes for Earth Wind & Fire’s recent album from that interview, so the interview should have been focused on that particular new album. But my interest was more on the earlier days – back in the late sixties through early seventies. I remember Maurice speaking so softly that I had to move closer to him to catch what he was saying. I had to concentrate intensely on his words.
I have seen Earth Wind & Fire live in concert many times since their first show in 1979. They celebrated their 10th Japanese tour in 2002, and their 2004 performances would be their last tour with the attendance of Maurice White. For both of these shows, Maurice only appeared on the stage for about a third of the concert, due to his physical condition. But even then, I strongly felt that Maurice was a spiritual mentor among the group. Even when Maurice was not on the stage, I could feel his presence and his soul.
In Japan, songs like “Fantasy”, “September”, “Boogie Wonderland”, and “Let’s Groove” are still popular in the disco / club scene. Earth Wind & Fire is biggest R&B group in Japan to date. There are so many music lovers in Japan who fell in love with black music, soul, and R&B, because of hearing of Earth Wind & Fire. They definitely created a new R&B market here in the 70s.
My first Earth Wind & Fire album that I ever bought was “Open Our Eyes” (1974). “Mighty Mighty”, the first cut on side one, is really a jam. I bought the 45 first and listened to it to on repeat before the album came out, and played it millions of times as a DJ at disco called Embassy in Roppongi, which was a favorite hangout for soldiers from the nearby US military base. If nobody was dancing, all you had to do was play "Mighty Mighty", and the brothers would get right there on the floor in a heartbeat.
Maurice taught me about an African instrument called a “kalimba” (a kind of thumb piano) with this album. I’d never heard of it before. That was really fresh and impressive. The sound of the kalimba showed me the landscapes of Africa, even though I've never visited the continent. On albums such as “Spirit” (1976), “All ‘n All” (1977), Maurice taught me about the pyramids and their power, philosophy, and history. He opened lots of doors for me, and exposed me to so many kinds of music – funk, jazz, African, Brazilian rock, R&B – and their cultures, too. Sometimes, I feel like I’m just a student at Earth Wind & Fire University with Maurice White as the Dean and Chancellor.
When I walking down the road to the Budoukan for other artists’ concert, even after all these years, this road sometimes remind me of those 3 days of Earth Wind & Fire concerts in 1979. Those nights changed my life forever.
Thank you for bringing me not only great music, but tons of knowledge, Mr. Maurice White. You are my CNN. I learned a lot from you, and I appreciate that very deeply. Have a good rest, Mr. Shining Star. Your star will shine forever.
(Gratitude to Mr. Maurice White)
Opened my eyes : “Open Our Eyes” – Earth Wind & Fire
(first EWF album I ever bought)
(Oh, Charles Stepney)
ALL n ALL
ENT>ARTIST>Earth, Wind & Fire
ENT>ESSAY>Earth, Wind & Fire