Posted:  Nov. 29, 2014

Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind & FireA revealing and heartfelt memoir from the lead singer of the legendary Earth, Wind & Fire

With more than ninety million records sold and eight Grammy awards throughout its forty-year history, Earth, Wind & Fire has staked its claim as one of the most successful, influential, and beloved acts in music history. Now, for the first time, its dynamic lead singer Philip Bailey chronicles the group’s meteoric rise to stardom and his own professional and spiritual journey.

Never before had a musical act crossed multiple styles and genres with a quixotic blend of astrology, Universalism, and Egyptology as Earth, Wind & Fire (EWF) did when it exploded into the public’s conscience during the 1970s. The group’s shows became sensory experiences with their dramatic staging, shimmering costumes, elaborate choreography, baffling magic tricks and a thumping backbeat. At the center of it the group was its charismatic founder Maurice White and Bailey, with his soaring multi-octave range and distinctive falsetto. After being signed by recording titan Clive Davis, EWF went on to produce a remarkable series of platinum and gold albums and headline stadiums around the world. As Philip and Maurice were profoundly influenced by genius producer Charles Stepney, as well as famed arranger David Foster, EWF elevated Sly Stone’s multiethnic “I Wanna Take You Higher” message to an even higher level.

Bailey hit the wall due to fame, fortune, and the excesses of global succes. The constant touring and performing took its toll on him publicly and privately. While White and Bailey’s relentless work ethic shot the band into the stratosphere, it also exhausted and emotionally gutted the group. In 1983, White abruptly dismantled the band, leaving Bailey and the rest of the members to fend for themselves. As a solo act, Bailey recorded “Easy Lover,” a worldwide smash duet with Phil Collins, launching the next stage of his career until EWF reunited later that decade.

Shining Star is the true story of what happens when real life exceeds your dreams, when the power and pain of building a legacy brings both joy and faith-testing challenges.

This is a look into the behind the scenes of one of the most popular bands from the 70s and into the 80s. I have to say that my wife and I still listen to their music to this very day and I think the album Gratitude is not only their best, but one of the live records ever recorded. Also being able to say that we saw them in concert at the forum in 1977 with my high school sweetheart and wife of 36 years is something. They put on the BEST concert, for they put on a show. This book takes you behind the scenes of the total show from costumes, the set they used, Philip Bailey, gave credit to all of the behind of the scene people saying, “They could not have done everything if it was not for the road crew”. I thought it was great how he gave a lot of people credit for how big Earth, Wind & Fire had gotten. He takes you to his childhood in Colorado and how he got into music and then his way to California and eventually meeting Maurice White and his brother and the formation of the band. He goes through some of the changes of musicians and their reasons for leaving. He even goes into the engineers of the records getting the sound right once they all knew what they were going for. He gives a chapter to a man named Charles Stepney, and says if had not joined as producer, writer, musician, and engineer, there might not have been Earth, Wind, & Fire. He had worked with Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, and Ramsey Lewis, to just name a few. Their next album they had their first of many hits but Shining Star, crossed over #1 on both top 40 and R&B they had arrived. He goes on to how he would write songs and he also goes into his shortcomings as a husband. He makes no excuses just admits he was wrong for what he did. he also goes into the reasons why they broke up which was very surprising to me that Maurice White did all that he did, but they say the music business is rough. He goes into his difficulties as a solos artist and his struggles to find the right song to finally make it back onto the charts. Then he ends with how he is back with EW&F, now that Maurice White ill and he was asked to take over. Overall for me this was a good book and I don’t sweat the writing that much, for me it is the story. Plus like I said I still enjoy the music that they created. A good read overall. 

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