Tuesday, March 14, 2006


When Sade first came on the recording scene in the '80s, her record company, Epic, made a point of printing "pronounced shar-day" after her name on the record labels of her releases. Soon enough the world would have no problem in correctly pronouncing her name. Born Helen Folasade Adu in a village 50 miles from Lagos, the capitol of Nigeria, she was the daughter of an African father and an English mother. After her mother returned to England, Sade grew up on the North End of London.

Developing a good singing voice in her teens, Sade worked part-time jobs in and outside of the music business. She listened to Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Al Green, Aretha Franklin, and Billie Holliday. Sade studied fashion design at St. Martin's School of Art in London while also doing some modeling on the side.

Around 1980, she started singing harmony with a Latin funk group called Arriva. One of the more popular numbers that the group would perform was a Sade original co-written with bandmember Ray St. John, "Smooth Operator," that would later become Sade's first stateside hit. The following year she joined the eight-piece funk band Pride as a background singer. The band included future Sade band members guitarist/saxophonist Stuart Matthewman (a key player in '90s urban soul singer Maxwell's success) and bassist Paul Denman. The concept of the group was that there could shoot-offs. In essence, a few members within the main group Pride formed mini-groups that would be the opening act. Pride did a lot of shows around London, stirring up record company interest. Initially, the labels wanted to only sign Sade, while the group members wanted a deal for the whole band. After a year, the other band members told Sade, Matthewman, and Denman to go ahead and sign a deal. Adding keyboardist Andrew Hale, the group signed to the U.K. division of Epic Records.

Her debut album, Diamond Life (with overall production by Robin Millar), went Top Ten in the U.K. in late 1984. January 1985 saw the album released on CBS' Portrait label and by spring it went platinum off the strength of the Top Ten singles "Smooth Operator" and "Hang on to Your Love." Her third album, Promise (November 1985), featured "Never As Good As the First Time" and arguably her signature song, "The Sweetest Taboo," which stayed on the U.S. pop charts for six months. Sade was so popular that some radio stations reinstated the '70s practice of playing album tracks, adding "Is It a Crime" and "Tar Baby" to their play lists. In 1986, Sade won a Grammy for Best New Artist.

Sade's third album was 1988's Stronger Than Pride and featured her first number one soul single "Paradise," "Nothing Can Come Between Us," and "Keep Looking." A new Sade album didn't appear for four years. 1992's Love Deluxe continued the unbroken streak of multi-platinum Sade albums, spinning off the hits "No Ordinary Love," "Feel No Pain," and "Pearls." While the album's producer Mike Pela, Matthewman, Denman, and Hale have gone on to other projects. The new millennium did spark a new scene for Sade. She issued Lovers Rock in fall 2000 and incoporated more mainstream elements than ever before. Debut single "By Your Side" was also a hit among radio and adult-contemporary listerners. The following summer, Sade embarked on her first tour in more than a decade, selling out countless dates across America. In early 2002, she celebrated the success of the tour by releasing her first ever live album and DVD, Lovers Live. ~ Ed Hogan, All Music Guide

Stephanie Mills

While she never attained the crossover notoriety her immense talent deserved, over the 10 year period 1979-1989 Stephanie Mills quietly assembled an impressive collection of performances for multiple record labels and established herself as one of the most successful Soul vocalists of that period.

A prodigy, Mills was performing small roles on Broadway even as a child, but received her big break (and made the most of it) in 1975 when, at age 18, she landed the role of Dorothy in the Broadway Soul musical The Wiz. Her small frame belied the huge, powerful voice she carried, and she owned the role for several years (though was unfortunately overlooked in casting for the ill-fated movie version, which was instead given to a much older Diana Ross).

She began her recording career in the mid-70s on ABC Records with an album of Broadway covers, and was then signed by Motown and teamed with legendary pop writers Burt Bacharach and Hal David for a couple albums that attempted to position Mills as a young Dionne Warwick. Her signing by 20th Century Fox in 1978 began the uptick in her popular appeal, as she paired with hot writers/producers Mtume and Lucas for Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin?, a solid album of dance oriented numbers that blended fairly sophisticated arrangements with her lovely, strong voice and scored big on the Soul, Dance and Pop charts. She followed the next year with Sweet Sensation and what would become her signature song, the infectious "Never Knew Love Like This Before." She continued her success in 1980 with a self-titled album that included a great duet with Teddy Pendergrass, "Two Hearts."

In 1983, Stephanie moved to Casablanca Records, where she recorded three albums with various producers and scored moderate hits with the dance-oriented "Pilot Error" and "The Medicine Song," but appeared to be an artist caught between the end of the disco era and the emergence of the burgeoning Urban Adult Contemporary genre. She firmly moved into the latter camp with her signing by MCA in 1985, and she released her career best material over the next half decade, working with talented producers Angela Winbush and Ron Kersey. Her recordings of "I Have Learned to Respect the Power of Love," "I Feel Good All Over" and a new version of her classic recording "Home" gave her three number ones and firmly established her as one of the most expressive and talented vocalists of the era.

The 1990s saw Mills releasing a number of disparate albums, including a dance-oriented disc, a Christmas disc and her first Gospel recording, but none of them fared as well as her earlier work. She stopped recording in 1994 for a full decade before self-releasing the critically acclaimed Born for This in 2004.

A Conversation with Stephanie Mills

[This piece was provided to us by Ms. Mills in Nov. 2004, author unknown]

How do you feel about where you are right now:

“I can only call it an inspired time. My son Farad and the rest of my family give me an anchor but they also act as a signpost for me about what is really important in life. That energy and realization has allowed me to put sing and create in a new, more important way for myself.”

People may call this a “comeback” since you haven’t put out a CD in thirteen years, but you have been working and creating during that time.

“You know, its funny, I guess it is a comeback as far as me not having a new CD out for awhile, but for me, in my day to day world, it just seems like a natural progression of everything that I have done for the past thirteen years. In that time, I have done lots of life stuff, like becoming a mom, but also, I did regional theater, worked with other artists and performed all over the world and really was able to view my career in a new way. Not so defined by the ‘hits’ and able to chart my own course through the entertainment business. Remember, I have been doing this since I was 11 years old, so even though I am still young, I am a veteran and have a very unique view of this amazing business.”

Do you think attitude has a lot to do with your longevity?

“Oh absolutely. When you are in your twenties and trying to make it, every little thing is so important about your career. But now, with my family intact and my life so much more settled, I believe in having as much fun with my music and my voice as possible. The approach is all about NOT taking it too seriously, being totally myself in every aspect and really just stop struggling with it and just have a great time! Instinct is everything, just putting it out there in the universe, staying connected and being yourself at all costs. This collection of songs is really an updated version of who I am and how I have grown. I am singing better, writing better and generally in better voice which allowed me to collaborate and create in a whole new way.”

So you think you have changed your way of doing things as you have matured?

“Well yes and no. No, in that I am still Stephanie and I like who that person is, but yes in that I am singing with more confidence and eagerness than I have felt in years. After the birth of my son…(I mean, if you can give birth…you can do anything!!), life gets a perspective that didn’t exist before…I just don’t sweat the small stuff anymore, I have a wider perception of the world because having a child makes you see and feel life in a bigger, more vast way. Also, I have grown so much through that experience and my life, that my relationship to my child, others and myself is richer and more rewarding. The creative process can’t help but be affected by my personal transformation. They go hand in hand and that is what has brought me to this new place. I am just so excited about everything and I cant wait for people to hear “Born For This!”

Who are your inspirations both professionally and personally?

“Well first and foremost, my son and my dad and my love of God. Also my extended family is so important to me. We all live pretty close in Charlotte and they continuously inspire me day to day.

Professionally, well, that question is interesting: When I was very young, I had the opportunity to meet Butterfly McQueen. I will never forget that, because it made me aware of how many African-American artists have shaped our business. I enjoy old movies and adore Bette Davis. Those early days of the movies were so glamorous and classy! In music, I love old R&B and we can’t even start this without mentioning Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight and Lena Horne! I also love Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones but I have to include Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, Anita Baker, The Temptations and of course, classic Jackson Five!! Some of the younger singers out now are so good too, like Mary J., and Alicia Keys. I just love music! Through the years, I have had the good fortune to work with so many great artists and be exposed to so many creative souls. I really have been blessed.

Who are your friends in this business?

Oh well, we all know each other …(laughing) But my real personal, family type friends include the actor/writer James Stovall and my good girlfriend, Angela Winbush… She is one of the most talented and underrated singers out there. I love her songs and have recorded them through the years.

Your performances have been called inspiring. You have the ability to touch people with the strength and depth of your voice. How do you relate to your fans?

“I just love my fans. They give me so much. People will open up to you when you are honest and real about what you do and that is so true in a live performance. From the time I was a child until now, the audience has always shown me respect and love and I give that back to them in full measure. Through my travels and performances, I have become involved in speaking with women about violence and abuse in their homes. There is nothing more upsetting to me than women who subject themselves to violence and abuse against themselves. I have spoken and performed for women who are incarcerated and I have seen what drives some of them to the edge. I have become an advocate for women and make it my business to visit with them in each of the cities that I tour in. I am currently exploring starting a foundation to raise awareness and money to help victims of abuse.”

Any last thoughts?

“My son, my family and friends and all of my collective experience has brought me to putting out Born For This! and my hope is that my fans will get the feeling behind the music— to enjoy and treasure life, laugh a lot and use whatever your God given talents are to put out that message! We all have a gift to give, my gift is song and I intend to continue to create for a long time to come!!”

Stephanie Mills has one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music, an ultra soulful songstress whose onstage energy and power inspires standing ovations wherever she performs.

She is a legendary Grammy© and American Music Award©-winning recording artist with five best-selling albums and ten Billboard #1 singles.

The legendary singer is back and launching her new single, “Can’t Let Him Go” from the forthcoming release Born For This! in stores early in 2004. She’s recorded the project with such star songwriters and producers as Gordon Chambers, the New York-based Flavahood Productions, and BeBe Winans. Stephanie is excited about the creative freedom she is experiencing while recording Born For This!

"This collection is an updated version of what I do," she says. "I wrote some songs myself, collaborated with the producers and everything really came together for the album which will be on my own label.

For her many fans the world over, that’s welcome news: for, without a doubt, Stephanie Mills is truly back in stride again, stronger and more soulful than ever!

Over the span of a 25 year illustrious career, Stephanie Mills has distinguished herself as an actress and performer who is as at home on the Broadway stage as she is in the recording studio.

Hit records such as "I Have Learned To Respect The Power Of Love," "Home" and "Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’’ have become enduring classics. Stephanie’s critically acclaimed appearances in shows like the four-time Tony Award-winning "The Wiz" and "Your Arms Too Short To Box With God" have assured her of a consistently loyal following among fans, industry insiders and critics alike. The loyalty that she has inspired in her audience has seen her through a twenty-five year career filled with accomplishments and achievements.

Stephanie’s journey as an enduring performer began like that of so many of her contemporaries; singing gospel in church in her native Brooklyn. Her vocal abilities became evident early on and by the age of nine, she was mesmerizing crowds in her first Broadway musical "Maggie Flynn," sharing the stage with co-stars Shirley Jones and the late Jack Cassidy.

Other early credits included appearances in such pop culture classic, shows like "Captain Kangaroo," "Wonderama," "The Electric Company" and "String" (presented by the Negro Ensemble Company in New York City).

For six consecutive weeks, an eleven-year old Stephanie won the famous Amateur Night at the renowned Apollo Theater and a first recording, "I Knew It Was Love" landed her the much-coveted role of Dorothy in the Broadway musical "The Wiz" at the age of fifteen. For five years, Stephanie wowed packed houses with her amazing vocal gift and after making albums for ABC and Motown, she signed with 20th Century Records in 1979.

Working with producers James Mtume & Reggie Lucas, Stephanie recorded "Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’’" and by 1984, she had climbed the charts with major hits: "Sweet Sensation," "Never Knew Love Like This Before" (a gold single), "Two Hearts" (a duet with Teddy Pendergrass), "Keep Away Girls," "How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore?" and "The Medicine Song." Stephanie scored three best-selling albums in a row with "Whatcha Gonna Do…With My Lovin’?", "Sweet Sensation" and "Stephanie" in the span of just two years.

The ‘80s were a golden period for the petite vocalist: signed to MCA Records, Stephanie was responsible for a string of hit singles and albums. "I Have Learned To Respect The Power of Love" (1986), "I Feel Good All Over" and "(You’re Puttin’) A Rush On Me" (both from 1987), "Something In The Way (You Make Me Feel)" and "Home" (both 1990 recordings) all topped the R&B charts. The 1987 album "If I Were Your Woman" was No. 1 on the R&B Albums chart and was a Top 30 pop best-seller; while the 1989 album "Home" was also a Top 5 R&B and Top 100 charted LP.

Returning to the stage, Stephanie toured the country in the early ‘90s with "The Wiz" and during the past decade, she has appeared in a number of highly-acclaimed roles in such shows as "Your Arms Too Short With Box" (starring with Teddy Pendergrass), "Children Of Eden," "Ragtime," "Play On" (a tribute to Duke Ellington’s music), "His Woman, His Wife" and "Black Nativity." The recipient of NAACP Image Awards, Stephanie’s multi-faceted career has also included recurring roles in popular television soap operas "Search For Tomorrow" and "One Life To Live."

In 1994, Stephanie returned to her gospel roots with "Personal Inspirations," an album that won praise with both gospel and secular audiences, netting her "Stellar Award" and "Dove Award" nominations.

Stephanie marked a return to recording in 1999 with the dance music cut "Latin Lover," produced by Masters At Work and in 2000, she did a duet with BeBe Winans for his Motown album "Love And Freedom." Stephanie’s music has frequently been sampled during the last few years and in 2001, she was a special guest on rapper DMX’s "The Great Depression" album, reprising the vocals from her first 1979 hit "Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin’" for the track "When I’m Nothing."

Following a dazzling performance at comedian Sinbad’s Soul Festival in Aruba, Stephanie began touring again in 2001 and has been wowing audiences on shows with artists like The O’Jays, Teddy Pendergrass, The Isley Brothers, Carl Thomas and at festivals that have included Mary J. Blige, India.Arie, Alicia Keys, Babyface and Smokey Robinson.

She says, "It’s been wonderful being back onstage and singing songs from all parts of my career. So many people have asked me when I would have a new record out and I would just say ‘soon.’ I was surprised because, so many times, people forget about you if you don’t have a new release! But then after the birth of my son Farad last year, I felt revitalized. I felt like singing and performing again”.

“I think I’m more creative musically and when I do a lot of my material now, I can relate to it more than ever. The experiences in life make you sing differently. And," she adds, "One of the results of having my child has been that it’s definitely made my voice stronger. I can sing higher and hold notes longer…"

Look for Stephanie Mills to make another mark in her wonderful career as fans begin to discover the creative energy and soulful singing that is a mainstay of her voice and more so than ever on Born for This!

Grover Washington, Jr.

One of the most popular saxophonists of all time (even his off records had impressive sales), Grover Washington, Jr. was long the pacesetter in his field. His roots were in R&B and soul-jazz organ combos, but he also fared very well on the infrequent occasions when he played straight-ahead jazz. A highly influential player, Washington was sometimes blamed for the faults of his followers; Kenny G. largely based his soprano sound on Grover's tone. However, most of the time (except when relying on long hit medleys), Washington pushed himself with the spontaneity and chance taking of a masterful jazz musician.

Grover Washington, Jr., whose father also played saxophone, started playing music when he was ten and within two years was working in clubs. He picked up experience touring with the Four Clefs from 1959-1963 and freelancing during the next two years, before spending a couple years in the Army. He moved to Philadelphia in 1967, becoming closely identified with the city from then on, and worked with several organists, including Charles Earland and Johnny Hammond Smith, recording as a sideman for the Prestige label. His biggest break occurred in 1971, when Hank Crawford could not make it to a recording date; Washington was picked as his replacement, and the result was Inner City Blues, a big seller. From then on he became a major name, particularly after recording 1975's Mister Magic and 1980's Winelight; the latter included the Bill Withers hit "Just the Two of Us."

Although some of his recordings since then found him coasting a bit, Washington usually stretched himself in concert, being almost overqualified for the R&B-ish music that he performed. He developed his own personal voices on soprano, tenor, alto, and even his infrequently-used baritone. Grover Washington Jr. recorded as a leader for Kudu, Motown, Elektra, and Columbia and made notable guest appearances on dozens of records ranging from pop to straightforward jazz. He died of a sudden heart attack on December 17, 1999 while taping an appearance on CBS television's The Saturday Early Show; Washington was 56. The posthumous Aria was issued early the following year. ~ Scott Yanow, All Music Guide

Grover Washington, Jr.'s love of music began a a child growing up in Buffalo, New York; his mother (who sang in church choirs) and father (collector of jazz 78s) bought him a saxophone at age ten. "After I started playing," Grover says, "I'd sneak into clubs to watch guys like Jack McDuff, Harold Vick and Charles Lloyd. My professional life began at age twelve. I played a lot of R&B, blues, and what we used to call 'gut-bucket'."

Grover left Buffalo to play in the Midwest with a group called the Four Clefs. Soon afterward, he was drafted into the Army; during that time he made some important connections. Drummer Billie Cobham, who was in the Army band with Grover, introduced him to several prominent New York musicians, and he soon began freelancing in New York and Philadelphia. Grover also met his wife Christine (who has since acted as his business partner as well) in Philadelphia around that time; they married shortly after his discharge in 1967. The two have remained happily married since; their son, Grover III (who co-produced a Grammy-nominated song on Grover's last album) now lives in Los Angeles and their daughter, Shana attends Temple University.

After playing in organist Charles Earland's band, and recording as a sideman for the CTI and Prestige labels, Grover recorded Breakout with Johnny Hammond. The album was a bestseller, and it established Grover as a major new voice on saxophone.

So impressed was Creed Taylor, Hammond's producer and head of CTI, that he signed Grover to a contract as a leader. When his debut as a leader, Inner City Blues was released in 1971, Grover was still working at a Philadelphia record wholesaler, "I was unloading boxes of records with my own name on them," Grover recalls with a hint of irony.

Grover's soulful, sophisticated sound developed through the 1970s and the success of his next three albums--All the King's Horses, Soul Box and especially Mister Magic--landed him as a headliner in the concert halls, and opened the door to session work with the likes of Bob James, Randy Weston, Eric Gale, and Dave Grusin.

With the release of Winelight in 1980, Grover earned recognition as a leading instrumental master. The LP earned two Grammy Awards, for "Best Jazz Fusion Recording" and "Best R&B Song" for "Just the Two of Us." Down Beat Magazine crooned, "Washington plays with exquisite tone, range and dexterity, grooving always." The Boston Herald-American proclaimed the album, "A true masterpiece by an artist who has the ability to combine the better elements of pop, soul and jazz and transform them into a form uniquely his." Perhaps the greatest recognition came through record distributors, much like the one Grover had once worked in. Winelight was certified gold in 1981; to date, it has sold over two million copies.

Grover's subsequent albums extended his reputation even further. Come Morning (1981) featured Ralph MacDonald, Steve Gadd, Eric Gale, Richard Tee, Marcus Miller, and vocals by Grady Tate; it earned Grover his fourth Gold recording. The Best is Yet to Come (1982) earned a Grammy nomination for vocalist Patti Labelle on the title track. Inside Moves (1984) featured vocals from Jon Lucien. For Strawberry Moon (1987), Grover was joined by legendary blues guitarists B.B. King, as well as by jazz/r&b vocalist Jean Carne. For Then and Now (1988), Grover explored the many facets of his musical expression, aided by jazz starts Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Marvin "Smitty" Smith. On Time Out of Mind (1990), Grover scored another hit with vocalist Phyllis Hyman with 'Sacred kind of Love.' And on Next Exit (1992), Grover explored several musical avenues, reinventing a classic Paul Desmond tune, "Take Five," as his own "Take Another Five," teaming up with The Four Tops and Lalah Hathaway, even dipping into rap.

In the early eighties, Grover played a major role in establishing the Philadelphia group Pieces of a Dream, for whom he produced three albums. These successes, and many, many more awards and credits as producer, player and composer, over two decades have today made Grover Washington, Jr. a key player in modern jazz and a familiar face on our cultural horizon. With just the mention of his first name or a note from his saxophone, audiences worldwide respond.

Grover's saxophone can be heard playing the national anthem at a Philadelphia 76'ers' game (revealing his lifelong passion for basketball); performing at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia for July 4th (with one million listeners in attendance) or at the Blue Note jazz club in New York (playing to sold-out rooms). His musical prominence recently took him to the White House for President Clinton's Inauguration (where he first met--and impressed Hank Jones).

Reflecting on all that, Grover says, "I'm thankful for the people who inspired me over the years: Dexter Gordon, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stanley Turrentine, Cannonball Adderley, Sonny Rollins, Oliver Nelson. I would like to believe that some of the reason I've been around so long is that I don't do the same thing over and over--I like to grow, to keep adding another thread to my musical tapestry," he adds. "I'm just staying true to the things that got me to play in the first place."

All My Tomorrows is true to the inspirations in its lyrical approach, its respect for a classic song, and its depth of expression. It is an intimate, personal work worth returning to again and again. Perhaps producer Todd Barkan puts it best, with a quote he and Grover heard many times from Dexter Gordon on the bandstand: "Ladies and gentlemen, I hope we give you something to put under your pillows."

For some twenty-five years, Grover Washington, Jr., who died in December 1999, was among the most beloved instrumentalists in popular music. He maintained the middle ground between jazz and rhythm-and-blues with great style and grace. Ever since Washington stepped into the national spotlight in 1971 with his reading of Marvin Gaye’s Inner City Blues, the saxophonist was in the vanguard of popular sound. He joined Sony Classical with a collection of opera arias (SK 61864), which was recorded in May 1999 and released in early 2000.

''I don’t think in terms of categories", said Washington. "My main motive is to move on. My job is to explore and express music of the heart. I want to venture forward. I want to stay in the mood of my moment."

Washington made his reputation with a series of recordings made in the 70s. He began to play sessions with the likes of Bob James, Randy Weston, Eric Gale and Dave Grusin, and in 1980 his album The Winelight won two GRAMMY Awards, vaulting him to the forefront of jazz fusion. In the early 80s, Washington played a major role in establishing the Philadelphia group Pieces of a Dream, producing three albums with them. Throughout the decade he continued to put out solo albums that, along with his work as composer and producer, reinforced his position as a key player in modern jazz.

Washington also gave a number of special live performances: he played the national anthem at a Philadelphia 76ers’ game (he had a lifelong passion for basketball), performed at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia for July 4th (with one million listeners in attendance) and played at the Blue Note jazz club in New York (in sold-out rooms). He also played at the White House for President Clinton’s Inauguration and for the President’s 50th birthday celebration at Radio City Music Hall.

Washington's love of music began as a child growing up in Buffalo, New York. His mother, a church chorister, and father, a collector of jazz 78s and an amateur C-melody saxophonist, bought him a saxophone at age ten.

"After I started playing", Grover said, "I’d sneak into clubs to watch guys like Jack McDuff, Harold Vick and Charles Lloyd. My professional life began at age twelve. I played a lot of R&B, blues, and what we used to call 'gut-bucker'." Grover left Buffalo to play in the Midwest with a group called the Four Clefs. Soon afterward, he was drafted into the Army, where he met Drummer Billy Cobham, who introduced him to several prominent New York musicians. The saxophonist soon began freelancing in New York and Philadelphia.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Stevie Wonder

"Stevie Wonder’s place in history will surely reflect his enormous accomplishments in the music industry: his more than 30 records that have sold more than 70 million copies, his smash hits that place him in the company of only the Beatles and Elvis Presley on the list of the most top-ten records, his 17 Grammy Awards, and his Oscar.

But this ability to sing, write, perform, and speak are simply his tools. The measure of Stevie Wonder’s greatness is not that he possesses these tools. What makes him so extraordinary, so inspiring, so king-like, is the way in which he has chosen to utilize his talents.

Stevie Wonder has used his enormous gifts to help us move toward the promised land. He was a valiant warrior against South African Apartheid, perhaps the greatest example in our lifetime about the power of dreams and moral fortitude. He has used his gifts to work passionately against world hunger, against nuclear proliferation, and toward racial harmony. And of great significance today, it was Stevie Wonder who energized the campaign that led Congress to create a national holiday in honor of Dr. King and his life’s work."

Excerpted from the introduction made by Lawrence Marshall, Professor of Law, Northwestern University Law School. Stevie Wonder delivered the keynote address for the Martin Luther King Day Celebration at Northwestern's Law School on January 20, 2003.

Stevie Wonder was born Steveland Hardaway Judkins on May 13, 1950, in Saginaw, Michigan. He prefers to be known as Steveland Morris after his mother's married name.

What makes Stevie Wonder unique compared to other musicians is that he is blind. It is said that immediately after his birth when he was placed in an incubator, and given too much oxygen, which, in combination with his affliction with Retinopathy of Pre-maturity (R.O.P.), blinded him for life.

Born premature, blood vessels in the back of the eye had not reached the front of the eye, temporarily halted, then branched out wildly into the Vitreous of the eye. The end result caused scar tissue to pull at the retina eventually causing the retina to detach.

He learned at a young age that he had a talent for music. Despite his blindness, he began to learn the piano at the age of seven, and by the time he was nine, he had mastered the drums and harmonica.

He taught himself how to play through a Braille book because his family couldn't afford an instructor. After his family moved to Detroit in 1954, Steveland joined a church choir, the gospel leanings on his music balanced by the R & B of Ray Charles and Sam Cooke.

In 1961, he was discovered by Ronnie White of the Miracles, who arranged an audition at Motown Records. Berry Gordy immediately signed Steveland to the label. Stevie was an instant superstar and his first album went platinum. His blend of blues, African and reggae vibes was unprecedented and he attracted millions of fans. His manager said that when Stevie received word that his opening album went platinum, he fainted. He was so motivated to provide entertainment for people that he incorporated two new instruments into his act, the drums and the harmonica.

Clarence Paul came up with the 'Wonder' surname stating that 'We can't keep introducing him as the '8th Wonder Of The World'. Wonder was placed in the care of writer / producer Clarence Paul, who supervised his early recordings. These helped him develop his talents as a multi-instrumentalist, but did not indicate a clear musical direction.

In 1963, the release of the live recording 'Fingertips' established his commercial success, and Motown quickly marketed him on a series of albums as 'the 12-year-old genius' in an attempt to link him with the popularity of 'the late genius', Ray Charles.

Attempts to repeat the success of 'Fingertips' proved difficult, and Wonder's career was placed on hold during 1964 while his voice was breaking.

He re-emerged in 1965 with a sound that was much closer to the Motown mainstream, achieving a worldwide hit with 'Uptight (Everything's Alright)', which he co-wrote with Henry 'Hank' Cosby and Sylvia Moy. This began a run of U.S. Top 40 hits that continued unbroken (apart from seasonal Christmas releases) for over six years.

From 1965-70, Stevie Wonder was marketed like the other major Motown stars, recording material that was chosen for him by the label's executives, and issuing albums that mixed conventional soul compositions with pop standards.

Stevie also recorded his versions of Bob Dylan's 'Blowin ln The Wind' and Ron Miller's 'A Place In The Sun' in 1966.

He co-wrote almost all of his singles from 1967 onwards, and also began to collaborate on releases by other Motown artists, most notably co-writing Smokey Robinson And The Miracles' hit 'The Tears Of A Clown', and writing and producing the (Motown) Spinners' 'It's A Shame'.

During this time, Stevie helped with the Civil Rights Movement. He was good friends and a huge supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 1980, he performed the song, "Happy Birthday," for the first time on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. He was honored at the services by the president.

His contract with Motown expired in 1971, rather than re-signing immediately, as the label expected, Wonder financed the recording of two albums of his own material, playing almost all the instruments himself, and experimenting for the first time with more ambitious musical forms.

He pioneered the use of the synthesizer in Black Music, and also broadened his lyrical concerns to encompass racial problems and spiritual questions.

Wonder then used these recordings as a lever to persuade Motown to offer a more open contract, which gave him total artistic control over his music, plus the opportunity to hold the rights to the music publishing with his own company, Black Bull Music.

The signing of the contract with the release of the solo recordings 'Where I'm Coming' From and 'Music Of My Mind', which, despite lukewarm critical reaction, quickly established him at the forefront of black music.

'Talking Book', in 1972, combined the technological advances of recent albums with major commercial success, producing hit singles from the driving 'Superstition', to the ballad standard 'You Are The Sunshine Of My Life'.

Wonder married fellow Motown artist Syreeta on 14th September 1970; he premiered many of his new production techniques on 'Syreeta' (1972) and 'Stevie Wonder Presents Syreeta' (1974), for which he also wrote most of the material.

'Innervisions' (1973) consolidated the growth and success of 'Talking Book', bringing further hit singles with the socially aware 'Living For The City' and 'Higher Ground'.

Later that year, Stevie was seriously injured in a car accident.

The release of 'Fulfillingness First Finale' in 1974 epitomized a more thoughtful approach.

The double album 'Songs In The Key Of Life', in 1976, was widely greeted as his most ambitious and satisfying work to date.

It demonstrated a mastery and variety of musical forms and instruments, offering a tribute to Duke Ellington on 'Sir Duke', and paying tribute to major black figures on 'Black Man'.

Surprisingly, after this enormous success, no new recordings surfaced for over three years, as Wonder concentrated on perfecting the soundtrack music to the documentary film 'The Secret Life Of Plants'.

This primarily instrumental double album was greeted with disappointing reviews and sales.

Stevie quickly delivered the highly successful, 'Hotter Than July' in 1980, which included a tribute song to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, 'Happy Birthday', and 'All I Do'.

After compiling the retrospective double album 'Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium' in 1982, which included four new recordings (including 'Do I Do' and 'Ribbon In The Sky') alongside the cream of his post-1971 work, Stevie scheduled an album entitled 'People Move Human Play' in 1983.

This never appeared, instead, he composed the soundtrack music for the film 'The Woman In Red', which oddly included his biggest-selling single to date, the sugary ballad, 'I Just Called To Say I Loved You'.

The album on which he had been working since 1980 eventually appeared in 1985 as 'In Square Circle'.

His status as an elder statesman of bIack music, and as a champion of black rights, was boosted by his campaign in the early 80's to have the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King celebrated as a national holiday in the U.S.A.

This request was granted by the late President Reagan, and the first Martin Luther King Day was celebrated on 15th January 1986 with a concert at which Wonder topped the bill.

Like his next project, 'Characters', in 1987, the album represented a return to the accessible, melodic music of the previous decade.

Stevie was then inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1989.

Stevie has been generous in offering his services as a writer, producer, singer and musician to other performers.

His most public collaborations included work with Paul McCartney, which produced the hit, 'Ebony And Ivory', Gary Byrd, Michael Jackson and the Eurythmics, and on the benefit records by U.S.A. For Africa and Dionne Warwick & Friends.

'Conversation Peace' in 1995 was an album with good songs and had some success.

On the 3rd of December 1999 a story appeared from Reuters which read:

'American pop superstar Stevie Wonder told fellow worshippers at a church service in Detroit December 2 that he is to undergo an operation that would enable him to see again. Wonder hopes to have the operation, which involves the insertion of a microchip in his eye, at Baltimore's John Hopkins University's Wilmer Eye Institute.'

His songs can be heard on Spike Lee's movie 'Bamboozled, entitled 'Misrepresented People' and 'Some Years Ago' and represented a return to Stevie's political comment.

Stevie Wonder re-married, in 2001, to a woman named Karen.

After the September 11th disaster that year, he recorded with the group Take 6 on a version of 'Love's In Need Of Love Today', dedicated to those who passed away that day.

Stevie returned to recording in 2005 with the album 'A Time 2 Love'. A single entitled 'So What The Fuss' was released prior to the album. He also appeared at the Live 8 U.S. concert in 2005, where he paid his respect to the late Luther Vandross whose funeral he performed at.


Few artists have created a body of work as rich and varied as Prince. During the '80s, he emerged as one of the most singular talents of the rock & roll era, capable of seamlessly tying together pop, funk, folk, and rock. Not only did he release a series of groundbreaking albums, he toured frequently, produced albums and wrote songs for many other artists, and recorded hundreds of songs that still lie unreleased in his vaults. With each album he has released, Prince has shown remarkable stylistic growth and musical diversity, constantly experimenting with different sounds, textures, and genres. Occasionally, his music can be maddeningly inconsistent because of this eclecticism, but his experiments frequently succeed; no other contemporary artist can blend so many diverse styles into a cohesive whole.

Prince's first two albums were solid, if unremarkable, late-'70s funk-pop. With 1980's Dirty Mind, he recorded his first masterpiece, a one-man tour de force of sex and music; it was hard funk, catchy Beatlesque melodies, sweet soul ballads, and rocking guitar pop, all at once. The follow-up, Controversy, was more of the same, but 1999 was brilliant. The album was a monster hit, selling over three million copies, but it was nothing compared to 1984's Purple Rain.

Purple Rain made Prince a superstar; it eventually sold over ten million copies in the U.S. and spent 24 weeks at number one. Partially recorded with his touring band the Revolution, the record featured the most pop-oriented music he has ever made. Instead of continuing in this accessible direction, he veered off into the bizarre psycho-psychedelia of Around the World in a Day (1985), which nevertheless sold over two million copies. In 1986, he released the even stranger Parade, which was in its own way was as ambitious and intricate as any art rock of the '60s; however, no art rock was ever grounded with a hit as brilliant as the spare funk of "Kiss."

By 1987, Prince's ambitions were growing by leaps and bounds, resulting in the sprawling masterpiece Sign o' the Times. Prince was set to release the hard funk of The Black Album by the end of the year, yet he withdrew it just before its release, deciding it was too dark and immoral. Instead, he released the confused Lovesexy in 1988, which was a commercial disaster. With the soundtrack to 1989's Batman he returned to the top of the charts, even if the album was essentially a recap of everything he had done before. The following year he released Graffiti Bridge, the sequel to Purple Rain, which turned out to be a considerable commercial disappointment.

In 1991, Prince formed the New Power Generation, the best and most versatile and talented band he has ever assembled. With their first album, Diamonds and Pearls, Prince reasserted his mastery of contemporary R&B; it was his biggest hit since 1985. The following year, he released his 12th album, which was titled with a cryptic symbol; in 1993, Prince legally changed his name to the symbol. In 1994, after becoming embroiled in contract disagreements with Warner Bros., he independently released the single "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," likely to illustrate what he would be capable of on his own; the song became his biggest hit in years. Later that summer, Warner released the somewhat halfhearted Come under the name of Prince; the record was a moderate success, going gold.

In November 1994, as part of a contractual obligation, Prince agreed to the official release of The Black Album. In early 1995, he immersed himself in another legal battle with Warner, proclaiming himself a slave and refusing to deliver his new record, The Gold Experience, for release. By the end of the summer, a fed-up Warner had negotiated a compromise which guaranteed the album's release, plus one final record for the label. The Gold Experience was issued in the fall; although it received good reviews and was following a smash single, it failed to catch fire commercially. In the summer of 1996, Prince released Chaos & Disorder, which freed him to become an independent artist. Setting up his own label, NPG (which was distributed by EMI), he resurfaced later that same year with the three-disc Emancipation, which was designed as a magnum opus that would spin off singles for several years and be supported with several tours. However, even his devoted cult following needed considerable time to digest such an enormous compilation of songs. Once it was clear that Emancipation wasn't the commercial blockbuster he hoped it would be, Prince assembled a long-awaited collection of outtakes and unreleased material called Crystal Ball in 1998. With Crystal Ball, Prince discovered that it's much more difficult to get records to an audience than it seems; some fans who pre-ordered their copies through Prince's website (from which a bonus fifth disc was included) didn't receive them until months after the set began appearing in stores. Prince then released a new one-man album, New Power Soul, just three months after Crystal Ball; even though it was his most straightforward album since Diamonds and Pearls, it didn't do well on the charts, partly because many listeners didn't realize it had been released.

A year later, with "1999" predictably an end-of-the-millennium anthem, Prince issued the remix collection 1999 (The New Master). A collection of Warner Bros.-era leftovers, Vault: Old Friends 4 Sale, followed that summer, and in the fall Prince returned on Arista with the all-star Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic.

In the Fall of 2001 he released the controversial Rainbow Children, a jazz-infused circus of sound trumpeting his conversion to the Jehovah's Witnesses that left many long time fans out in the cold. He further isolated himself with 2003's N.E.W.S., a four-song set of instrumental jams that sounded a lot more fun to play than to listen to. Prince re-bounded in 2003 with the chart-topping Musicology, a return to form that found the artist back in the top ten, even garnering a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2005. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, All Music Guide

Earth Wind & Fire

By Chuck Miller

Originally published in Goldmine, January 1998

On a famous episode of Seinfeld, Elaine dances (in the kindest definition of the word) to their hit "Shining Star." You might have seen them on an episode of "Grace Under Fire" (Grace and Nadine drive all night to their concert, miss the performance, but sing "Let's Groove" with the band in a local bar). Mariah Carey and Crystal Waters have borrowed their carefully orchestrated rhythm tracks for Top 40 hits, while songs like "That's The Way Of The World" and "September" have been remade by everyone from Herb Alpert to John Tesh.

The music of Earth Wind & Fire can not be easily categorized, although many in the entertainment industry tried. They brought jazz, bebop and fusion to pop audiences; they brought progressive rock to R&B fans. They didn't need a 70's Preservation Society for their music - their classic hits have stood the test of time, every song polished and performed on an endless highway of college concerts and faith. The Grammys, the gold and platinum records, the American Music Awards - all were a by-product of Earth Wind & Fire's popularity, but the music and the message remain the key to this day.

Even as they approach their third decade of musical expertise, Earth Wind & Fire's origins can be traced back through the roots of Chicago blues and soul, through the jazz and fusion excursions, back to the beginnings of music itself.

What we know as Earth Wind & Fire today has to start with its creator and producer, Maurice White. Born in Memphis in 1941, White moved to Chicago as a teenager and found work as a session drummer for Chess Records (the story has it that Leonard Chess asked Maurice to bring a few friends over for a recording session; Maurice showed up with his entire college band). By 1967, he was the new drummer in the famed Ramsey Lewis Trio, replacing Red Holt. During the two years White performed and toured with the Trio, Ramsey Lewis showed him a Kalimba, an African thumb piano. That instrument and its unique sound became the focal point of White's musical dream.

In 1969, Maurice left the Ramsey Lewis Trio, and joined two friends in Chicago, Wade Flemons and Don Whitehead, as a songwriting team. "We started a group out of just writing songs and commercials around Chicago," said Maurice. "We were writing a lot of songs, so we decided to form a recording group. We had a recording contract with Capitol, and called ourselves the 'Salty Peppers,' and had a marginal hit in the Midwestern area called 'La La Time.' (Capitol 2433). It was only released in the Midwest, and it did fairly well for an unknown band."

The Salty Peppers' second single, "Uh Huh Yeah" (Capitol 2568) didn't fare as well, and Maurice decided it was time for a change of location - and a change in the band's name. "We never made any appearances or anything like that as the Salty Peppers," said Maurice. "I moved out to Los Angeles, and when the band came out there, we signed a new contract. Before that, I renamed the group after my astrology chart of Sagittarius. I was into astrology pretty heavy, and there were three elements in my astrological charts - earth, air and fire, and I changed air to wind."

Verdine White, Maurice's younger brother, joined the band in 1970 as their new bassist. "We grew up in Chicago, there was a lot of music on the radio at the time - a lot of Motown and jazz, both on the radio and at the Regal Theatre, where we went a lot. My father is a doctor, so he played a lot of jazz music in his office. Maurice had this idea of putting together a band like that - that could encompass all the different kinds of musicality we were exposed to. The group was pretty much in existence, and he asked me to come out, and I came out in June 1970. And the first couple of years were really those testing years of cutting records."

Earth Wind & Fire spent three years on Warner Bros., recording two studio albums and the soundtrack for Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, a box-office smash that paved the way for black-themed films throughout the 1970's. "We had done this Sweet Sweetback soundtrack," said Verdine White. "which was actually the first black soundtrack. Maurice knew Melvin Van Peebles really well, and Melvin was putting together this wayout film that was going to be real different and real revolutionary. We recorded that soundtrack over two days at Paramount Recording Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard."

At that time, Earth Wind & Fire were still finding their identity. They even signed some female vocalists - Sherry Scott (who sang on "I Think About Loving You"), who was later replaced by Jessica Cleaves. In 1971, while Earth Wind & Fire played a gig in Denver, Maurice heard about a singer with a local band - a singer with a range that could rumble the seats with his baritone, yet harmonize with the angels on every high note.

That singer, Philip Bailey, remembers that night. "Our band, 'Friends and Love,' was actually doing some of the Earth Wind & Fire songs, and we opened the show for Earth Wind & Fire when they came to Denver to play a promotional tour. We had been familiar with their music through a mutual friend of ours, Perry Jones, who later became a promotional man for Warner Bros. I moved out to Los Angeles when they began to reform their band, Maurice asked me to be in the group. I think that Maurice liked the fact that I had a very identifiable sound in terms of my range, and the timbre of my voice. Maurice and I began to do all the vocals on all the records after "Head To The Sky," and we really developed a sound together, which became the trademark "sound" of Earth, Wind & Fire. My melodic sensibility was something that was added, and Maurice had the experience of being a songwriter and producer, and was my mentor and teacher for many years."

But Warner Bros. didn't know how to promote this new combo - the only other funk band on their label was Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band. And after eighteen months, Maurice disassembled his band and formed a new Earth Wind & Fire from its ashes.

"College kids were hip to us far beyond the acknowledgment of the record industry," said Maurice. "We were on tour, we normally did a lot of college touring, and we had a manager who actually booked John Sebastian into New York City. And so what happened as a result of us opening for John Sebastian, Clive Davis was in the audience. And he saw us for the first time, and he came over and talked to us about joining CBS."

It would be a perfect match. CBS had successfully promoted another progressive rock/soul band, Sly & The Family Stone. They backed and distributed the Philadelphia International label, home of the Gamble & Huff songwriting and producing team. "We were in the middle of cutting what we thought was our third album for Warners," said Verdine White, "and Clive bought our contract from them. Clive has great insight. He put us in the right places. He gave us proper marketing, he took the time necessary to break a group like this. A group like this wouldn't be broken overnight. With us, we wanted to play concerts, we didn't want to play two sets a night, three sets a night, we wanted to do concerts which showed off our musicality."

Between 1971 and 1975, Earth Wind & Fire played the colleges, the universities, the clubs and the performance halls, and every night they would use jazz and fusion progressions to keep their songs fresh and their chops sharp. "Our whole vision," said Philip Bailey, "was creativity within a form. It was derived from the greats before us, Miles Davis and John Coltrane and all the great singers. We really were lovers of jazz and fusion. We were jazz musicians at heart playing popular music. We would take every opportunity we could, whether it meant adding a bebop horn lick or progressive chord changes to our songs. We made fusion and jazz a commercial entity."

In May 1974, "Mighty Mighty" (Columbia 46007) became Earth Wind & Fire's first hit on the pop charts, peaking at #29. "'Mighty Mighty' wasn't a big Top 40 hit," said Verdine, "because at the time Top 40 radio was scared of 'Mighty Mighty,' because they thought it was a song about Black Power." But it was a start. While "Mighty Mighty" was on the charts, Earth Wind & Fire worked with Sig Shore, the mastermind behind the motion picture Superfly, on a new film about the dark side of the recording industry. That's The Way Of The World starred Earth Wind & Fire as "The Group," a new recording act. In the film, Harvey Keitel hears "The Group" performing, and produces their first album. The film's title is repeated throughout the film as a shrug of the shoulders to the music world.

Earth Wind & Fire performed the songs in the film, and Maurice had a small speaking part as leader of "The Group." "We actually recorded one of the songs, 'Happy Feelin',' at a roller skating rink during the movie," said Philip Bailey. "We had a truck outside, we actually recorded it then, we went to the studio and tried to do it over, but the feel that we had in the roller rink was the one. So we just used that one."

"Our performance in That's The Way Of The World was us running into a van and the van driving off," said Verdine White. "There was some concert footage in the end, that was it. When we saw the film, we said this is going to be a major flop, we need to get our record out before the film comes. The music was so different, and we didn't want the film to hurt the music."

The strategy paid off. The music Earth Wind & Fire recorded during that time period - later released as the album "That's The Way Of The World" (Columbia 33280) broke through to new audiences. And when songs from the motion picture were repackaged into Earth Wind & Fire's 2-album set Gratitude (Columbia 33694), the group reached the top. Five songs from that album blasted onto pop and soul radios around the country - the tender ballad "Reasons," the inventive "Sing A Song," the sultry "Can't Hide Love," the title track from their film "That's The Way Of The World," and their first #1 hit, "Shining Star." As for the film, it bombed upon release, was re-released under the name Shining Star, and flopped again. "It was incredible, the most incredible feeling," said Maurice White. "Our song, 'Shining Star,' was the #1 song in the country. That was our dream come true, it was unbelievable."

Many of those early hits came from the long years of touring and soundchecks, the improvisation every night that generated a new guitar lick, the musical dexterity born from inspiration and dedication. Even their second song to reach the pop Top 10, "Sing A Song" (Columbia 10251), found its genesis in a soundcheck. "The creative process took place in the studio," said Maurice, "and it continued to the stage. When we were preparing for a gig, we would make up songs, and a lot of songs later became album tracks. That's how "Sing A Song" was discovered. We were on stage, just having a sound check. In the studio, there was a process too. I had so many years in the recording studio as a producer, it was very easy for me to capture a song."

Other tracks, like the complex hit "Getaway" (Columbia 10373), came from outside the group. Verdine White remembers when he heard "Getaway" for the first time. "I originally heard it from a guy named Chuck, who was producing this flute player named Bobbie Humphries. And I heard this song, and I said to him, 'That would be a great song for us.' He wanted to produce it for us, but that wasn't about to happen. So we got the tune, took it into the studio and cut it. It was a smash, too - it was totally different, it was like Yes with a little funk under the bottom. It had uptempo and breaks, and a lot of upbeats in it."

"'Getaway' was written by Beloyd Taylor and Peter Carr," said Philip Bailey. "It was really bebop, like if you sang the lick at the top. But Maurice had a real uncanny thing for just locking up those rhythms. Al McKay was just the rhythm master, it was a hook that just caught. It was like a train, all the engines were moving and running, everything was in sync. It had a repeating hook, the music and the rhythm that became very catchy. But 'Getaway' was still very, very out there. And I think only Earth Wind & Fire could have done that kind of thing right there."

Even as Earth Wind & Fire's music blended into the pop mainstream, Maurice White found time to produce other artists and groups. Ramsey Lewis asked him to produce an album, and the Lewis-EWF collaboration Sun Goddess (Columbia 33194) is still a jazz staple. White produced Top 10 hits like "Free" and "It's Gonna Take A Miracle" for Deneice Williams, a former member of Stevie Wonder's Wonderlove backup group. Another track Maurice produced, the Emotions' "Best Of My Love" (Columbia 10544), went to #1 on both the pop and R&B charts. "We were cutting rhythm section records," said Verdine. "Maurice would produce the records, him and Charles Stepney at the time, and we'd play on them and then Ramsey would play on them, or maybe Deneice Williams or the Emotions would sing on them. Our schedule was such at the time that if we were in the studio for three weeks, we would be cutting tracks - and those tracks might be for one act or another. It was one continuing musical flow."

These additional artists became part of one of the largest touring packages of the 70's. The Emotions, Deneice Williams and Ramsey Lewis would be the opening acts. A group that Verdine White produced, Pockets, also toured in the group. Then Earth Wind & Fire took the stage. Their concerts were loaded with pyrotechnics, magic, laser lights, flying pyramids and levitating guitarists, all supported by a solid musical performance every night. Magician Doug Henning directed many of their tours throughout the 1970's, and the band - including Larry Dunn (keyboards), Al McKay (guitar, sitar), Fred White (drums) and Andrew Woolfolk (sax, flute) would leviate, teleport, explode on stage - all for their audience's entertainment. "We started the massive tour around 1975," said Verdine. "We thought that for the high ticket prices at the time, the public should see something they had never seen before. Most concerts were just concerts, and we thought it was time that people would see something they never saw before."

"What I started to do," said Maurice White, "was put on the tour some of the acts that I was also producing at the time, the Emotions, and also Deneice Williams. Sometimes we would use Ramsey Lewis too, so everybody on the tour were from albums I was producing. It was like the moving circus comes to town. We had ten semis carrying equipment and instruments, and we had our own plane. But the music came first. First we were musicians, and we were very serious musicians rather than just there for the hits. Our first love was music. We were just a band. Which just happened to have a couple of hits."

Maurice also incorporated the Kalimba and its sound into Earth Wind & Fire's vision of world-wide and world-inspired music, even naming their production company Kalimba Productions. "During that period of time, I always studied metaphysics and Egyptology. It got so interesting, what I was trying to do was share with the audience what we were learning at the time. As we learned more, we went about trying to share it with the audience, bring a message to the music."

And Maurice's studies appeared not only in the music, but also on the Shusei Nagaoka-designed album covers. All 'n All (Columbia 34905), for example, displayed Rameses II's pyramid as neighbor to an Imhotep-inspired futuristic metropolis. Raise! (ARC/Columbia 37548) showed an Egyptian statue with a mechanical exoskeleton. Ankhs, crosses, statues of Shiva and Buddha and William Shakespeare - all were incorporated into the intricate album artwork of Earth Wind & Fire covers.

"Maurice always studied astrology, numerology, astronomy," said Verdine. "We introduced Trancendental Meditation to a lot of the black audience. That was very new for them. Of course, the Beatles had brought TM to the people in the 1960's, but we brought it into the 70's to an audience that was looking for something alternative. I even met the Maharishi in 1970. When you really look at the three cornerstones of religion - Judaism, Christianity, Islam - and all of the world's religions, they all bear witness to each other."

In 1978, Earth Wind & Fire appeared in another motion picture, the Beatles movie tribute Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the film, the band played themselves, performing "Got To Get You Into My Life" at a concert hall. The film itself was a commercial bomb (Peter Frampton recalls his experiences with the Sgt. Pepper movie in Goldmine #447), and although the soundtrack shipped triple platinum, it allegedly was returned triple platinum. Yet despite musical performances on the soundtrack from Aerosmith, Peter Frampton, the Bee Gees and Alice Cooper, Earth Wind & Fire's remake of the Beatles classic was the highest charting pop single from the soundtrack. "Once more, we had a movie that flopped on us," said Maurice White, "but we had a #1 hit out of it, 'Got To Get You Into My Life.' We actually recorded our parts on the set."

"Robert Stigwood called us and asked if we wanted to be in a movie," said Verdine. "We said okay, it could be interesting. At that particular time, you didn't see a lot of musical blacks in movies - there was The Wiz, but that was a horrible movie. We had three songs to choose from - 'Got To Get You Into My Life' and two ballads. We just did the song Chicago-style. Some people thought George Martin produced the song, but Maurice produced it."

"I remember that day, it was cold as heck," said Philip Bailey, "and it was an all-day, all-night kind of thing. That was one that really catapulted us into a whole new arena. That was an exciting move, because the Beatles - that's legendary, and the magnitude - we were honored to be asked on that, really. That was a good experience for us. We recorded the song in Colorado, in a little studio up in Boulder. We rehearsed the horns for that song in Denver, went up to Boulder in the snow, and recorded the whole song in one night."

The success of "Got To Get You Into My Life" drew more fans to Earth Wind & Fire's music, and the group responded with excursions into ice-melting ballads ("I'll Write A Song For You," "After The Love Has Gone"), booty-shaking disco ("Boogie Wonderland", "Let's Groove") and more metaphysics ("Fantasy," "Jupiter"). "We started to expand a little bit," said Verdine, "and started writing better songs. "Boogie Wonderland" really was capturing the tail end of the disco era. We didn't think of it as disco, we thought of it as a song with a 4/4 beat. Clubs always had that kind of music, they just called it disco - the industry always has to call it something."

"As an artist," said Philip Bailey, "I'm just blessed that songs like that came our way. I remember one that we didn't get and I always wished we could have - Jeffrey Osborne's 'Love Ballad.' He had a great hit with that one."

Maurice loaned Earth Wind & Fire's signature Phœnix Horns - Don Myrick on saxophone, Louis Satterfield on trombone, Rahmlee Davis and Michael Harris on trumpets - to his other production projects, the Emotions, Ramsey Lewis and Deniece Williams. Then, on a tour of Europe, somebody else took interest in the famed horn section. "We used to tour so much," said Maurice, "we used to tour Europe. Phil Collins had an opportunity to see us. He would recruit our horn section whenever we weren't using it."

Sure enough, Collins imported the Phœnix Horns into Genesis tracks like "No Reply At All" and "Paperlate," and on his solo hits like "I Missed Again," "Sussudio" and "I Cannot Believe It's True." "I sometimes had to call and make an appointment to see my own horn section," said Maurice. "They even toured with Genesis and Phil Collins for a while."

In 1983, Earth Wind & Fire released the "Electric Universe" album. It was also their last release for four years. "The whole scene was changing," said Verdine. "There was an explosion of video artists. At that time, MTV wasn't playing black artists - the only black artists they played at that time were Michael Jackson, Lionel Ritchie and Prince. There was BET to play black videos, but they didn't have the same money behind MTV. It hurt a lot of those groups, because the audience didn't know who those groups were, and they only knew about groups that had the visibility. Rick James was the first black artist to really bitch about MTV, and he was right at the time. They were playing acts that hadn't had hit records, and he had hits at the time."

"I put the group on hiatus in 1983," said Maurice, "because I just wanted to rest from touring. I had been touring for 10 years, and it was time for me to take a rest. The only things I ever saw was the road or the studio, that was my whole life for ten years. So I left the band for a while. We kind of put everything on hold, and in the process of doing that, I cut a solo record. The two hits from that album was 'Stand By Me' and another song called 'I Need You.'"

"I think that was the best thing that ever happened to us," said Verdine, "because it was time to shut down. We had made enough records to define our careers - I tried to convince Maurice to shut down after the Raise! record in 1981, because I felt we needed a break, just to live. We had slammed pretty hard for 13 years. I think people should stop, particularly in creative endeavors, to catch up and see where you are. And times were starting to change, too. We were having our own interest in things we wanted to do."

During the hiatus, Philip Bailey released a solo album, "Chinese Wall." While it was not his first solo album (Bailey recorded a series of gospel LP's for the Myrrh and Word labels), it was his most successful. The first single from that album, a duet with Phil Collins called "Easy Lover" (Columbia 04679) went gold, and the music video of Bailey and Collins rehearsing their collaboration hit #1 on MTV's video playlist. "I really didn't know that much about Phil's music until the Phœnix Horns introduced us and I went to a concert of his. It wasn't a stargazing thing - when we got together, it was mutual admiration for each other's musicianship. It definitely was a boost for me - not only domestically, but also internationally. Still, to this day, I can do that song and people will know it. Phil Collins is one of the most down to earth famous people that we ever worked with."

Meanwhile, during the hiatus, Verdine White worked behind the scenes, writing and directing videos. He produced a Level 42 album, and promoted go-go bands like Trouble Funk and E.U. "When you are known for one entity, people think that's the only thing you know. But music is music."

"Contrary to popular belief," said Verdine, "we didn't have pop radio in our pocket. For Earth Wind & Fire, we had to continue to have an R&B smash in order to even raise the eyebrows of pop radio. We never really knew if the mainstream market would like our record or not - and in some instances, maybe if the song had been played, it might have been a hit. We were always judged by what happened on R&B radio first. Even after having the countless chart hits that we did, it was still - when a record came out, it had to go R&B first, in opposed to just getting played on the radio. When you listen to 'After The Love Is Gone,' and if you listen to Earth Wind & Fire's catalog, I'm sure there was at least one song in the bunch that pop radio - if they had known about it, would have been a hit. We were always walking that fine line - was the song too R&B, or too pop? Of course, this is all hindsight. These were not things that we focused on or complained about - we were making music, and that was what we did."

In 1987, CBS Records spoke to Philip Bailey and Maurice White separately, convincing both that a reunion of Earth Wind & Fire would be beneficial for all parties. "We began to realize the real appreciation that people had for the band and what we had done. We saw that the whole Earth Wind & Fire was bigger than its parts. It made sense to continue with what we had started. So we said, let's do it album by album, one disc at a time. We knew that we couldn't go back to the old band and start over again, because it would have been a mess. I'm very glad that we were pretty mature about us understanding that - or our reunion would have lasted less than nine weeks."

Thanks to an ingenious young songwriter, the group had a comeback hit. "Philip and I was in San Francisco," said Maurice. "Going to the studio one day, we went out to the car and there was a cassette tape attached to the door handle. We got the tape and put it in the car stereo, and played it. It was 'System of Survival.' This guy, Skylark, wrote the song, and instead of disturbing us at the hotel, he taped the tape to the door handle of my car. That was a good way to get material to me. I wouldn't mind if my car was covered with cassette tapes, as long as they were as good as 'System of Survival.'"

But by 1990, Earth Wind & Fire's time with Columbia was ending. Their 1989 release Heritage did not sell well, despite cameo appearances on the disc from Sly Stone and MC Hammer. The upper echelon of CBS Records had also changed - while Earth Wind & Fire had achieved success under label presidents Clive Davis and Walter Yetnikoff, there was increasing friction between the band and new label president Tommy Mottola. "Our deal with CBS was with Yetnikoff," said Verdine, "and we had a key man clause - that meant if Yetnikoff left, we left too. Although I liked Tommy, Tommy's a really good guy, we just decided to move on. Mo Ostin at Warner Bros. had wanted us to come where he was. We had re-signed with Columbia in 1982, and Mo wanted us to come to Warner Bros. then, but Walter wouldn't let us out of the contract."

Their exodus from Columbia may have been spurred by a new hit single by their Columbia labelmate, Mariah Carey. In 1991, friends called Maurice White, telling him to listen to a new track on the radio. What Maurice heard was the Earth Wind & Fire's rhythm track for the Emotions' 70's classic "Best Of My Love," but the Emotions' voices were replaced by Mariah Carey - singing entirely different lyrics. And when the disc jockey announced the song's title had been changed to "Emotion," White hit the roof. "I don't mind if someone records a song and gives us credit for writing a tune, that's fine, that's not a problem, that's a compliment. But when somebody just rips you off, steals your song and tries to get away with taking the credit for writing it - we received no writing or publishing credit for that song. Everybody that heard the song knew it was a ripoff of 'Best Of My Love.' How close can you get? It seems to be a trend that's happening now, but I think eventually somebody's going to come along, they're going to put the creativity back into music. It's unfortunate that a lot of fans and a lot of people that received the music get it watered down, and a lot of times they don't know what the original is. That's really too bad."

In 1993, they released their new album under the Warner Bros. contract, Millennium (Reprise 45274-2), earning a Grammy nomination for the track "Sunday Morning." In fact, between 1975 and 1993, Earth Wind & Fire received 14 Grammy nominations, winning six times. "All through the Seventies, we had Grammies and gold records all over the place," said Maurice. "It's a great gesture. The first Grammy we ever won, I couldn't believe it. It was like getting our first number one single. I make sure that everybody in the band gets the gold records, which we have a lot. I could fill up the room I'm in with the gold and platinum records we've won."

But ten of those Grammy nominations were in the "Best R&B Group" or "Best R&B Instrumental" categories. "First of all," said Philip Bailey, "I could never understand that you could have a record with the kind of crossover success that Earth Wind & Fire has had, and continue to be nominated as just an 'R&B Group.' Just once I would have liked to have seen us nominated as 'Best Group,' let us compete with all the other pop and rock bands."

And when Earth Wind & Fire did win the golden gramophones, their acceptance speeches never appeared on the Grammy telecast. "I'm not dissing the Grammy people or anything like that," said Bailey, "but you know, we have seven Grammys - the band has six and I have one for my gospel work - and none of those Grammys were ever received on television. Not one. That was at a time when the Grammys were given to the R&B categories pre-telecast. How many people have seven Grammys - and we never got a chance to make a speech on television. It's kind of crazy when you think about it. I'm not bitter about it or anything, it's just that when you talk about the Grammys - and we're very proud to have them, I have the ones that didn't get broken in the Northridge earthquake - but I don't think we've ever gotten the chance to feel what that really means in the larger sense of the world. Very few people even remember that we have this many Grammys, because they never saw it on television. If you didn't catch that little part where they list all the ancillary awards - seven times - you wouldn't have known about our seven Grammys."

Meanwhile, problems were brewing over at Warner Bros. Mo Ostin, the man who recruited Earth Wind & Fire to Columbia, was himself forced out of the label. "We talked about the record for a year before we cut it," said Verdine. "He let us take our time and let us do what we wanted to do. When we started to record, he financed our upstart costs. The leveraged takeover that cost Mo Ostin his job at Warner Bros., that was one of the biggest mistakes the industry ever made. It slowed the label down, it cost a lot of talent. A lot of artists in the late 80's-middle 90's were the victims of moguls fighting over each other for positions. The moguls weren't fighting over records or movies - they were fighting over who was going to control the gatekeepers of this information. They got Mo out of the way because of the massive catalog that Warner Bros. had. But the only person who knew about Warner Bros. music was Mo."

Although there were many achievements and accomplishments throughout Earth Wind & Fire's existence, there has also been tragedy. Charles Stepney had worked with Maurice since the days of Chess Records, and had produced and arranged albums for the Dells, Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy. In 1976, after helping co-produce and arrange Earth Wind & Fire's Spirit album and Deneice Williams' This is Nicey album, Charles Stepney died of a heart attack. He was only 45.

In the summer of 1993, former Phœnix Horns member Don Myrick, whose saxophone could be heard not only on Earth Wind & Fire's albums, but also on albums from Regina Belle, the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Heaven 17 and Phil Collins (it's Myrick's emotional sax on Collins' hit "One More Night"), was shot to death in Los Angeles, under circumstances that still remain a mystery to this day.

"Don hadn't worked with us in almost ten years," said Philip Bailey, "and so we were on to other things, we had a new Earth Wind & Fire horn section. I was in Los Angeles, and somebody called me and told me what happened. I think that he had some problems that he couldn't resolve in himself - that kept putting him in situations. We were all very shocked and hurt that that had happened. He hadn't worked with the band in quite some time. He did a solo for me on one of my projects, and wasn't really feeling up to doing what I was used to hearing him do. But later I learned that he was back and playing really well and everything, so it was a real shock to us. He had been real sick one time and close to death, we were thinking he was bouncing back. It's still shocking today."

While Earth Wind & Fire continued to record and tour, Maurice White continued to produce. One of his most successful and well-received projects during that time came in 1994, when at the bequest of GRP Records Vice-President Carl Griffin, Maurice teamed up with Ramsey Lewis, Grover Washington, Jr., Victor Bailey and Omar Hakim as the "Urban Knights" (GRP 9815). White produced the sessions, and even wrote six songs for the project. "I was so happy that Carl called me to do the project," said White at the time, "especially with Ramsey being an old friend. The sessions were highly improvisational and a lot of the tunes were written as we went along. Since my original musical roots are in jazz, this was like coming full circle for me and it was a tremendous experience. My idea (of being a producer) is to allow everyone around you to contribute...you don't force them [to do that] but allow them to contribute...." The success of the Urban Knights album prompted White and Lewis to collaborate with guitarist Jonathan Butler, saxophonist Gerald Albright and drummer Sonny Emory on a second album, "Urban Knights II" (GRP 9861).

Maurice White is still Earth Wind & Fire's producer and their guiding light, but he retired from the stage in 1996. He now spends his time building a studio in Los Angeles, fielding offers to produce new bands and performers, and contemplating a less nomadic pace. "I would love to do a completely jazz/acoustic album. Sometime in the future, that's going to be possible. I was on the road for 25 years, that's a long time in itself. I paid my dues. I'm doing a lot of recording now, I stay in the studio so much - so the best thing for me to do is build my own place."

Today, Earth Wind & Fire are back on the road, touring in support of their new album In The Name Of Love (Pyramid/Rhino 72864) and their singles "Revolution" and "When Love Goes Wrong." "The first time around," said Philip Bailey, "it was going by so fast. I'm having more fun now than I ever had in my life. That's not to poo-pooh that time, but in those kind of blitz situations, everything's coming at you so fast and everything's happening around you, until you don't really have time to ever savor the experience and say, wow. It went by so fast, and there so much stuff going on - it was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

"I'm proud of the staying power," said Verdine White, "the music was always strong and we're still here. Every time we go to the concert, there's always somebody of notoriety there from today's era - Wesley Snipes was at one of our concerts, Queen Latifah was at our concert, I ran into somebody from the Martin show the other night. They get excited, and they're proud, too. We go to the airports, people still get excited when they see us. They tell us about the songs that affected their lives."

And as Earth Wind & Fire perform their blend of jazz, funk, fusion, gospel, rock and pop to a new generation of fans, perhaps we can get a glimpse of their future. In the motion picture The Fifth Element, the film mentions that the first four primary elements were earth, wind, fire and water. Not air - wind.

The rest of the film was spent searching for that elusive fifth element. Maurice White found it long ago when Ramsey Lewis told him about the kalimba.

This article was written in conjunction with interviews with Maurice White, Phillip Bailey and Verdine White during the summer of 1997. The assistance of Earth Wind & Fire's production team, along with promotion man Rick Scott and GST Productions, is greatly appreciated.

From Wikipedia

Earth, Wind & Fire is an American funk band, formed in Chicago, Illinois in 1969. Led by Maurice White, they are best known for their hits of the 1970s, among them "After the Love Has Gone", "September", "Reasons", and "Shining Star".

Early years

Bandleader Maurice White began his recording career as a session drummer, working for Chess Records. After spending time as a member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio, he formed a band called The Salty Peppers and signed to Capitol Records, releasing a regionally successful single called "La La Time".

White moved his band to Los Angeles, California and changed its name to "Earth, Wind & Fire". This was based on the fact that White's astrological sign was Sagittarius, whose primary elemental quality is Fire, but whose seasonal qualities are Earth, and Air [1]; (hence, the omission of water). Their self-titled debut album, Earth, Wind & Fire, was released in 1970 to great critical acclaim, as was The Need of Love (1971). However, neither album was commercially successful.

In 1972, White dissolved the line-up (minus himself and brother Verdine White), and added Jessica Cleaves (vocals), Ronnie Laws (flute, saxophone), Larry Dunn (keyboard), Ralph Johnson (percussion) and Philip Bailey (vocals, formerly of Friends & Love). The new line-up was signed to CBS Records by Clive Davis and released Last Days and Time without much success. At this time, Laws and Bautista left the band, and Andrew Woolfolk, Al McKay, and Johnny Graham were added to the lineup. The Keep Your Head to the Sky album (1973) was a moderate success, but 1974's Open Our Eyes was a major hit. Cleaves, a former member of the Friends of Distinction, left after the "Head to the Sky" album. Up until this time, EWF had at least one female vocalist in the group.

Breakthrough success

Earth, Wind & Fire's true breakthrough, however, came in the form of the soundtrack to That's the Way of the World in 1975. Though the film was not a success, the song "Shining Star" became a huge mainstream hit and launched the band's career. By then drummer Fred White had joined the band and Johnson turned to vocals.

Also in 1975, Earth, Wind & Fire released Gratitude, a live album which featured performances of singles from previous albums such as "Sun Goddess" with jazz legend Ramsey Lewis, "Shining Star", and the quiet storm classic "Reasons". New studio hits such as "Sing A Song" and "Can't Hide Love" were also included.

Earth Wind & Fire released Spirit in 1976; and had hits with singles such as "Getaway" and "Imagine." During the recording of this album, producer and songwriter Charles Stepney died of a heart attack. In 1977, the group released another classic album, All 'N All, featuring songs such as "I'll Write A Song For You", "Serpentine Fire", "Love's Holiday" and the pop hit "Fantasy."

In 1979, the band performed "September" at the Music for UNICEF Concert, broadcast worldwide from the United Nations General Assembly. They donated their royalties from the song to UNICEF. Later that year, they released the critically acclaimed I Am with the mainstream ballad "After The Love Is Gone". After the releases of Faces (1980) plus Raise! (1981), and Powerlight which featured the popular singles "Let's Groove", and "Fall In Love With Me" respectively, the band's success started to wane. White disbanded Earth, Wind & Fire in 1983 after Electric Universe was released to poor sales and reviews.

Later years

In 1983, Earth, Wind & Fire contributed the song "Dance, Dance, Dance" to the soundtrack of the animated film Rock & Rule.

A 1987 Earth, Wind & Fire reunion with the album Touch the World was a mild success, but the band was never able to return to the kind of success they had achieved in the 1970s. The band continued to periodically release new albums, including 1990's Heritage and 1993's Millennium.

Beginning in the 1990s, many radio formats began stressing the classic sounds of the 1970s, and Earth, Wind & Fire's dynamic arrangements and soaring vocals became a familiar sound again on American airwaves. An example that really illustrated this effect was the song "Fantasy", which became more popular in the 1990s and 2000s than it had been originally, when it was only a minor hit.

In 1993, saxophonist Don Myrick was fatally shot by the Los Angeles Police Department in a case of mistaken identity. Five years later, Maurice White announced that he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

"Let's Groove" is a song that one can dance to on the popular "Dance Dance Revolution" ("Extreme" or "8th Mix" version) arcade game.

Maurice White released two new Earth, Wind & Fire albums on his own label, Kalimba Records, in 2002: Live In Rio, a live album from a 1980 tour, and The Promise, the band's first all-new studio album in six years. The Promise received good reviews upon its release, and was first issued in the United States and Japan; it was issued in Europe in early 2004.

Earth Wind & Fire were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.

In 2005 trombonist Louis Satterfield died.

In 2004-2005 Earth, Wind & Fire toured jointly with the band Chicago; a DVD recorded during that tour, Chicago/Earth, Wind & Fire - Live at the Greek Theatre, was certified platinum just two months after its 2005 release.

In the summer of 2004, Earth, Wind & Fire signed an exclusive record deal with Sanctuary Urban Records Group, owned by Matthew Knowles, father and manager of pop star Beyoncé. The album Illumination, the band's 23rd, was released September 20, 2005. The album's first single is "Show Me the Way", featuring Raphael Saadiq.

For the 2005 Holiday Season as part of Target Corporation's advertising, they wrote a song titled after Target's slogan, "Gather Round".

Gwendolyn Brooks

The African American poet Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born June 7, 1917, to Keziah and David Brooks in Topeka, Kansas. Later that year the Brooks family moved to Chicago, where her two siblings were born. Brooks' mother discovered Gwendolyn's gift for writing when she was seven. She promptly encouraged this talent by exposing the girl to various forms of literature. Her parents, however were very strict and she was not allowed to play with the kids in the neighborhood. As a child she lacked the sass and brass of the other girls in her class and became very isolated. As a result, she made few friends while in school. When Brooks was at home in her room she often created a world of her own by reading and writing stories and poetry. Due to her lack of social skills she became very shy and continued to be shy throughout her adult life. After graduating from high school she went on to Wilson Junior College and graduated in 1936. Her early verses appeared in the Chicago Defender, a newspaper written primarily for the black community of Chicago. In 1939 she was married to Henry Blakely and they had two children, Henry junior and Nora Blakely. In 1945 Gwendolyn Brooks' first book entitled A Street In Bronzeville was published. In 1949 Annie Allen (a loosely-connected series of poems related to a black girl's growing up in Chicago) was published and received the Pulitzer Prize for poetry in 1950, becoming the first African American to receive this prestigious award in poetry. In 1953 Brooks' first novel is published Maud Martha. In 1963 she published Selected Poems and secured her first teaching job at Chicago's Columbia College. In 1967 at the Fisk University Writers Conference in Nashville, Brooks met the new black revolution. She came from South Dakota State College, which was all white, where she was received with love. Now she had arrived at an all black college where she was now coldly respected. After this trip Brooks says that she is no longer asleep she is now awake. After 1967 she became aware that other blacks feel that way and are not hesitant about saying it. She appeals to her people for understanding and is more conscious of them in her writing. In 1968 she published her next major collection of poetry, In the Mecca. The effect of her awakening is noticeable in her poetry. Brooks is less concerned with poetic form, and uses mostly free verse. In 1968 she was named poet laureate for the state of Illinois and was also the first African American to receive an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in 1976. Since then, Gwendolyn Brooks has gone on to receive over fifty honorary doctorates from numerous colleges and universities. She has received two Guggenheim Fellowships and has served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress. In 1990 she became professor of English at Chicago State University. Ms. Brooks died at the age of 83 Sunday December 3, 2000.

Gwendolyn Brooks was born in Topeka, Kansas, in 1917 and raised in Chicago. She is the author of more than twenty books of poetry, including Children Coming Home (The David Co., 1991); Blacks (1987); To Disembark (1981); The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986); Riot (1969); In the Mecca (1968); The Bean Eaters (1960); Annie Allen (1949), for which she received the Pulitzer Prize; and A Street in Bronzeville (1945). She also wrote numerous other books including a novel, Maud Martha (1953), and Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972), and edited Jump Bad: A New Chicago Anthology (1971). In 1968 she was named Poet Laureate for the state of Illinois, and from 1985-86 she was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She also received an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, the Frost Medal, a National Endowment for the Arts award, the Shelley Memorial Award, and fellowships from The Academy of American Poets and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lived in Chicago until her death on December 3, 2000.

A Selected Bibliography


A Street in Bronzeville (1945)
Aloneness (1971)
Annie Allen (1949)
Aurora (1972)
Beckonings (1975)
Black Love (1981)
Black Steel: Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (1971)
Blacks (1987)
Bronzeville Boys and Girls (1956)
Children Coming Home (1991)
Family Pictures (1970)
In the Mecca (1968)
Riot (1970)
Selected Poems (1963)
The Bean Eaters (1960)
The Near-Johannesburg Boy and Other Poems (1986)
The Wall (1967)
The World of Gwendolyn Brooks (1971)
To Disembark (1981)
We Real Cool (1966)
Winnie (1988)


A Capsule Course in Black Poetry Writing (1975)
Primer for Blacks (1981)
Report from Part One: An Autobiography (1972)
Very Young Poets (1983)
Young Poet's Primer (1981)


Maud Martha (1953)

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