The voices of my youth are being silenced.
Maurice White, the founder of the soul band Earth, Wind, and Fire, has died at the age of 74. My dream of hiring the band to play at my 60th birthday had always been financially out of reach (I checked…somewhere in the range of $30K), but without Maurice, the dream is officially over.
We owned three of the 90 million albums the band sold. We blasted them LOUD and we danced: Fantasy, Shining Star, Boogie Wonderland (Did I mention Fantasy?) We turned down the volume and we swayed: After the Love is Gone, That’s The Way-of the World, Reasons.
My father-ruler of acceptable decibels- did not complain about the music of Earth, Wind, and Fire...I think it was the band’s horn section that caught him. That…or my mother’s love for this music.
Maurice’s band won 7 Grammy Awards; I saw him in concert once (1978), and the band four more times after he left due to Parkinson’s disease. They were a participatory band: part work-out (you did not sit at an Earth, Wind and Fire concert) and part seduction (memorable line? “You are all our children…because we like to think so many of you here today were created during our music!”)
Maurice wrote many of the band’s songs and lyrics, but an NPR story Why Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” Sustains explains how the songwriter Allee Willis collaborated on the song “September”:
The, kind of, go-to phrase that Maurice used in every song he wrote was ‘ba-dee-ya,’ ” she says. “So right from the beginning he was singing, ‘Ba-dee-ya, say, do you remember / Ba-dee-ya, dancing in September.’ And I said, ‘We are going to change ‘ba-dee-ya’ to real words, right?’ ”
Wrong. Willis says that at the final vocal session she got desperate and begged White to rewrite the part.
“And finally, when it was so obvious that he was not going to do it, I just said, ‘What the f- – – does ‘ba-dee-ya’ mean?’ And he essentially said, ‘Who the f- – – cares?'” she says. “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him, which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove.”
Enjoy the video…‘ba-dee-ya,’ Maurice!