Craig Allen’s Fun Facts: “Shining Star” by Earth, Wind & Fire
"Shining Star" is the song that put "Earth, Wind & Fire" on the music map...on the hit charts...and it's one of "Jersey's Favorite Hits."
"Fun Facts" are coming...first, a little perspective!
Founder Maurice White was a session drummer for the Chess Records label, and a member of the Ramsey Lewis Trio ("The In-Crowd").
He, and two friends who wrote music commercials in the Chicago area, formed the band "Salty Peppers," which would form the beginnings of a Los Angeles-based "Earth, Wind & Fire."
The band's (new) name being inspired by White's interest in astrology, and his sign Sagittarius (with the elements Fire, Earth and Air).
Demo tapes were shopped around L.A., and the band landed a record deal with Warner Brothers in 1970.
Members would come and go over the next few years. Singles and albums would be released, with limited success. The band would team up with Ramsey Lewis for a project...and tour with the likes of John Sebastian (the founder of the Lovin' Spoonful).
At this point, Columbia Records' Clive Davis stepped in, signing the band for his label.
It's now 1975, and "disco" is a major component of pop music...and while many of the disco hits were meant just to be fun (and essentially meaningless), Maurice White always took all of his band's music seriously.
"There are certain disciplines we apply to our life in respect of diet and living, the way we live." White continues in a 1975 interview: "By adopting a totally positive approach to our life, we can reflect this in our music--we won't allow it to reflect any negative vibes or thoughts."
"Shining Star" shot to #1 in 1975, on not only the Hot 100 chart, but the R&B chart as well! That's positive!
HOW "Shining Star" came about is quite a story...and that's where the "fun" comes in!
Earth, Wind & Fire was approached to be a part of a movie...not only to play the part of the band in the movie, but to provide the soundtrack!
"That's The Way of The World" starred a young Harvey Keitel as a record producer, and Earth, Wind & Fire was the band that he worked with...known as "The Group."
The band recorded the "soundtrack" at a studio in Nederland, Colorado, just outside of Boulder.
White says that he came up with the idea for "Shining Star" after taking a walk...and seeing a shining star in the night sky. He took the phrase, and turned it into the positive message of the song!
As I stated, the song did well...the movie did not.
The movie DID showcase the band, their energy and sound, in a positive light.
But, while screening the completed movie, the band became convinced that it would be a failure...
In fact, it turned out to be a "colossal flop."
Accordingly...Maurice White would not let the movie put a drag on the band's music...he would not let the "That's The Way Of The World" album be referred to as a soundtrack.
Further, the album was released before the movie!
"That's The Way Of The World" would spend 3 weeks as the #1 Billboard Pop album...and 5 non-consecutive weeks atop the "Soul Albums" chart!
The success of "Shining Star" and "That's The Way Of The World" (the album) would make Earth, Wind & Fire the first black band to top the singles and album charts!
Further, the album was RIAA triple platinum certified (3 million copies sold)...the biggest album for Columbia Records in 1975!
"Shining Star" won the Grammy for "Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals."
The money made by Earth, Wind & Fire's "crowning achievement" would allow the band to add a full horn section. Dubbed "The Phenix Horns," this would further help define their overall sound...and help Earth, Wind & Fire go to the next level.
"Shining Star" was merely the start for the band...and its many achievements in the years to come.
As explained by the founder, Maurice White, as it all began in 1975: "All our music is up," and, "it is truly gratifying to know that we are finally getting to people, they are accepting us."
Sadly, Maurice White would pass away in 2016, after suffering from Parkinson's disease.
Earth, Wind & Fire SHINES on...
One more "Fun Fact"?
The band's first big hit is...unforgettable...securely fixed in "pop culture"..
...thanks to "Seinfeld"...
And, it plays here, on weekends...on New Jersey 101.5!