I am willing to bet money that I own the only blog post in the universe containing all three of these incredibly diverse musicians in one title. What could these three possibly have in common with one another?
Well, last night I had the privilege and great honor of attending an Earth Wind & Fire concert at the Fox theater in Atlanta with some dear friends. Now let me just preface this by saying, up until last night I would not have classified myself as an Earth Wind & Fire fan. I am an angsty white girl who finds solace in bands and musicians like U2, The Ramones, The Clash, Jack White, The Cure, The Smiths, and Aimee Mann. I am not the biggest fan of 70s era music, and in the rock versus disco debate, I am sure, judging by the aforementioned list, you can guess which side I am on. I have many friends who enjoy disco, and I’ll be honest, I have never understood you.
Until last night.
For those of us young whippersnappers who have never been acquainted with the music of EWF, this is probably their most famous song:
They have many other hits; songs like Boogie Wonderland, Shining Star, Got to Get You into My Life, and Let’s Groove (my personal favorite), just to name a few. There are only 3 of the original members left in the group: Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, and Philip Bailey. I distinctly remember Philip Bailey’s solo career from the early 80s; I confess that as an eight-year old, I was a huge fan of “Easy Lover,” a duet with Phil Collins. Due in large part to the influence of my parents!
In short, the concert was AMAZING. The music started. I recognized several of their songs. I grinned from ear to ear the entire time. My cheeks hurt by the time we left. As I looked around the packed Fox Theater, I was amazed by what I saw. These gentlemen were able to draw one of the most incredibly diverse crowds that I have ever seen gathered under one roof. Young children with parents. White folks. Black folks. 80 year old grandparents. Entire families. 30 year olds decked out in sequins and go-go boots. And everyone was so HAPPY. It was some of the most joyful music I had ever heard. For a couple hours everyone forgot about government shutdowns, racial tension, and political differences. And they just had a darn good time. That’s the power of great music, my friends. The fact that these men have been doing this for FORTY-TWO FREAKING YEARS, is nothing short of amazing. Philip Bailey is known for his 4-octave vocal range, and he proved last night that he’s still got the goods at age 62. Whatever they are doing, they are doing it right. They have staying power, the enormous talent to back it up, and a devoted crowd that still loves them to this day. They seemed so genuine. They are doing what they love to do and they are experts at it. It is now my mission to listen to as much EWF as I possibly can. I am a believer. I went to bed feeling so happy.
And then I woke up.
No, last night wasn’t a dream, even though it kind of felt like one. I literally woke up this morning and read the news about an open letter from Sinead O’Connor to Miley Cyrus. Back to reality. Back to the music world of today. Where it’s all style and absolutely no substance. Superficiality is queen. Everything is auto-tuned, and every Disney starlet has a record contract, regardless of whether or not they can actually sing.
This is the music of today. And it makes me so sad.
First of all, I love Sinead. I was a fan of hers back when “Nothing Compares to You” came out. I remember her shaved head and combat boots. She was so different. And yet so genuine. And, of course, she satisfied that angsty white girl itch of mine.
You should read the letter. It’s really beautiful. She comes across as an angry mama bear who is trying to protect someone she sees being taken advantage of by a music industry that is completely out of control. I really can’t do it justice. I love that woman. In an age of relativism, and everyone being too afraid to have an opinion about anything in the name of “tolerance,” political correctness, or open-mindedness, she is going out on a limb. I am sure there will be a backlash. There will be those who criticize Sinead as a washed-up has been; someone who isn’t relevant anymore. And old, outdated relic of a music world of days gone by.
The reality is that she has a few things to tell us. A few things for us to learn. Maybe, just maybe, she’s made some mistakes, probably quite a few. And she’s trying to warn Miley, and others, NOT to go down that path. Maybe Ms. O’Connor is truly brilliant (as a few of us have always suspected), and decided to live her life, privately, out of the limelight, in order to SAVE herself, and protect her family and her own integrity.
I’m listening, Sinead. I always have been.
I am saddened when I see my generation, and younger generations, throwing off the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Like we think we are going to reinvent the wheel. I had the sad thought last night during the show, in the midst of all the fun and the joy, that I just can’t think of ONE musician or band that will still be around in 42 years. Who, that you are listening to right now, has that kind of staying power? I honestly draw a blank. The music industry today is a chew-them-up-and-spit-them-out machine. Get them in as young as possible, make stars out of them, and then sit back and enjoy the celestial show as they explode. Think Britney. Think Bieber. Think Miley.
Does it have to be this way?
As I watched the guys of Earth Wind & Fire last night, I realize that it just doesn’t. It doesn’t have to be this way. Somehow, they have figured it out. Maybe we should be looking and listening to the greats from the past and learning from their wisdom. In all areas. Now I am definitely not saying that younger generations have nothing to offer or improve upon! But somehow we must find a way to make progress without completely throwing out the wisdom of those who have gone before us. Looking at those who are making it work, and following their example. We could learn so much, if we would just be willing to stop and listen. You just might be pleasantly surprised by what you learn.
Last night I learned from listening to a bunch of men in their 60s that I actually really like disco. Go figure.
Wisdom belongs to the aged,
and understanding to the old. –Job 12:12 (NLT)