Earth, Wind and Fire's Verdine White looks back to band's beginnings


LENOX — Bassist Verdine White began his musical career in 1969, during what might be considered the early years of rock and roll. As a result, he said, his distinctive, manic style of playing is self-taught.

"I didn't model myself after too many guys because, to be honest, there weren't a lot of guys out there," he said with a chuckle. "If you were playing in those days, you pretty much had your own style."

White, 64, is the original bassist for Earth, Wind and Fire and the only original member remaining in the group, which will be performing at Tanglewood on Saturday.

When the band began in 1970, Verdine White was with them. His big brother, the late Maurice White, was the person who recruited him into the band.

Maurice White was already a seasoned professional, who had made and produced a number of records.

"Maurice was cool," Verdine said. "He was the coolest big brother anyone could ever have. I was in Chicago and in 1970, he said to me, 'Come on out to L.A. We're starting up a band.' I went out there in a heartbeat."

The band was Earth, Wind and Fire, a group that fused pop, rock, jazz, funk and salsa music into a superb gumbo of sound. The band has won seven Grammys, been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and sold a total of more than 100 million albums.

"Yeah, we started out as a band," said White with a laugh. "But now, we're a franchise. But that's a good thing."

White, who has written several EWF hits like "September" and "Serpentine Fire" is himself also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Verdine credits his brother with the entire idea of the Earth, Wind and Fire style.

"Maurice was the creator, the icon, the everything for the band," he said. "He really did come up with the sound, the concept of Earth, Wind and Fire. Without him, it would not have happened."

Verdine said he still misses his brother, who died last February. Maurice had stopped touring with the band several years before his death.

"I think we have been doing it for so long, his absence didn't affect our sound," said Verdine. "You know, he had done such a good job of teaching us what he wanted, we had it down. What we missed for a while was his energy and leadership."

Verdine said he is excited to play Tanglewood, a venue the band last visited five years ago.

"I was actually brought up playing classical bass," he said. "So I knew all about Tanglewood, and Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The first time around, it was exciting to play at a venue they were at.

"It's a beautiful space, with great acoustics," he continued. "We love coming here. It will be a great show."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


Who: Earth, Wind and Fire

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: Tanglewood, The Shed, West Street (Route 183), Lenox

Tickets: $129-$49; lawn — $27

How: 888-266-1200;; box office (main entrance) — West Street (Route 183), Lenox


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