COURTESY OF TOM MOFFATT PRODUCTIONS
Verdine White, left, Phillip Bailey and Ralph Johnson return to the isles to serenade fans.
Doctor is in
Earth, Wind & Fire bring a history of hits to the isles
You can now call him "Dr. White."
Verdine White, that is, founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire, after receiving an honorary doctorate from the Arts and Media College at Columbia College in Chicago.
EARTH, WIND & FIRE
Place: Blaisdell Arena
Time: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
Tickets: $55 and $65
Call: (877)750-4400, or online at ticketmaster.com; also, Blaisdell Box Office and Ticketmaster outlets including Times Supermarkets
Three other members of the Grammy Award-winning super group were also honored: White's brother, Maurice White, the founder and longtime leader of the group, and Ralph Johnson and Philip Bailey. Their history as EWF go back to 1972, the year Maurice dissolved the original roster, except for Verdine. He then began assembling the line-up that went gold with its second album for Columbia in 1973 and then released the first of eight platinum albums, "Open Our Eyes," in 1974.
"They could call me 'Dr. White' if they like, but my friends call me 'Doc,'" White said from Los Angeles on Monday, a day after the ceremony in Chicago.
"It's a great honor," he continued, adding that "Maurice and Philip got honorary doctorates at Berkeley last week (too) ... What's happening with us now, you know, is people are associating our work in a lot of different areas. We've always had songs in the movies ... but now we're getting honored in music schools and places like that. It's really great."
It's indicative of EWF's enduring popularity in Hawaii that even though the group played the 2007 Diamond Head Crater Festival just a year ago, their one-nighter on Tuesday is officially sold out. (Desperate fans, however, may seek out the last bit of open seats left - see box.)
In fact, Hawaii has loved the music of EWF ever since "Mighty Mighty," off the group's "Head To The Sky" album in 1974, hit the charts. Strings of other hits followed, including "That's the Way of the World," "Shining Star," "Reasons," "Happy Feeling," "Sing a Song" and "Can't Hide Love."
Add to those successes the group's "Sun Goddess" collaboration with Ramsey Lewis and we're still talking only about music created through 1975. In addition, Hawaii audiences enjoyed some lesser-known EWF songs enough to make them hits in the isles. How does one select what to play from such a huge catalog of work?
"You have to figure out how many love songs you want to put in the set and at the same time you have to play the songs that are hit songs, too," said White. "An audience comes to hear those so you have to be able to know where you're playing."
White himself has favorites, including "Fantasy," "That's The Way Of The World" and "Shining Star." Other songs that didn't make it to the top of the charts still nonetheless hold appeal for the musician.
"We had a tune called 'Earth Wind & Fire' which I loved to vamp a lot on, and there were songs like 'Faces' and 'Sallaway,' a wonderful, wonderful song. There've been songs maybe aren't as big a hit but just as powerful as songs," he said.
After all the decades of playing in EWF, White continues to impress fans with his stamina on stage. At last year's festival, the musician kept up his dance moves while playing bass for virtually all of the 90-minute show.
"First of all, you have to really love what you're doing, and you have to really enjoy the audience," White said, explaining his boundless energy. "You have to love the music. You have to remember and understand why you're there. I think that has a lot to do with it."
Is there anything left the group hasn't done?
"(Back in 1970) we were just hoping to get a song on the radio. That's where it was. The beginning and the end of that, and hopefully have a group that was a good group that people liked. You don't think (when you're starting) of doing it 30 or 40 years. You can think longevity, but you don't know. You never know."