The 25 Greatest Earth, Wind & Fire Songs

With Maurice White’s passing on February 4, 2016, the music world has lost yet another great legend in 2016.

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Maurice White (1941 – 2016)

Maurice White was the innovative founder and leader of the venerable R&B/pop/funk/jazz band Earth, Wind & Fire.  While he may be gone from the physical life, he likely would have been the first to tell us that his spirit continues.

It is with that spirit in mind that I’ve created this list of the 25 Greatest Earth, Wind & Fire songs.

Now, to create this list, I took into account three factors: 1) the songs’ performance and endurance over the years, which I based on their original chart performances when they were released, as well as their performance on digital download and streaming sites today; 2) friends’ opinions, as determined by an informal survey I posted on Facebook this weekend; and last but not least, my opinion.

So without delay, let’s do this EWF countdown in true DJRob style, starting from #25 and marching right to #1.

Feel free to give comments either here or on my Facebook page.  Oh, and you can hear all these songs by clicking this special DJRob playlist on Spotify.

Here we go…

25. “On Your Face” (1976)

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Original Album: Spirit

Credentials:  This third single from their 1976 album (after “Getaway” and “Saturday Nite”) didn’t fare as well as the first two.  But if you were playing the album, you always knew this funk gem was going to quickly follow “Getaway,” and you were amped nonetheless.

24. “Devotion” (1974)

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Original Album: Open Our Eyes

Credentials:  This early-career celebration of the band’s main messages, love and music, was their second single to reach the pop Top 40, after “Mighty Mighty.”  It helped propel the parent album to platinum status.

23. “Evil” (1973)

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Original Album: Head to the Sky

Credentials:  This song channeled early Santana and was the band’s first national hit.  It reached the top 30 on the R&B chart and top 60 pop.

22. “In The Stone” (1979)

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Original Album: I Am

Credentials:  This upbeat tune was the third from EWF’s 1979 album, but didn’t match the success of the first two, “Boogie Wonderland” and “After The Love Has Gone,” both of which went gold and reached the top ten.

21. “Spirit” (1976)

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Original Album: Spirit

Credentials:  The title track to their 1976 LP was so named in memory of the album’s co-producer, Charles Stepney, who died during its making.  One of Philip Bailey’s best solo performances.

20. “Sun Goddess” w/ Ramsey Lewis (1974)

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Original Album: Sun Goddess (Ramsey Lewis)

Credentials: This track helped propel its parent album to #1 on both the soul and jazz charts in Billboard.  The band also included a live version on their 1975 album, Gratitude.

19. “Happy Feeling” (1975)

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Original Album: That’s the Way of the World

Credentials:  This jubilant album cut is easily one of the most upbeat and uptempo songs the band recorded.  It heavily featured White’s kalimba thumb piano during instrumental breaks.  Check out this 1975 video of the Soul Train dancers getting down to it.

18. “Mighty Mighty” (1974)

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Original Album: Open Our Eyes

Credentials:  “We are people of the mighty…mighty people of the sun.  In our hearts lie all the answers to the truth you can’t run from.”  Doesn’t get much better than that.  This became the band’s breakthrough hit, reaching the top ten of the R&B chart and top 30 pop.

17. “All About Love” (1975)

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Original Album: That’s the Way of the World

Credentials:  “I’m talking about beauty.”  You could certainly make a case for this epic ballad being much higher.  It showcased Maurice White’s vocals at their finest.  His vamp at the song’s triumphant finish would preview future White masterpieces, including “Be Ever Wonderful” and “Love’s Holiday.”

16. “Keep Your Head to the Sky” (1973)

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Original Album: Head to the Sky

Credentials:  Philip Bailey’s coming-out party.  The world began learning about his falsetto in a hurry as this song scaled the charts in 1973.

15. “Getaway” (1976)

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Original Album: Spirit

Credentials:  This rapid-firing jam previewed the Spirit album, which was poised to be their third #1 LP, except a little album called Songs in the Key of Life got in the way, holding Spirit to a #2 peak.  Regardless, “Getaway” became their third #1 R&B hit in less than two years, and sold a million singles in the process.

14. “Be Ever Wonderful” (1977)

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Original Album: All ‘N All

Credentials:  This Maurice White classic ballad is just the first of five (!) All ‘N All tracks on this list, which should tell you what I consider to be EWF’s best album!

13. “Serpentine Fire” (1977)

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Original Album: All ‘N All

Credentials:  Believe it or not, this is EWF’s second-biggest R&B hit, behind “Let’s Groove.”  But then, why wouldn’t you believe it?  This is one of their absolute best jams, in my opinion.

12. “I’ll Write a Song for You” (1977)

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Original Album: All ‘N All

Credentials:  This incredible Philip Bailey ballad is arguably his best.  It was never issued as an A-side single, but instead served as the B-side to the band’s remake of “Got To Get You Into My Life,” nearly a year after the classic All ‘N All track ran its course.

11. “Can’t Hide Love” (1976)

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Original Album: Gratitude

Credentials:  This was one of four new studio songs recorded in 1975 for EWF’s mostly live double album, and it became their sixth top-40 pop hit in May 1976.

10. “Love’s Holiday” (1977)

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Original Album: All ‘N All

Credentials:  EWF must have known they were sitting on gold when they withheld songs like “I’ll Write a Song for You,” “Love’s Holiday” and “Be Ever Wonderful” from single releases.  All three 1977 ballads ended up serving as the B-sides for the band’s 1978 hits.  “Holiday” backed the million-seller, “September.”

9. “Sing A Song” (1975)

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Original Album: Gratitude

Credentials:  This million-seller became the group’s second #1 R&B single and crossed over to top-five pop in early 1976.  It was the band’s first single to benefit from the full-time services of the Phenix Horns, which had been signed on after the monster success of the Thats the Way of the World album in ’75.

8. “Let’s Groove” (1981)

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Original Album: Raise!

Credentials:  This was the band’s last million-selling single and their last pop top-ten hit.  It served as a brief comeback for the group, who hadn’t hit the pop top 40 in two years when it was released.  It went on to become their biggest R&B chart single, spending eight weeks at #1.

7. “After the Love Has Gone” (1979)

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Original Album: I Am

Credentials:  Admittedly, this David Foster-penned track is one of my least favorites by EWF, but it received votes and it’s their second-biggest pop hit, plus it’s one of the big sellers in the wake of Maurice White’s passing, so it gets a high placement on this list.

6. “Boogie Wonderland” (w/ the Emotions; 1979)

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Original Album: I Am

Credentials:  Conversely, the other big hit from I Am is my biggest EWF guilty pleasure.  If it were up to me, this would be much higher!  Wait…it is up to me!  And since others apparently don’t feel as good about this tune as I do, I’ll compromise by tempting you to watch this video of it.

5. “Shining Star” (1975)

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Original Album: That’s the Way of the World

Credentials: This is EWF’s biggest pop hit.  It reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1975 and – like many of their other ’70s singles – it sold a million copies.

4. “Fantasy” (1977)

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Original Album: All ‘N All

Credentials:  Okay, I take back what I said about the other songs being Philip Bailey’s best performance.  This is his best performance!  I’ve been trying to hit that high note at the end for 38 years!

3. “That’s the Way of the World” (1975)

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Original Album: That’s the Way of the World

Credentials:  This was the title track to the group’s first #1 album, which was supposed to be the soundtrack to a motion picture that the band didn’t want anything to do with once they saw the preview.  The movie flopped and this beautiful song and album prevailed.

2. “Reasons” (1975)

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Philip Bailey and his signature song, “Reasons.”

Original Album: That’s the Way of the World

Credentials:  This is another one of those classic ballads that never got the proper treatment as a single.  Instead, it languished as an album cut but garnered plenty of airplay, which helped its parent album reach #1 and sell three million copies.  Some will also consider this to be Philip Bailey’s best performance.  I don’t…unless you’re talking about the live version on the Gratitude album, then maybe we can debate it.

1. “September” (1978)

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EWF’s “September” was the first single released on Maurice White’s new ARC label in November 1978.

Original Album: Greatest Hits

Credentials:  “Ba-de-ya, say that you remember. Ba-de-ya, dancing in September.  Ba-de-ya, never was a cloudy day.”  This million-selling #1 R&B single was only available on the band’s greatest hits album back in the day, but its placement on that album as a new track foretold its fate.  It became one of their biggest hits, and based on the data I used for this listing is their greatest song ever!  Check out this spirited performance of it below.

Honorable mentions:

“Can’t Let Go,” “Open Our Eyes,” “Imagination,” “Sunshine,” “Earth, Wind & Fire,” “Let Me Talk,” “Thinking of You,” “Beijo (Interlude),” “Power,” “Side By Side,” “Turn It Into Something Good,” “Kalimba Story,” “System of Survival,” “Heritage” and “Yearning Learning.”

To hear all these songs and more, click here for a special DJRob tribute playlist on Spotify.

To see my tribute to Maurice White, click here.

And to see where Earth, Wind & Fire rank on my 100 Greatest Black Musicians list, click here.

As always, thanks for all the love and support of djrobblog.

DJRob

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