Earth, Wind & Fire reflect on touring without late founder Maurice White: ‘He’s living in our music’

Earth, Wind & Fire is getting ready to heat things up.

Philip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson are determined to keep the group’s legacy alive and have teamed up with Carlos Santana for the “Miraculous Supernatural 2020 Tour.” 

The concerts, which mark the first time the Grammy-winning artists share the stage in the U.S., kicks off on June 19 in San Diego and will make stops in Los Angeles, Dallas, New York, Chicago, Toronto and more before wrapping Aug. 29 in Tampa.

It’s an exciting time for Earth, Wind & Fire, a horn-driven band that sold more than 90 million albums in its lifetime and created iconic hits, like “September,” “Shining Star” and “Boogie Wonderland.” However, the union is also bittersweet for the tireless musicians.

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American singer-songwriter and musician Maurice White of American multi-genre band Earth, Wind & Fire performing, circa 1978.

American singer-songwriter and musician Maurice White of American multi-genre band Earth, Wind & Fire performing, circa 1978. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

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The group’s founder, Maurice White, passed away in 2016 at age 74. The singer, who suffered from Parkinson’s Disease, had previously retreated from the public even as the band he founded kept performing. Yet it’s White’s legacy that has compelled Earth, Wind & Fire to keep his music alive for both longtime fans and curious younger listeners alike.

“Maurice’s spirit always resonates with every song we sing, with every note we play, with every lyric and every song, every beat — there’s no way that these things happen without his DNA,” Bailey told Fox News. “So, he’s very much still alive and living in our music and his legacy.

“The band has been touring without Maurice for 25 years prior to his passing, but he was very much in support of us taking on the legacy and continuing to push it forward,” he added.

Earth, Wind & Fire’s most successful period began with their 1975 album “That’s the Way of the World.” The band was later inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. And despite decades of music-making, their most popular track continues to be 1978’s “September.”

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“I think it’s easy to sing,” Bailey reflected. “It’s kind of a magical moment that happened when Maurice wrote that song. It happens to be probably the most requested song in our catalog and it guarantees to get everybody up when we play it at shows.”

White insisted Earth, Wind & Fire had no qualms about playing their iconic melodies years later.

“We are the soundtrack of their life as people come to tell us,” he said. “And those songs are, as Philip said, ‘in the DNA.’ It’s a joy and it’s an honor to play those songs.”

Earth, Wind & Fire has gone on to perform everywhere from the Super Bowl to the White House. And while the group enjoys bringing their golden oldies to life on stage, they aren’t worried about competing with today’s artists.

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Singers Stevie Wonder (R) and Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire perform during the inaugural 'Grammy Jam Fest' at the Wiltern Theatre on Dec. 11, 2004, in Los Angeles, California. The event celebrated the music of Earth, Wind and Fire and raised funds for various arts charities.

Singers Stevie Wonder (R) and Maurice White of the band Earth, Wind and Fire perform during the inaugural 'Grammy Jam Fest' at the Wiltern Theatre on Dec. 11, 2004, in Los Angeles, California. The event celebrated the music of Earth, Wind and Fire and raised funds for various arts charities. (Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images)

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“I always like to say that in every generation, a generation looks back and says our music was better than your music,” he explained. “We don’t even like to say that… There’s a lot of great music that’s out now. There was great music when we came about, there was great music before we came about and there’ll be great music after.”

As for the upcoming tour, Bailey said there’s one thing audiences will get from their experience. It happened to be the same thing White always yearned to give listeners.

“A great positive, loving experience,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.