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Earth, Wind & Fire reunite with Lionel Richie in Boston tour stop


Earth, Wind & Fire singer Philip Bailey remembers listening to the finished version of “September” for the first time. A No. 8 hit when it came out in 1978, “September” has grown into an immortal pop juggernaut akin to “Don’t Stop Believin’” “Africa.” The tune – a disco bounce, r&b boogie and pop breeze all at once – has been streamed billions of times. Bailey remembers it as being, well, just OK.

“I thought it was kind of silly,” Bailey told the Boston Herald. “I didn’t dislike it. But it wasn’t like I thought it was all that. Honestly, I was wrong.”

“September” is all that. But it can be tricky at the moment of conception to know what will be a smash and what will flop, even for a band with eight No. 1s, nine Grammys, and more than 100 million albums sold worldwide.

“There are songs that you say, ‘Oh, this is a hit,’ and then it never sees the light of day,” Bailey said with a laugh. “And then there are other songs that you say, ‘This is OK,’ and it shoots to the stars. We were only trying to make music that we enjoyed, music that spoke to people. We never imagined those songs would  become as historic as they’ve become.”

Fans will get the chance to sing along to those songs when EWF’s co-headlining tour with Lionel Richie stops at the TD Garden on Friday.

Recent years have seen EWF pair with some equally iconic acts including Santana last year and Chic in 2017 – Bailey says a tour with Steely Dan would be on his bucket list (his, and millions of other’s). But the 2023 jaunt is extra fun as EWF toured with Richie’s old band the Commodores in the ’70s.

“We knew each other and actually played a couple gigs together,” Bailey said. “I remember one in Kansas City… It was in our heyday. Both bands were big and we sold out the stadium.”

“Who would have thought, 50 plus years ago, that we would still be doing this in any form or fashion?” he added.

Bailey says he was destined to make music, but never imagined he’d do at this level or for this long. The singer (and songwriter) joined the band in early ’70s and saw the group rise for a decade through “Shining Star” and “After the Love” and “Let’s Groove.” While the band took breaks, its music never went away. And its sound can still be heard in contemporary pop (see Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” Bruno Mars’ “Treasure,” and Lizzo’s “About Damn Time”).

“It’s a compliment that you hear different things that are reminiscent of what you did,” Bailey said. “But music is one of those things that, since the beginning of time, we are borrowing from one another. So they are doing what we did (and borrowing). We borrowed from what we were listening to, the jazz greats, the pop greats, r&b, blues, and we just gave it our twist.”

And yet, it’s not every artist whose twists – silly or sublime – get played decade after decade.

For tickets and details, visit earthwindandfire.com

 

 

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