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Offbeat: Earth, Wind & Fire Comes Home to “Celebrate” Life of Founder

Afrobeat, Blues, Calypso, Chicago Artists, Classical, Experimental, Funk, In Memoriam, Interviews, Jazz, News and Dish, Pop, R&B, Rock, Singer-Songwriter, Soul, Space Pop, Vocal Music, World Music No Comments »
Verdine White (left) and Maurice White in 2005.

Verdine White (left) and Maurice White in 2005

By Dennis Polkow

When Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White died in his sleep on February 3 at the age of seventy-four after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease, the accolades for the former Chicagoan were universal.

“We had talked the day before and I had seen him a few days before,” says Maurice’s brother, Chicago native and EWF bassist Verdine White, “so this was a huge surprise.” Verdine describes Maurice’s passing as a “transition” and says that he still “guides me, as he always has.” Although Maurice gave up performing with Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994, he remained a mentor to the band until his death.

It was Maurice who came up with the idea of a multi-genre band that would be an amalgam of styles at a time when, as Verdine puts it, “there was a revolution going on in music.” Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: The Mighty Sparrow/Old Town School of Folk Music

Calypso, World Music No Comments »

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Taking the stage name The Mighty Sparrow doesn’t seem necessary if you already go by Slinger Francisco. Due to the Grenada-born singer’s penchant for constant movement, dancing and shaking while performing, his peers offered the nickname as a distillation of the man’s stage presence. That was over fifty years ago, but the Sparrow hasn’t slowed his dissemination of calypso music during that time.

Hitting as many continents on each of his tours as possible, the New York-based crooner has been able to adapt his music over time, taking cues from island stars as much as American jazz singers. What’s remarkable about the Sparrow’s recorded output is that mid-fifties’ recordings sport references to salacious women as much as political awareness and taxation. Releasing “Jean and Dinah,” a song touching on the oldest profession on earth, the Sparrow predated Max Romeo’s “Wet Dream,” a song censored by other island nations, by more than a decade. Read the rest of this entry »