R & B Group 'Earth, Wind & Fire' To Receive Kennedy Center Honors

R&B group 'Earth, Wind & Fire' is the first group in its genre to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, Billboard reported.

The group, along with actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt, conductor Michael Tilson Thomas and children’s television show Sesame Street will receive the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors for lifetime artistic achievements, according to a press release. The R&B group, known for their classic disco hits like the songs “September” and “Boogie Wonderland,” will be given their award on Saturday, December 7, at a State Department dinner. The award will be accepted by band members Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson. On Sunday, December 8, the award winners will be honored by performers and artists at the Kennedy Center Opera House stage. “The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in a statement. “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape.”

Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said this year's honorees are “a uniquely American story” because they represent “so many cultural touchstones and musical moments that make our nation great.”

“When I look at this distinctive group, I see the hopes, aspirations, and achievements not just of these artists, but of the many generations they have influenced and continue to influence,” said Rutter. “We’re not just looking back; these Honorees are urging us to look forward as well.”

The Kennedy Center Honors website calls Earth, Wind & Fire a “music institution.” The band, which was started by Maurice White in Illinois in 1969 has won six Grammy Awards and has had 17 Grammy award nominations. In 1975, the group had their first number one hit with “Shining Star” from their album That’s The Way of The World. Following their success, they released a live album that same year titled, Gratitude, which also reach number one. The song “Sing A Song” from the live album reached number five on the music charts. The classic hit helped the R&B group win its first career Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus. It wasn’t until 2004 when they performed at the Grammy Awards ceremony for the first time, playing “Shining Star” in 2004 for a funk music tribute segment. The band received a Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

The group has been awarded many Lifetime Achievement honors from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, BET, and they earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The group has also influenced many musical artists such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, and Justin Timberlake. The Kennedy Center Honors website stated, “The music of EWF is more alive than ever as it continues to inspire new audiences and thrill those who have been with the group from the beginning. Like the elements in its name, Earth, Wind & Fire’s music has withstood ever-changing trends in the world and shows no sign of vanishing as they continue to create uplifting music that will forever reach a sacred universal atmosphere.”

Maurice died in 2016 and his brother, Verdine, told the Associated Press how proud he is of the group’s accomplishments. “We’re part of the culture. We’re part of people’s lives,” he told the AP. “The music makes people happy. When you come to a show you leave happier than when you came.”

The Kennedy Centers Honors Gala will be recorded for broadcast on the CBS Network for a two-hour primetime special on Sunday, December 15 at 8 p.m. ET. Last year, the center honored singer Cher, American composer Philip Glass, actress and singer Reba McEntire, American saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and Hamilton collaborators Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Alex Lacamoire.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.