Born on May 8, 1951, in Denver, Colorado, singer Philip Bailey became a star as a member of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. His falsetto has been heard on that group's songs and on other gospel and pop projects, including the hit song "Easy Lover." A seven-time Grammy Award winner, Bailey has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Joining Earth, Wind & Fire
Philip Irvin Bailey was born on May 8, 1951, in Denver, Colorado. As a young singer, he worked with an R&B band called Friends & Love. After hearing Bailey perform in Denver, Maurice White invited him to join Earth, Wind & Fire in 1972.
Earth, Wind & Fire Success
In Earth, Wind & Fire, Bailey and White—along with other bandmates like Larry Dunn, Verdine White and Al McKay—combined musical styles such as jazz, funk and pop. These eclectic mixes yielded ballads, rock songs and other tunes. Their songs often showcased the pairing of Bailey's falsetto—his vocal range spanned four octaves—with White's tenor.
With its new music, the band began to reach new audiences with their 1973 album Head to the Sky. Open Our Eyes (1974) was even more successful. Throughout the 1970s and early '80s, more gold and platinum albums followed.
Singer Bailey was a frontman during the group's spectacular concerts (some of which featured magical effects coordinated by Doug Henning and David Copperfield). He also had a hand in the songwriting process itself: he was a co-creator of popular songs like "Reasons," "Shining Star" and "I'll Write a Song for You." As a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, Bailey won six Grammy Awards between 1976 and 1983.
In 1983, Earth, Wind & Fire decided to take a break. During his time away from the band, Bailey—who had started to work on solo projects prior to the group's hiatus—collaborated with Phil Collins on Chinese Wall (1984). A duet from that album, "Easy Lover," was a huge hit, reaching No. 2 on the pop charts. Bailey also worked on Christian music, and received his seventh Grammy for 1986's Triumph, a gospel album.
Earth, Wind & Fire: Reunited
In 1987, Earth, Wind & Fire reunited and released Touch the World. That album was well-received, but sales of their later albums did not reach the group's previous heights. In the 1990s, White decided to stop performing (due to his being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease). Bailey subsequently took the lead in the group, and Earth, Wind & Fire started to become a popular draw on tour once more.
Today, though he still has outside projects—including the music film Love Is Real—Bailey remains an integral part of Earth, Wind & Fire. Along with Dunn, Verdine White and McKay, Bailey is joined onstage by his son, vocalist Philip D. Bailey, who also works as a songwriter and producer for the group.
In 1995, Earth, Wind & Fire received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Along with the rest of the group, Bailey was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Ten years later, he became a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
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