At our best, I think we’re thankful.
That the one emotion we’re capable of that comes anywhere near love.
So when someone dies who’s done something that we’re grateful for, whether we’ve told them we’re grateful or showed them we’re grateful, why we mourn, I think, is because we understand how much worse off we’d be had they never come along.
I saw Earth Wind & Fire live once. This was way back in the 90’s. They were at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan. Maurice White was sick and didn’t perform.
My dumb ass didn’t miss him. As far as I was concerned, as long as Philip Bailey was around to sing “Reasons” – which he was, and did – I could do without Maurice White singing lead on the songs he sang lead on; whichever those were.
What a fucking idiot I was.
And I’m somebody that grew up with Earth Wind & Fire. Somebody who maintained that his two favorite EWF joints were “Can’t Hide Love” – which I always mistakenly thought was entitled “I’ll Betcha” – and “After the Love is Gone“; both of which featured Maurice White as lead vocalist.
And if you’re an EWF fan, you know it’s pointless to even begin to try and name favorites.
Even if you were to just suggest what made certain songs special – like R&B having never been as perfectly expressed as it is on “Fantasy” – or magical – like the way the very first strains of “That’s the Way of the World” make you reflective and somber, even without the lyrics – then you would start a discussion that simply couldn’t be stopped; that would never end.
For the last decade, my Godbrother and I have had this running joke where we’d quote Mr. White from the brilliantly comic segment of “All About Love” where he stops singing for a moment to address listeners in a normal speaking voice, all the while remarking on the benign influences of stuff like “astrology, mysticism, world religion…”.
We’d gravel our voices up like his and laugh at the end.
I cried crocodile tears playing that same song today.
The reason that you never think about things when you’re in the middle of them is because, like Orwell told us in 1984 or like scholar William Jelani Cobb argues with his view on presentism, it’s hard to see around the now.
So I remember being chauffeured by Mom this one particular time, “September” was the current hit, I knew EWF had prior hits and I expected that they would forever.
Still, the best indicator of the importance of EWF to it’s era may be the scene in Caddyshack where the late, great Rodney Dangerfield as Al Czervik, fed up with the bland music being played at a golf club banquet, tosses a wad of cash in the air, ordering the band to “take some more lessons.”
Bills flying, the band immediately launches into “Boogie Wonderland.”
The right amount of money can turn the most basic white bread act into the world’s hottest group.
But back to the point: if I’d met Maurice White in the flesh, I would have thanked him for making music that provided shelter from my many psychological storms.
Now I’ll never have that chance.
There are, of course, plenty others who I do have a chance to thank.
And some of them ain’t even musicians.
So I guess I better get to it.