Bailey, Philip

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Philip Bailey



Lead falsetto singer in the 1970s funk supergroup Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey is a multiple Grammy Award winner who sang on over 70 Earth, Wind & Fire singles and album tracks. Between 1972 and 1983, when the band went on "hiatus," their tally of 50 gold and platinum disks made them one of the biggest selling groups of all time. Bailey began his solo career in 1982, signing that year with Columbia Records. But he continued to work with Maurice and Verdine White, founding members of Earth, Wind & Fire, and has made records and toured with them since then. In 1984 Bailey became famous as a solo artist when he performed a duet with Phil Collins on the global hit "Easy Lover," a song from Bailey's album Chinese Wall. Since the 1980s Bailey has experimented with many different styles and genres, from gospel and R&B to smooth jazz and upbeat pop. He is one of the most successful recording artists of his generation with a voice that is familiar even to people outside of his regular fan base.

Philip Bailey was born on May 8, 1951, in Denver, Colorado and claims his first memories of music come from exploring the jazz record collection of the mother of a friend. He lists Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey, and especially Miles Davis as his main influences. He told Billboard magazine in 1999 "Because of my register, Miles Davis' trumpet playing has always been a big influence on my singing. I've always been intrigued by the way he can start anywhere and make it right." Bailey's first performances were with Phoenix Horns, playing gigs around his home town. Bailey recalled on his Web site that playing those countless gigs "was really such a valuable workshop. When I think back on it now, and I look at the musicians of today, I realize that we had a place to hone our skills, playing all those gigs in all those clubs." After several years of singing and playing drums in clubs while attending college, in 1971 Bailey's four octave range, distinctive falsetto, and natural adaptability found him a place as a core member of the group Earth, Wind & Fire.

Under the leadership of Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire became a group that crossed cultural and musical boundaries and became known for their fusion of different musical styles. The band's members changed frequently over the next decade, but Bailey and the White brothers remained at its core. Bailey's voice was the key to the band's distinctive sound, which has been described as "harmony and horns." In 1974 their album Open Your Eyes hit number 15 in the American album charts and in 1975 they starred in the film That's the Way of the World. "Shining Star," the single from the soundtrack album, was their first number one hit. That song also won a Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group. Although known primarily as an R&B outfit, most of their singles also topped the pop charts.

By the late 1970s Earth, Wind & Fire had become famous not only for their music but for their stage shows, which included fireworks and dramatic illusions and disappearing acts created by Doug Henning. They performed in large stadium venues, bringing disco to audiences of the size usually enjoyed by rock performers such as Bruce Springsteen. The influence of Earth, Wind & Fire on pop music in the 1970s and 1980s can hardly be overestimated. Drawing on Latin, African, and jazz rhythms and sounds, the group's versatility and creativity brought them to a wide and loyal audience. By 2005, when their 23rd album Illumination was released, Earth, Wind & Fire had won eight Grammy Awards and four American Music Awards to go with their 38 gold and platinum disks, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Illumination itself was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2006. The band has sold over 19 million albums in a career spanning more than 35 years.

In 1983 Maurice White decided to suspend his work with Earth, Wind & Fire while he concentrated on producing and composing for others. Bailey, who had already released his first solo album, Continuation, in 1982, began a solo career that has included R&B, gospel, and jazz. Chinese Wall (1984) was co-produced by Bailey with fellow-drummer Phil Collins. It included the single "Easy Lover," a duet with Collins which became one of the year's biggest hits, Bailey's first gold solo release, and one of Collins's best known recordings. The Grammy-winning Triumph (1986) and Philip Bailey (1994) established Bailey as an important Gospel artist. After 1998's Life and Love, Bailey changed direction again, working with jazz greats Pat Metheny, Grover Washington Jr., and others on the album Dreams. In 2002 he released another jazz album, Soul on Jazz.

Although Bailey has pursued a successful solo career since the early 1980s, he has also toured and recorded albums with Earth, Wind & Fire. In the case of the album Philip Bailey, Earth, Wind & Fire concerts in Japan coincided with promoting his solo work. Since the early 1970s Bailey has been one of the most influential black pop musicians, his voice giving Earth, Wind & Fire the distinctive sound that is credited with changing black music in that decade. The band's upbeat brand of pop has survived perhaps because of its emphasis on positive thinking, but also because of willingness of its members to develop. Bailey told Jet in 2006, "You just hope to do music that people will embrace…music that will be cutting edge and will be recognized." In 2003 Bailey was one of four members of Earth, Wind & Fire to leave his hand-print on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

At a Glance …

Born Philip Bailey on May 8, 1951 in Denver, Colorado; married to Krystal Bailey. Religion: Christian.

Career: Phoenix Horns, vocalist; Earth Wind & Fire, vocalist, 1971-; solo recording artist, 1983-, including R&B, gospel, and jazz albums.

Awards: Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance By a Duo, Group or Chorus (with Earth, Wind & Fire), 1975, 1978, 1979, 1982; Grammy for Best R&B Instrumental Performance (with Earth, Wind & Fire), 1978, 1979; Grammy Award for Gospel Male, 1986; inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Earth, Wind & Fire, March 2000; Hollywood Walk of Fame, 2003.

Addresses: Agent—Damien Smith, Azoff Music Management, 1100 Glendon Ave., Ste. 2000, Los Angeles, CA 90024. Web—

Selected discography

Albums (with Earth, Wind & Fire)

Last Days and Time, 1972.

Head to the Sky, 1973.

Open Our Eyes, 1974.

That's the Way of the World, 1975.

Spirit, 1976.

All 'N All, 1977.

I Am, 1979.

Faces, 1980.

Raise!, 1981.

Powerlight, 1981.

Electric Universe, 1983.

Touch the World, 1987.

Heritage, 1990.

Millennium, 1994.

In the Name of Love, 1997.

The Promise, 2003.

Illumination, 2005.

Albums (solo)

Continuation, 1983.

Chinese Wall, 1984.

The Wonders of His Love, 1985.

Triumph, 1986.

Inside Out, 1986.

Family Affair, 1989.

Philip Bailey, 1994.

Dreams, 1999.

Life and Love, 2002.

Soul on Jazz, 2002.



Billboard, March 12, 1994, p21; June 26, 1999, p40.

Jet, July 28, 2003, p. 55; March 13, 2006, p. 54.


Earth, Wind & Fire, (August 11, 2007).

"Philip Bailey," allmusic, (July 19, 2007).

"Philip Bailey," Biography Resource Center, (July 18, 2007).

Philip Bailey, (July 18, 2007).