Saturday, January 1, 2011

Earth, Wind & Fire's Shining Star: Funk that Inspires

Clocking in at just 2:50, Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" is pure sonic perfection. The monster track is one of the band's most recognized songs and is a timeless classic. Written by EWF members Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Larry Dunn, the track illustrates how the band could flawlessly meld genres. The record is a superb fusion of heavy-duty funk, radio-friendly pop and a pinch of hard rock thrown in for good measure.

"Shining Star" was the lead-off single from the band's multi-platinum album That's The Way of The World, and they couldn't have chosen a better song to launch the LP. When the song exploded on the airwaves in early 1975, Earth, Wind & Fire were already an established and successful R&B/funk act with a sizable black following. "Shining Star" was instrumental in helping the band reach an even wider audience. I believe it was the irresistible chorus that clinched the song's crossover appeal. It sounds universal and is catchy as hell; you can imagine people across the globe singing along and grooving to it. It's one incredible hook.

The song also boasts stellar vocal performances from Maurice and Philip. Maurice's fiery tenor nicely complements Philip's soaring falsetto. Their vocal trade-offs give the song that extra punch needed to take it over the top. Verdine White lays down a massive earth-shaking bass line, and guitarist Al McKay delivers a scorching rock-flavored solo. And the horns accentuate the groove with hot salvos of brass funk.

"Shining Star" shot to the top of both the R&B and pop charts and sold more than a million copies. The song earned the band a Grammy at the 1976 Grammy Awards for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.

The song has turned up in numerous movies and TV shows. It's probably most recognized among television viewers for the episode of Seinfeld where the rhythmically challenged Elaine attempted to get her groove on to the song.

The track's inspirational lyrics touch on one of the band's favorite motifs: self-love, dignity and faith in oneself, that every individual, no matter what station in life, is special and has inherent worth. Just hearing the groove can make you feel better about yourself... well for 2:50 anyway.

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