Earth, Wind & Fire are one of the revered and commercially successful bands of all time. They are hailed for their singular blend of R&B, pop and disco, and Sunday they will be honored by the Kennedy Center for their contribution to American culture.
Earth, Wind & Fire has been an active band since 1969, so it’s had to contend with lots of personnel changes over the years. Which Earth, Wind & Fire members are still alive today? Which original members have died? Read on for a rundown of the band’s 2019 lineup.
Which Original Members Are Still Alive?
Earth, Wind & Fire’s current lineup boasts several original members. These members include lead singer Philip Bailey, bassist Verdine White, and drummer Ralph Johnson. All three have been mainstays with the group since 1972, and were part of the lineup that was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of the Fame in 2000.
Larry Dunn was the keyboardist for Earth, Wind & Fire, and one of the members who was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Dunn is still alive today, but he stopped touring with the band in 1983. He made a special appearance on the band’s 2013 album Now, Then & Forever.
Fred White was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as the band’s percussionist, but he retired in 1984 and remains inactive today. He is the brother of Verdine White and the half-brother of the band’s founder, Maurice White. Al McKay was the band’s lead guitarist during their heyday, but he too stepped down from his role in 1980. He continues to record and release music.
Andrew Woolfolk and Johnny Graham were the saxophonist and rhythm guitarist of the band, respectively. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during the 2000 ceremony, though they quit the band circa 1984. Both artists are alive today.
Which Original Members Have Died?
Maurice White, the band’s founder and lead singer (along with Bailey), died on February 4, 2016. He was 74. White was considered to be the creative center of Earth, Wind & Fire, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as well as the Vocal Group Hall of Fame. He was also inducted individually into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
While Maurice White is the only original Earth, Wind & Fire member to have died, there are other members who have passed away over the years. Roland Bautista played rhythm guitar on the band’s 1972 album Last Days and Time, but he did not return until the 1981 album Raise! He remained with the band through 1983, and played guitar on their classic single “Let’s Groove.” Bautista died on February 29, 2012 at the age of 60.
Wade Flemons was a member of Maurice White’s original band, the Salty Peppers, and was one of the first to be asked to join Earth, Wind & Fire in 1969. He performed as a songwriter and a vocalist on the band’s first two albums, but he stepped away in 1972. Flemons died of cancer on October 13, 1993. He was 53.
Which Members Are Part of the 2019 Lineup?
In addition to the core trio of Bailey, White and Johnson, the band’s 2019 lineup includes:
- B. David Whitworth – percussion, vocals (1996–present)
- Myron McKinley – keyboards, musical director (2001–present)
- John Paris – drums, vocals (2001–present)
- Philip Doron Bailey – vocals, percussion (2009–present)
- Morris O’Connor – lead guitar, vocals (2008–present)
- Serg Dimitrijevic – rhythm guitar, vocals (2014-present)
Verdine White talked to Cryptic Rock about the band’s longevity, and how he’s thankful for the fans who have supported them for so long. “It’s incredible. You never know how you are going to do; you can’t predict these things, they aren’t predictable,” he said. “We have been extremely blessed and fortunate. I would have to say we are fortunate, lucky, and blessed to be doing this.”