*Sing a song! Philip James Bailey, the legendary singer, songwriter and percussionist who gained fame as the falsetto component of Earth Wind and Fire, celebrates his 69th birthday today. In honor of the occasion, we’re taking a look at some of his most popular contributions to the American music tapestry – as both a member of The Elements and as a solo artist.
Back in 1972, Bailey was in college when EWF founder and lead singer Maurice White – noting Bailey’s four octave range and insane falsetto – invited him to join the band. He and White shared lead vocals, but Bailey took the reins himself on songs like “Devotion,” “Reasons” and “Fantasy.”
Devotion – Earth Wind & Fire (April 18, 1975)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Reasons (Official Music Video)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Fantasy (Official Music Video)
He shared lead vocals with Maurice White on a bazillion hits, including “Shining Star”, “Getaway”, “September”, “Sing A Song” and “Serpentine Fire.”
Earth, Wind & Fire – Shining Star (Live)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Getaway (Live)
Earth, Wind & Fire – September (Live)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Sing a Song (Live Video)
Earth, Wind & Fire – Serpentine Fire
In April 1979, Bailey shared a lead with White and the trio The Emotions for the Grammy-nominated classic “Boogie Wonderland.”
Earth, Wind & Fire – Boogie Wonderland (Official Music Video)
In 1983, Bailey went solo with his debut album “Continuation” on Columbia Records. The album reached No. 19 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and spawed his first solo single, a track titled “I Know” that rose to No. 10 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
Bailey released his second solo album, “Chinese Wall” in 1984. It reached No. 22 on the Billboard 200 chart and featured the smash crossover hit “Easy Lover” with former Genesis drummer/lead singer-turned-solo artist Phil Collins. It reached No. 1 in the UK, Canada, the Netherlands and Ireland. It peaked at No. 2 in the U.S. Ironically, the song keeping “Easy Lover” from the top spot was from another rock act that tapped the soulfulness of black talent – Foreigner’s “I Wanna Know What Love Is,” featuring the New Jersey Mass Choir on backing vocals and Jennifer Holliday riffing during the song’s rousing end.
Bailey’s third studio album, titled “Inside Out,” was released in 1986 and reached No. 30 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. A single from the album titled “State Of The Heart” reached No. 20.
Philip Bailey – State of the Heart – MTV Video
During 1994, Bailey left Columbia and released his self titled fourth studio album on Zoo Entertainment. Artists including Brian McKnight, Chuckii Booker and PM Dawn were featured on the effort, and the track “Here With Me” rose to No. 33 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart.
Philip Bailey – Here With Me (Album Version) (1994)
Bailey dipped into both the jazz and gospel realms with subsequent albums. “Dreams” in 1999 featured such jazz icons as Gerald Albright, Grover Washington, Jr. and Pat Metheny. It reached No. 43 on the Billboard Jazz Albums chart and was followed in 2002 by “Soul on Jazz.”
We end our “Throwback” with Bailey performing the cut “Keep Your Head to the Sky” from “Soul on Jazz” last year at the University of Southern California…a message we can all use at this current time.
Keep Your Head to the Sky | Philip Bailey at USC | 2019