The year was 1985. Earth, Wind & Fire were a few years removed from a run during which they competed with The Commodores and Parliament/Funkadelic for the title of America’s most beloved R&B band. Following 1983’s Electric Universe, the band splintered, and falsetto vocalist Philip Bailey released his first solo album, Continuation. That album wasn’t a hit, but the following year’s Chinese Wall proved to be a smash, thanks to production and a vocal assist by Phil Collins on several tracks, including the #2 pop behemoth “Easy Lover”. Recognizing the iron was hot, band founder and co-lead vocalist Maurice White went to work on a solo album of his own, and it was released in late fall of 1985.

The first single released from White’s self-titled debut was a techno-funk revamp of the Leiber/Stoller classic “Stand By Me”. Having already been a hit in two decades (Ben E. King’s original was a smash in 1961, while John Lennon’s 1975 version hit the Top Ten), the song was a proven quantity. It had all the pieces necessary to make it a success-a pumping, contemporary beat, a recognizable voice, a clip pulled straight from the Lionel Richie School of Music Video Making, Maurice rocking a tight wife-beater followed by a Ricardo Tubbs-esque white suit. It’s all here.

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Only-something didn’t totally click. The album peaked at #61 on the Billboard charts (although it made #12 R&B), and although “Stand By Me” and it’s follow-up, “I Need You”, were solid R&B hits, neither song peaked any higher than #50 pop. To add insult to injury, the following fall saw Ben E. King’s original version of “Stand by Me” re-chart in the Pop Top 10 following it’s inclusion in the Rob Reiner flick of the same name.

Two years later, Earth, Wind & Fire had reformed with White and Bailey, and they’ve rarely taken a break since. They remain a popular touring draw, and although White suffers from Parkinson’s disease and can’t do shows with his EW&F bandmates, he still writes and records. I wonder if he can still rock the white Ricardo Tubbs suit, though.

About the Author

Mike Heyliger

Mike Heyliger spends most of his time staring longingly at the Michael Jackson circa '83 glossy photo he has right above his desk. On the rare occasion that he's not doing that, he's written for various blogs/sites over the years, including, and He currently serves as the bleditor-in-chief of and the co-host of the Blerd Radio Podcast.

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