Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind, & Fire by Philip Bailey (5 out of 5)

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Is the image big enough? Is it? It has to be…to encapsulate how great this book is, and how talented and ego-less this man is. What a refreshing biography. I’ve read a few more musical biographies as of late where the ego may as well have its own damn chapter.. not here…….this one I actually read a few months back, but I’m still catching up from my backlog of book blogs. Life sucks the past couple of months, so I’m behind  here. But I’m making up for it! Anyway, I love everything Earth, Wind, & Fire have recorded, and being an 80’s child, I also enjoyed Philip’s song with Phil Collins, “Easy Lover” from 1984. I love the guy. And yes, I also loved his book.

Philip Bailey grew up in Colorado, eventually making the move to music and California, where he meets Mr. Maurice White and the roots of Earth, Wind, & Fire are planted. All of the musicians who have been through the in and out door of the band get their due and their reasons for leaving documented in a fair manner. I certainly can’t say that for many biographies I’ve read in my life. Every person who possibly could have been credited for some part in EW&F from the sound engineers to the wardrobe people, get their fair share of credit in the success story the band has been. Charles Stepney- writer, producer, fellow musician and engineer, is a large part of the EW&F story, and gets a whole chapter devoted to him. Philip Bailey gets huge accolades in my book for that alone. He seems to have forgotten NO ONE involved in the history of the band! The albums, the songs, and the back and forth of being in an ensemble band are gone into with great detail and unflinching honesty. When they say no stone left unturned, they have to give something of that to this book. I am still amazed having finished it awhile ago and it’s still with me, the sense of gratefulness that he has throughout. There’s no dancing around his often tense relationship with Reese White and the ugliness of the band members being fired by Maurice White. The breakup of the band led him to the “glorious” path of “solo artist”, something that he speaks about in great detail and at times, great frustration, as the struggle to find the right song to catapult him onto the charts on his own seems to be elusive…until “Easy Lover”. That same road is littered with marriage issues, including infidelities that he readily admits to and apologizes for. The road finds him more and more on a spiritual quest, which he speaks about throughout the book, but the reader is never under the impression of this as a traveling sermon book. Questions of faith are mentioned, but never forced upon the reader. I remember being very excited in years past about musical bios of Dave Mustaine and Dee Snider, only to have them dissipate in excitement when the faith went overboard and interfered with the story. Meaning – it was forced upon the reader. Not here! You just get a sense of a spiritual man who’s tested by everyday struggles, in this case his marriage, and temptation, the infidelities. No excuses made for being anything but a human being. Any struggles of the soul eventually come to an end for Bailey when Maurice White’s health takes a turn for the worse and he’s asked to take the leader role in the band. Full circle comes our story. They’re still touring.. in fact, they were just in Chicago on Friday, April 1st (No April Fool’s joke). What didn’t I like? There was nothing I didn’t like about his book. It was a terrific book from a very humble, real person with tremendous talent, unrelenting kindness, and a whole lot of humanity. Very refreshing traits to read about in a life’s work. The book has been out a few years, but no harm in picking it up now. Better late than never!

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~ by generationgbooks on April 6, 2016.

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