- Melina Paris
By Melina Paris, Music Columnist
Earth Wind & Fire was at the forefront of the evolution of pop music in the 1970s. In a decade of experimentation, the band bridged the musical tastes of a black and white America with multicultural spiritualism. The Spirit of Earth Wind & Fire, transports audiences back in time with songs like September, Shining Star, That’s the Way of the World and Got to Get You Into My Life.
Former band member, Sheldon Reynolds of Earth Wind & Fire, will perform with Kalimba Sept. 21 at San Pedro’s Warner Grand Theatre.
Reynolds was with Earth Wind & Fire from 1987 to 2002. In 1994, the guitarist and singer earned a Grammy nomination for the song Sunday Morning. As a member of the band, Reynolds also received a NAACP Lifetime Achievement Image Award.
Reynolds and Michael Cole, Kalimba’s guitar player, met when Cole came to Reynolds’ studio when he lived in Seattle. They stayed in touch for several years. Eventually, Cole reached out to him to tell him he put a group together, doing an Earth Wind & Fire tribute. He wanted Reynolds to know about it and suggested that maybe they could work together.
“We play together when the band tours in LA and in Seattle,” Reynolds said. “We actually played in Moscow last year, (in August).”
Moscow was surreal for Reynolds.
“Because we had, for most of our lifetime in this generation, either feared or considered (Russia) an enemy — of all enemies,” Reynolds said. “But we were standing right in the middle of Red Square, hanging out with people. So, it was like the complete opposite. It was great.”
They performed a private show, on the river near the Kremlin and were very well received. Reynolds said an influx of people actually got in, on the grounds where they were playing.
“So we could come over there and do shows throughout Russia,” Reynolds said. “That was the plan. It went really well but we had some controversy with our White House (in 2016), so … now everything is on hold.”
Reynolds also is working on a new series called Behind the Groove. The show pays homage to people who get left out of the fame and the credit for their work on great, famous songs.
“Whether they wrote them, whether they performed on songs or were musicians or engineers, there are people who participate on these who never get any just due,” Reynolds said.
Reynolds along with his manager and another producer thought up the concept for the show. There is a show clip on YouTube now. Reynolds said they try to bring out some of the fun stories that happen in the studio, such as accidents.
“When I was in Earth Wind & Fire, they used to call me Toscanini,” Reynolds said. “Because I’m not a real keyboard player. (I’m kind of) a fumble up and do something right kind of guy. I would play keyboard on some songs and get in there and hit something that was crazy but it was cool and they would say, ‘Keep it, keep it. Don’t let it go, Toscanini struck again.’
So, were (doing) stuff like that with Behind the Groove, the positive story and an uplifting approach.”
Reynolds’ best musical experiences and growth as a human being came during his years with Earth Wind & Fire.
“It wasn’t just a group (about) being famous … it was also a group I can feel proud to bring my parents to see,” Reynolds said. “It was the best experience in all forms. We were dedicated to excellence. We were dedicated to uplifting people, dedicated to providing music and intriguing lyrics. (We got) people to pay attention to some of the things they didn’t pay attention to, learn about history, religion and God. (It was) all the things the name suggests, all the elements.”
Reynolds said working under Maurice White (Dec. 19, 1941 to Feb. 4, 2016), the bands founder, was the highlight of his life. The men also shared one thing that he didn’t want but Reynolds always teased his mentor about anyway, that is Parkinson’s Disease.
“We used to joke about it,” he said. “How did two guys in the same band get the same rare disease? I used to tell him it was something they must have put in the fog machines.”
Reynolds wanted to follow in White’s footsteps and keep the legacy going in the best way. But he didn’t want the Parkinson’s part. White had said to him “If you’re gonna take the groove, you’re gonna take the whole groove.”
Reynolds still plays and sings. He said so far, the disease hasn’t affected him. Then he elaborated, it has in a certain way — in the way a musician would think or feel. But he was never a “burning rubber guitarist.” He’s played rhythm guitar and focused more on singing in the past 20 years. Playing and singing gives him an adrenaline rush and he said it positively affects his Parkinson’s.
Reynolds added Kalimba is a very loving tribute to his former band. They are honestly paying tribute. They are not trying to be Earth Wind & Fire or reinvent the wheel — it’s just paying homage and love.
Time: 8 p.m. Sept. 21
Cost: $28 to $68.
Venue: Warner Grand Theatre, 478 W. 6th St., San Pedro