Earth, Wind & Fire forever changed the landscape of music; spanning different types of genres to cultivate a unique and innovative sound. The soulful collective was recently honored in a major way for their contributions to the industry. According to Billboard, they were inducted into the Kennedy Center Honors, making them the first Black group to achieve the accolade.
The band’s surviving members Verdine White, Philip Bailey, and Ralph Johnson were honored during the awards ceremony at the Washington D.C.-based John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on December 8. They accepted the award on behalf of the group’s founder Maurice White who passed away three years ago. Artists John Legend, Ne-Yo, and Cynthia Erivo performed renditions of the group’s classic songs.
Although the group is nearing its 50th anniversary, the members say they will continue to carry the legacy and make new music. They also hope that this achievement will open the door for other influential Black artists to be honored. “There are so many more African-American acts that are deserving and perhaps this can be the first of many more to come,” said Bailey.
Other honorees included American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, actress Sally Field, singer Linda Ronstadt, and the show Sesame Street. “The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” said Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein in a statement. “Earth, Wind & Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape.”
Over the span of nearly five decades Earth, Wind & Fire—one of the best-selling musical groups in the music history—has sold over 100 million albums worldwide.