Welcome to our “Psychedelic Lunch” series, “Rhythm & Blues” Edition, where we find out how deep the rabbit hole really goes and explore psychedelic tunes from the 60’s to today. Weekdays At Noon EST. Enjoy the trip!
Shining Star By Earth, Wind And Fire. Album: Thats The Way Of The World. 1975
Written by group members Maurice White, Larry Dunn and Philip Bailey, this was a #1 hit on both the R&B and Hot 100 charts. While many hits of the disco era were fun but meaningless, Earth, Wind & Fire considered all their songs meaningful, and this one projects a positive message in a turbulent time. To get a better idea, check out this quote from Maurice White from a 1975 Blues & Soul interview:
“There are certain disciplines we apply to our life in respect of diet and living, the way we live. There are certain aspects which have to be kept clean, things that relate directly to the Creator. By adopting a totally positive approach to our life, we can reflect this in our music – we won’t allow it to reflect any negative vibes or thoughts. All our music is ‘up’ in the sense that it is intended to bring people to that state. It is truly gratifying to know that we are finally getting to people, they are accepting us.”
Want to get deeper into White’s vibe? Check out the book The Greatest Salesman In The World, which he had Allee Willis read before she collaborated with the group.
That’s The Way Of The World was the soundtrack to a movie of the same name starring a young Harvey Keitel as a record producer and Earth, Wind & Fire as the group he worked with. The movie was a colossal flop, but the album was a huge hit, capturing the sound of the band’s successful stage show on vinyl and going to #1 on the album charts, making EW&F the first R&B group to top the US album and Pop charts at the same time. The album was the biggest seller for Columbia Records in 1975, and helped prove that black bands could sell albums, not just singles – something Maurice White took a lot of pride in.
The failure of the movie didn’t drag down the band thanks in part to Maurice White refusing to let the album be labeled a soundtrack. When the film was re-issued in America, it was with a new title: Shining Star.
Earth, Wind & Fire wrote and recorded the That’s The Way Of The World album in Nederland, Colorado, which is outside of Boulder. Maurice White says he came up with the idea for this song after taking a walk one night and seeing a shining star in the sky. He took the phrase and directed it toward a positive message for the lyrics.
This won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
This has been used in a variety of movies and TV shows. Among them: Glee, Seinfeld (used in a classic scene where Elaine tries to dance), Austin Powers in Goldmember, My Name Is Earl, and Muppets from Space.
A New Jersey vocal group called The Manhattans recorded a completely different song called “Shining Star” on their 1980 album After Midnight, taking it to #5 in the United States. Their “Star” won a Grammy for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal.
The Christian Metal band Stryper recorded this for their 1990 album Against the Law and made a video for it. They brought in a young go-getter named Randy Jackson to play bass on the track. Stryper lead singer Michael Sweet told us why they brought in the future American Idol judge: “Tim Gaines played on that album, and that was the one song that we were looking for a certain style – we wanted a particular style that Tim at the time just didn’t really play. It’d be like me playing jazz; if you don’t play that style, you don’t play that style. And we had mentioned this to Tom and Tom had mentioned it to us, as well, how great it would be get this guy, Randy Jackson, on the song. And I knew about him from Journey at the time, because he played with Journey. And Tom had worked with him on some records and said, ‘Oh, my gosh, this guy would tear this up.’ So sure enough, we called him, flew him in, and he laid that song down in a couple of hours, and just really brought a lot to it. If you can just imagine the song without that bass, it wouldn’t be the same. He really brought it to a new level.”