Earth Wind And Fire Talk Playing Race To Erase MS June 4 At The Rose Bowl
As Race To Erase MS founder Nancy Davis points out, most everyone is ready to let loose and celebrate. And as she also rightly asserts there may be no greater band to do that with than Rock And Roll Hall Of Famers Earth Wind And Fire. So Davis is understandably beyond excited for the annual Race To Erase MS, to be held this year, Friday June 4, at the Rose Bowl.
“I can’t imagine a better band, more exciting, more entertaining, more fun for every age group than to have Earth, Wind And Fire. They are at the top of my list of anybody I would want to have perform,” Davis tells me on a joint Zoom call with EWF’s Philip Bailey, Ralph Johnson and Verdine White. “Everybody I know I told we have Earth Wind And Fire, they just were in awe. All the stars are going to be aligned that night. It’s a perfect storm: finding a cure for MS, having the most perfect band that appeals to every age group is as good as it can be. That they’re doing that for us it’s like we won the lottery. Everybody is going to have a very memorable night, everybody has these great stories of what happened to them when they were hearing a famous song from Earth Wind And Fire. There are going to be a lot of magical moments that night.”
Then there is the fact that the legendary Earth Wind And Fire, who were scheduled to tour in 2020 with longtime friend and fellow Hall Of Famer Carlos Santana, have not played in front of a live audience for over a year. So no one might be more excited for this night than the performers.
“They’re going to have to drag us off. We’re gonna play until the wee, wee hours of the morning,” White says.
“It’ll be a three AM thing,” Bailey responds laughing.
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Maybe not actually three AM, though EWF do have the songs to go until the next morning. But in all seriousness, given the importance of the event and the fact this will be the first EWF public show in front of an audience in over a year they are eagerly anticipating this show.
“‘I’ll jump in and say we are totally excited about doing it. It’s a great event for a very special cause,” Johnson says. “This disease is very debilitating, it robs you of your quality of life and so if we can help bring attention to it and help raise some money to further the research then we’re totally in. And we can have a night of joy, which we haven’t had in a long time. So we’re looking forward to it.”
For Bailey the opportunity to give back is also why he is most excited about the performance. “We’ve been asked to participate previously, but then our schedule hadn’t permitted it,” he says. “But we’re very happy to be able to lend a hand and get out there and entertain again after a year and a half and bring awareness to a very worthy cause and raise money and do what we do.”
Though events are starting to open back up, California won’t ease all COVID restrictions until June 15m 11 days after the event. So like last year the event will again be drive-in style, though Davis anticipates things may be a bit less stringent than last year’s Race To Erase MS.
“Last year we were probably the only event that was live because of all the restrictions with COVID. We did it very safely, nobody got COVID. So here we are and things are starting to dissipate and be much better. So I’m really grateful for that,” she says. “They have not gone away completely, but we want to celebrate, we want to be outdoors. We need to be successful enough and we really want to celebrate.”
Given this is a drive-in show, this won’t be the typical EWF experience, though Davis expects people singing along and dancing. Either way the guys in the band are okay with whatever happens.
” Basically in a perfect world we love to see our fans up close and personal like they always are. But this is the second best thing to it, social distancing as they say,” Bailey says. “And we’re gonna have a lot of fun, play some good music and make a memorable night, raise some money for a worthy cause and celebrate being outdoors, celebrate seeing people again.”
For Davis, who was diagnosed with MS in 1991 at the age of 33, the event and the success of it is core to her being. “I have Multiple Sclerosis, I’m very driven to find a cure for this disease,” she says understandably.
She proudly points out that even with all of the difficulties last year the organization she founded was still able to contribute and make a difference. “During COVID we still funded seven different hospitals that we have and it’s very important that research keeps it going on,” she says.
One thing Davis accurately pointed out as well is the strength of the EWF catalog. Everyone has their favorite EWF song and memory. In fact when I ask the four of them on the Zoom call which EWF song they are most excited for on this night, there is one vote for “September,” of course; one for the Bill Withers classic “Lean On Me,” the traditional Race To Erase MS closer, and two for “Shining Star.”
But after a year and a half at the Rose Bowl they are all going to sound so good.