Producer: Maurice White
Track listing: Shining Star / That’s the Way of the World / Happy Feelin’ / All About Love / Yearnin’, Learnin’ / Reasons / Africano / See the Light
May 17, 1975
In 1972, Curtis Mayfield scored his first Number One album with his soundtrack to Sig Shore’s Superfly. Nearly three years later, Earth, Wind & Fire recorded That’s the Way of the World, a soundtrack to another Shore film. This time the success of the album by far overshadowed that of the movie, which quickly vanished from theaters.
That’s the Way of the World, the movie, featured Harvey Keitel as an A&R man and Earth, Wind & Fire playing a role that came naturally to them: a credible R&B act on the rise. By the mid-’70s, the group scored a handful of soul hits and was beginning to make a serious dent on the album chart. Their 1973 album Head to the Sky reached number 27 and was later certified gold for sales of more than 500,000 copies, while 1974’s Open Our Eyes reached number 15 and eventually surpassed sales of a million copies.
Vocalist/percussionist Philip Bailey says the time was right for Earth, Wind & Fire to hit the big time when they began working on their sixth album, That’s the Way of the World. “We were at the point in the evolution of a band where you really begin to feel your legs and know who you are,” he says. “We were on the road a lot in those days and very much in touch with the people.”
To write and record the album, the band, led by singer Maurice White, holed up at the Caribou Ranch in Nederland, Colorado, the same studio where Chicago had recorded many of its Number One albums. “At that time, Caribou was not open to everyone,” says Bailey. “It was very prestigious to work there.” EW&F rose to the occasion. “Since we were pretty much isolated, we really focused and made one of our more intense records. In terms of concentration on the album, it was 24 hours a day.”
The band also jelled as songwriters. Says Bailey, “Maurice and I were writing the same thing. There was a real feeling of camaraderie. It felt like everyone was on the same page.”
The songs on the album were proof that the band was experiencing a creative high. “Shining Star,” the first track on That’s the Way of the World helped the group make history. On March 22, 1975, it topped the Hot R&B Singles chart. A week after That’s the Way of World hit the peak of the album chart, “Shining Star” topped the Hot 100, making EW&F the first R&B act to simultaneously top the pop albums and singles charts.
While the album’s title track went on to become a top five R&B hit, “Shining Star” became EW&F’s signature tune. It was so popular that Shore decided to even the movie after the song, but even the new moniker couldn’t help the ill- fated film.
Despite the flop at the box office, there was no stopping Earth, Wind & Fire. Says Bailey, “That’s the Way of the World epitomized the energy and flair of Earth, Wind & Fire’s glory days. That was really when we came into our identity.”
FIVE TOP FIVE
Week of May 17, 1975
- That’s the Way of the World, Earth, Wind & Fire
- Chicago VIII, Chicago
- Tommy, Soundtrack
- Physical Graffiti, Led Zeppelin
- Straight Shooter, Bad Company