Earth, Wind & Fire
(L-R) Verdine White, Ralph Johnson and Philip Bailey
Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images
Earth, Wind & Fire Become First African-American Group Inducted Into Kennedy Center Honors
Last night in Washington, D.C., this year's class of inductees to Kennedy Center Honors were celebrated at Kennedy Center Hall of States. Leading the pack, Earth, Wind & Fire became the first African-American group to be inducted.
Original Earth, Wind & Fire members Verdine White, Ralph Johnson and Philip Bailey were on hand to recieve the honor, and while founder Maurice White passed away in 2016, his presence was felt nonetheless.
“You can’t play any Earth Wind & Fire songs without Maurice’s DNA being on it, so he’s always here and we’re always celebrating him and his vision,” Johnson said. “People are still coming together and having fun.”
When asked about being the first African-American band to be inducted, Bailey said, “There are so many more African-American acts that are deserving and perhaps this can be the first of many more to come.”
Ronstadt, who is the subject of a moving new documentary, was honored buy some of her closest collaborators, Don Henley and Emmylou Harris, as well as actor Kevin Kline, who starred alongside Ronstadt in The Pirates Of Penzance. Carrie Underwood, Trisha Yearwood, Aaron Neville and Flor de Toloache paid musical tribute to Ronstadt, performing some of her most well-known songs.
“She’s a huge inspiration and influence to each of us as musicians and as women in a male-dominated industry in our genre,” Flor de Toloache's Shae Fiol said.of Ronstadt. “She went forth and did everything her heart desired, and she set the example for us to do the same. We’re happy to be representing her Mexican side.”
Tilson Thomas, an 11-time GRAMMY winner who is currently in his final season as director of the San Francisco Symphony, was honored by Metallica's Lars Ulrich.
The 42nd Kennedy Center Honors will air on CBS on Sunday, Dec. 15 at 8pm.