Today in Music History (November 20): Philip Bailey steps out of Earth Wind and Fire for #1 hit

November 20, 1984 – Philip Bailey hits #1 with “Easy Lover”

By 1984, Philip Bailey was already well into a Hall of Fame career as the inimitable falsetto lead singer for Earth Wind & Fire, the recognizable voice behind a string of now classic singles and album cuts. But in addition to their roles in perhaps the most iconic band of its day, Bailey and group lead Maurice White were stretching out on their own, recording solo material that expressed where they were artistically outside of the group, even as they remained a vital act together.

November 20, 1984 – Philip Bailey hits #1 with “Easy Lover”

By 1984, Philip Bailey was already well into a Hall of Fame career as the inimitable falsetto lead singer for Earth Wind & Fire, the recognizable voice behind a string of now classic singles and album cuts. But in addition to their roles in perhaps the most iconic band of its day, Bailey and group lead Maurice White were stretching out on their own, recording solo material that expressed where they were artistically outside of the group, even as they remained a vital act together.

When Bailey prepared for his 1984 solo album Chinese Wall, he had the good fortune of attracting uber-hot Genesis drummer and lead singer Phil Collins, who was beginning his own historic run as a solo performer, to produce. The recording sessions were going along fine, and near the end, Collins, Bailey, and legendary bass player Nathan East came up with a hook while jamming, and knew that they had something there. They ended up staying in the studio until the composition was done and then immediately recorded it.

The result of that jam session was "Easy Lover," an incredibly infectious single that ended up a duet between Bailey and Collins, and bore the heavy, echo-beat that was Collins’ trademark sound of the era. It was chosen as the obvious first single from the Chinese Wall album, and became an immediate hit around the world, taking the top spot on both the pop and R&B charts in the US. It also served to introduce Bailey’s name to a pop audience that was already familiar with his voice from EWF efforts.

Philip Bailey remains a lead member of Earth Wind & Fire to this day, but on November 20, 1984, he was – for the first and last time of his career – the holder of a #1 single in his own name.

Check out “Easy Lover” below. It is as alluring now as it was back in 1984.

By Chris Rizik

 

Leave a comment!