Verdine White: Shining Star
AAJ: Anyone who is familiar with EWF and you, knows how animated and high energy you are when you are on stage performing live. Is it more natural for you to move when you are performing on stage or is it more natural for you to play in one place?
VW: It is more natural for me to move than staying in one place. Since the beginning of time, the music affected me that way, so it would be very difficult, if not impossible, to stand in one place. Besides, the audience would think that something was wrong with me if I didn't move!
AAJ: Your friend and original EWF member, Ralph Johnson, once said that you were, "The Jimi Hendrix of the bass guitar and one of the best bass players on the planet." Did you know that your friend and band mate had that much respect for you?
VW: No, I did not realize Ralph said those wonderful things about me. Regarding Jimi Hendrix, it is a mega-huge compliment because Hendrix was truly one of the absolute greatest musicians that ever lived. I respect that coming from Ralph Johnson. He [Ralph] is also a classically trained drummer, the first drummer with EWF, and one of the best technical drummers you have ever heard.
AAJ: Was there a time, early on, when you might have questioned your skills as a bassist and whether or not you were making the right decision?
VW: I never have questioned my skills but, at the same time, I don't take if for granted. I am always trying to improve and stay on my "A game" at all times. I still listen to music, practice, and try new techniques.
AAJ: Similar question, going back in time, was there a specific moment when you recognized and realized that you had what it took to make it as a pro musician?
VW: On the EWF LP, The Need of Love (Ol' Skool/Warner Bros., 1971). I knew I had it!. There was a tune called, "Energy." It was a great song and everyone said that I smoked on it. It was then that I realized, hey, this is my life's mission. I love what I do. It makes me feel euphoric and I can transfer that energy and love to others. What could be better?
AAJ: At what point in your career did you feel that you deserved to be where you were and that you were doing exactly what you should be doing with your life?
VW: I knew that I was in the right place at the right time when we signed with Clive Davis in May of 1972.
AAJ: Over the past 40 years we have seen a lot of changes in the world and a lot of changes in music (as well as the music industry). What were the 1970s like for you as an artist/musician? What were they like for you on a personal level?
VW: I would call the '70s a break through period. It was like the sky was the limit and we really made a name for ourselves. The industry flourished with so many great bands, artists, outstanding music, prolific song writers, and talented producers. It was the beginning of AM/FM stereo, LP albums, college radio, and student unions.
AAJ: And the 1980s?
VW: The start of the '80s, the music carried over except it became more disco/new wave. And then the great videos started. At the time, EWF took a short hiatus that lasted from 1982 to 1986. Everyone did separate projects.
With the time off I got married, worked on being a good husband and father. I also worked on a few music projects, wrote music, practiced a lot and toured in Europe with an all-star band. Then, in 1987, the band reunited. We started talks of recording and touring again. We followed up with a successful tour of the states.
AAJ: And the 1990s?
VW: Then in the '90s my brother, Maurice White (stricken with Parkinson's Disease), decided not to tour anymore. So, we were all kind of nervous at first and we weren't sure who could sing his parts and if the audience would accept us onstage without him. But we went out again in 1994 without him, and the audiences loved the show just like before. We were all ecstatic and relieved.
Phillip sang his parts, the music held its own, and the show was exciting and wonderful. We also toured overseas with Barry White, receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and did the TV show Live By Request, which was a smash!
AAJ: And 2000 to present?
VW: In 2000, we really peaked and soared. We received awards such as the Annual ASCAP Award, BET [Black Entertainment Television] TV special, and we were inducted into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
2001 and on, we received more legendary honors and awards. Now it was a whole new generation that discovered us and our music. The rappers and hip hop artists were sampling EWF and it was all the rage. It only added to what we already had going on.
Then a major move happened. We changed management in 2004, got with power industry baller Irving Azoff and, wow, it's been ongoing ever since. We have renewed popularity and respect from our audiences and peers.
Then, in 2009, we were the first band invited to perform at the White House in the new Obama administration. Man, so honored to be the President's favorite band! He sang along at sound check and he knew all the words.