Earlier this week I began an Artist Spotlight series on Earth, Wind & Fire front man Maurice White by looking at his drumming on the song “Can’t Hide Love”. Today I will be focusing on his playing on one of my all time favourite recordings “Sing A Song” from the same 1975 album Gratitude.
Composed by White himself with his writing partner Al McKay this R&B classic has all the features that propelled the band to chart success: a joyful and energetic groove, infection horn hook and catchy melody. White demonstrates how to “take care of business” with a simple but effective beat.
As is often the case with R&B grooves this can look deceptively simple. Although its a straight forward beat it’s important to make sure the drums lock-in with the other instruments in the band, especially the bass guitar. Here White demonstrates how to play exactly what the song needs: No ego, just pure groove. If you take a look at the first two measures of the verse notice how the groove effectively begins on beat 3 of the second measure. Listen to how this works with the emphasis in the bass part at the same place. It’s almost the exact same drum groove as The Emotions massive hit “Best Of My Love” penned by the same song writing pair, just displaced by two beats.
Another feature I like is the short “Building 8ths” fill that White repeats throughout the song. It really gives the drum part a sense of identity and the listener the impression the fill has been composed rather than improvised each time. Again this shows great maturity and is a lesson on how to “play for the song”.
The third instalment of this series will look at his playing on the Fontella Bass song “Rescue Me”. See you soon…