Andrew Woolfolk: Andrew Woolfolk, a saxophone and multi-instrumentalist with Earth, Wind & Fire, died Tuesday afternoon after an illness, according to band member Philip Bailey. Woolfolk died at the age of 71.
Bailey stated on Instagram, “I met him in high school, and we quickly became friends and bandmates.” He claimed Woolfolk had been ill for more than six years.
“From this country of the dying to the land of the living, he has passed on to them forever,” Bailey wrote. “Wonderful memories.” Exceptional ability. Funny. Competitive. Quick-witted. And there’s always the styling.”
Woolfolk, a Denver native who was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017, was a member of Earth, Wind & Fire from 1973 to 1985 and then again from 1987 to 1993. Woolfolk cooperated with musicians such as Deniece Williams, Phil Collins, Twentynine, and Level 42 outside of the R&B group, and appeared on Bailey’s albums “The Wonders of His Love” and “Triumph” in 1984 and 1986, respectively.
Many of Earth, Wind & Fire‘s biggest successes of the 1970s featured Woolfolk’s soprano and tenor saxophone tones, most notably on “September,” “Let’s Groove,” “Boogie Wonderland,” and “Shining Star.” During his live performances with the band, he was frequently seen wearing the band’s signature extravagant shimmering jumpsuits.
Earth, Wind & Fire was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000, alongside Woolfolk.
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Andrew Woolfolk Biography
Andrew Paul Woolfolk II was an American saxophonist who lived from October 11, 1950, until April 24, 2022. From 1973 to 1985, and again from 1987 to 1993, Woolfolk was a member of the band Earth, Wind & Fire. Deniece Williams, Stanley Turrentine, Phil Collins, Twentynine, Philip Bailey, and Level 42 were among the musicians with whom he cooperated.
Andrew Woolfolk, a saxophonist with Grammy-winning R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire during its heyday in the 1970s and early 1980s, died after a protracted illness. He was 71 years old at the time. Philip Bailey of the EWF shared the news on social media.
“Wonderful memories.” Woolfolk was described as a “great talent” by the vocalist. “Funny. Competitive. With a quick wit. And there’s always the styling. Booski… My friend, I’ll see you on the other side. Take a look at the Instagram post below.
Woolfolk was a member of Earth, Wind & Fire when they were one of the country’s top R&B performers, joining in 1973 and appearing on their gold and platinum albums from Head to the Sky to Powerlight in 1983 and beyond. From 1975 through 1981, the group had eight consecutive Top 10 albums, including the number-one That’s the Way of the World and the live compilation Gratitude.
During that time period, Earth, Wind & Fire had seven Top 10 pop songs, ranging from “Shining Star,” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1975 and received a Grammy, to “Let’s Groove,” which lasted five weeks at No. 3 in 1981.
“Sing a Song,” “Got to Get You Into My Life” (from the 1978 Sgt. Pepper’s film), disco classics “September” and “Boogie Wonderland” — the latter with the Emotions — and double Grammy winner “After the Love Has Gone” were among their other biggest songs. EWF also has eight No. 1 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart.
From 1975 to 2005, the trio was nominated for 17 Grammy Awards and won six of them.
The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, released in 1978, peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and has sold over 5 million copies in the United States.
The 1975 film That’s the Way of the World — later renamed Shining Star — starred Harvey Keitel as a record exec entrusted with breaking the struggling young band, and Woolfolk and his bandmates participated in it and wrote the score.
The album would go on to become the true commercial breakthrough for EWF, spending three weeks at the top of the Billboard 200 and being named one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
The band was also known for its brilliantly colored clothing and spectacular, high-energy live presentations, which included a performance at the Super Bowl Pregame Show in 2005.
Woolfolk was born in Texas on October 11, 1950, and raised in Colorado. He formally left the band in 1993 but reformed for later tours. In 2000, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Woolfolk performed a blazing sax solo during the induction ceremony during “Shining Star.”
During EWF’s break in the mid-’80s, the saxophonist appeared on albums by Valerie Carter and Deniece Williams, as well as two of Bailey’s solo gospel albums.
They have also been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Woolfolk joined the band in 1973, some years after its inception — he took over as saxophonist from Ronnie Laws — but was recruited by his high school classmate Bailey just in time for the group’s incredible run of success in the mid-’70s and beyond.
From 1974’s “Open Your Eyes” album until the band’s break a decade later, he was a member of the band. In 1987, he returned for EWF’s reunification and lasted with the band for another six years before quitting in 1993. He also played flute and percussion for the band in addition to the soprano sax.
During the group’s first tenure, he played on a number of hit albums, including the 1975 smash “That’s the Way of the World” — their only album to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — as well as “All ‘N All,” “Gratitude,” and “Spirit.” During Woolfolk’s time with EWF, the band’s singles included “Shining Star,” a No. 1 hit in 1975, as well as “Boogie Wonderland,” “Fantasy,” “Reasons,” “Let’s Groove,” “Sing a Song,” and others.
Woolfolk’s net income ranged from $1 to $8 million, owing to annual salary, stage appearances, album sales, and other deals.
Bailey stated in a 2019 interview that Woolfolk was residing in a retirement home and no longer performing at the time.
Woolfolk also appeared on albums by Phil Collins (1996’s “Dance Into the Light”), Deniece Williams, Stanley Turrentine, Level 42, Valerie Carter, and Ricky Lawson, in addition to EWF’s “Triumph.”