Larry Dunn, the keyboard player and musical director of Earth, Wind & Fire, talks about recording the band's album All 'N All, which turns 35 this week.
By the middle of the 1970s, Earth, Wind & Fire had had already become one of the most influential forces in popular music. But after putting out the classic, platinum-selling albums That's the Way of the World (1975), Gratitude (1975) and Spirit (1976), they still had more in them. The 11-song All 'N All, released in 1977, would go on to be their most commercially successful record and equal anything else in their catalog for critical acceptance. Led by the masterful harmonies of group founder Maurice White and Philip Bailey and the unforgettable melodies and arrangements by musical director Larry Dunn, Verdine White, Al McKay, Fred White, Ralph Johnson, and the Phenix Horns, the album would win two Grammy awards and produce songs that live on now both on their own and as sampling material for today's hitmakers.
On the occasion of All 'N All's 35th anniversary this week, I spoke with Larry Dunn about recording it.
How did you become the musical director for the group?
On Last Days and Time (1972), I did all of the keyboard work on that album. The next album, Head to the Sky (1973), I began writing with Maurice. I wrote "Clover." I wrote the intro and bridge to "Keep Your Head to the Sky" and on different stuff as well. It was just a natural progression to become musical director for the group due to the fact I was the keyboard player. I really enjoyed it. I was the youngest member of the band during that time and I was able to create the interludes and make sure the music was correct. I tell people that Earth, Wind & Fire is one of the greatest bands of all time. We had extremely talented musicians, but at the same time we rehearsed and rehearsed and rehearsed. So—you put together brilliant musicians and cats who weren't scared, but cats that enjoyed rehearsing. That's how you end up with our sound and those shows that were just phenomenal.