Earth, Wind and Fire have been selected to receive the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, making them the first R&B group to do so and only the fourth musical group in history.
The famed band will follow The Who, The Eagles and Led Zeppelin as the only music groups to earn the honor described as the “quintessential reward for a lifetime’s endeavor.”
“The Kennedy Center Honors celebrates icons who, through their artistry, have left an indelible stamp on our collective cultural consciousness,” said Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein in a statement. “Earth, Wind and Fire’s hooks and grooves are the foundation of a seminal style that continues to shape our musical landscape.”
Musical groups or duos are historically overlooked at the annual ceremony, regardless of genre. Partial reason for this is because no posthumous awards are given, leading artists like Paul McCartney and Cher to be recognized individually rather than for their efforts in a duo or group since their collaborators were deceased. An exception was made for The Eagles in 2016 when they were recognized just months after founding member Glenn Frey’s death.
Earth, Wind and Fire’s induction parallels The Eagles, as frontman Maurice White passed in 2016. Surviving members of the band’s classic lineup – Phillip Bailey, Verdine White and Ralph Johnson – will accept the honor at the December ceremony to celebrate their 50-year career.
The Kennedy Center Honors is the just one of many accolades bestowed upon the group. EWF have also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Vocal Group Hall of Fame. They’ve won six Grammys and sold more than 90 million records while remaining radio staples for their dance-worthy hits “September,” “Sing A Song” and “Shining Star.”
Earth, Wind and Fire aren’t the only 2019 recipient to make history. Sesame Street is also among the class of honorees, making it the first television program to be recognized. Singer-songwriter Linda Ronstadt, actress Sally Field and San Francisco Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas complete the 2019 class.
The 2019 Kennedy Center Honors will take place December 8 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.