Earth, Wind & Fire: 12 Essential Songs

Savor the smoothest soul and most enlightened funk from the hitmaking legends

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"Boogie Wonderland" (1979)

"[Maurice White] takes simple dance formulas like 'Boogie Wonderland' and finds fresh possibilities within them," wrote Dave Marsh in his Rolling Stone review of Earth, Wind & Fire's 1979 album, I Am. With disco in full bloom, White and his collective of jazz-funk explorers put a commercial sheen on this intricate yet deeply soulful strut. Brassy and ebullient, the track nonetheless bears a dark heart: Anguish and desperation lurk in the song's quicksilver arrangement and startlingly grim lyrics by Allee Willis and Jon Lind, who drew inspiration from the harrowing 1977 Diane Keaton film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. The song's portrayal of boogie-ing to numb the pain ("You dance and shake the hurt") seemed to predict disco's disillusioning crash, right around the corner.

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