Monday, August 15, 2022

Andrew Woolfolk, sax player for Earth, Wind & Fire during ’70s prime, dies at 71

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Woolfolk also collaborated with Phil Collins, Deniece Williams and Stanley Turrentine, among others.

Andrew Woolfolk, a saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist for Earth, Wind & Fire has died after an illness, band frontman Philip Bailey said in a social media post Tuesday afternoon. Woolfolk was 71.

“I met him in high school, and we quickly became friends and band mates,” Bailey wrote on Instagram. Woolfolk had been ill for more than 6 years, he said.

“He has transitioned on to the forever, from this land of the dying to the land of the living,” Bailey wrote. “Great memories. Great talent. Funny. Competitive. Quick-witted. And always styling.”

Jazz bass great Christian McBride offered his condolences in the comments.

“What a major part of the EWF legacy,” McBride said.

Bailey recruited Woolfolk, who joined the band in 1973, several years after the group’s founding. He succeeded Ronnie Laws and was a part of Earth, Wind & Fire’s run of hits in the mid-’70s and beyond.

His initial run with the group ran from 1974’s “Open Your Eyes” album through the band’s hiatus a decade later. He returned for EWF’s reunion in 1987 and stayed with the band for six more years, ultimately departing in 1993. Besides the soprano sax, he also played flute and percussion for the group.

Woolfolk appeared on Earth, Wind & Fire’s 1975 hit “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 tenure, the band produced hits including the 1975 No. 1 smash “Shining Star,” “Boogie Wonderland,” “Fantasy,” “Reasons,” “Let’s Groove,” “Sing a Song” and others.

He was inducted as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

In a 2019 interview, Bailey said that Woolfolk was living in a retirement home and no longer performing.

Beyond EWF, Woolfolk also appeared on Bailey’s solo album “Triumph” and Phil Collins’ 1996 album “Dance Into the Light.” He also collaborated with Deniece Williams, Stanley Turrentine, Level 42, Valerie Carter and Ricky Lawson.

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