Andrew Woolfolk, a longtime Earth, Wind & Fire member whose sweet saxophone playing made songs like “September” a forever classic, has died at the age of 71.
Confirmed by Philip Bailey, co-lead singer of the genre-spanning band, Bailey shared with his Instagram followers that Woolfolk died after a six-year illness.
“I met him in high school, and we quickly became friends and bandmates,” Bailey wrote. “Great memories. Great talent. Funny. Competitive. Quick witted. And always styling.’
Woolfolk joined EW&F in the early 1970s, according to the band’s official roster, and officially played the sax, the flute, and the percussion with the group on and off until 1993. In Shining Star: Braving the Elements of Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey’s 2014 memoir, Woolfolk wasn’t originally planning on joining the band. Woolfolk was studying music in New York when Bailey called and asked him to join the group after playing together in Denver.
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Shortly after that, Woolfolk became known as one of the “original nine,” according to Bailey’s book.
Woolfolk’s rip-roaring saxophone solos would floor concertgoers and although he wasn’t the group’s leading force offstage, he possessed the unmistakable charisma of a star while on it.
Aside from EW&F albums, Woolfolk also recorded with Phil Collins and Bailey for the latter’s solo efforts. In 2000, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with his fellow original EW&F members.
Wearing a fiery red suit jacket, you can watch him below as he performed a victorious solo on “Shining Star.”
BET.com offers sincere condolences to his family, close friends, bandmates, and fans.