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Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind & Fire

Album: I AmReleased: 1979Charted:
6
4
  • This is one of the more complex and misinterpreted songs of the disco era. Written by Jon Lind and Allee Willis, it was inspired by the movie Looking For Mr. Goodbar, which stars Diane Keaton as a very lost woman who goes to clubs every night to dance and forget how miserable she was. Willis told us: "When I saw Mr. Goodbar, I got kind of fascinated with people who did go to clubs every night, whose life was kind of falling apart, but they lived for the night life, though it didn't seem to be advancing them as humans in the end. So if you really look at the lyrics of 'Boogie Wonderland,' unlike 'September,' it's not a happy song at all. It's really about someone on the brink of self destruction who goes to these clubs to try and find more, but is at least aware of the fact that if there's something like true love, that is something that could kind of drag them out of the abyss. So for instance, the first verse is: 'Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get. Daylight deals a bad hand to a women who's laid too many bets. The mirror looks you in the face and says, 'uh-uh baby, it don't work.' You say your prayers, though you don't care, you dance to shake the hurt.' And then on this demo, it went right into the chorus, where with Earth, Wind & Fire it's more of a feel thing, and they do all the verses before they get to the chorus. And then the chorus is, 'All the love in the world can't be gone, all the need to be loved can't be wrong, all the records are playing and my heart keeps saying Boogie Wonderland.' So 'Boogie Wonderland' for us was this state of mind that you entered when you were around music and when you danced, but hopefully it was an aware enough state of mind that you would want to feel as good during the day as you did at night."
  • The Emotions provided the female vocals on this song, which is credited to Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions. The Emotions were a female vocal trio from Chicago: the sisters Wanda, Sheila and Jeanette Hutchinson. Maurice White had previously worked with them and produced their 1977 #1 single "Best Of My Love."
  • Like the Commodores, Earth, Wind & Fire was a funk/soul band that adapted to disco without compromising their sound. Willis explains: "At that time, disco was all you heard. And it was very positive sounding stuff. So I think their concern was more that they do it very distinctively. And 'Boogie Wonderland' is a very different kind of disco song. It's much more heavily orchestrated, chord structure's different, lyrically it's certainly different. So I think they were happy to have something that could pass in that genre, but really wasn't of that genre."
  • Talking about the title, Allee Willis said in our interview: "It was 1978, and every song had 'boogie' in the title. And I was always someone who really wanted to be different. I was a journalism major in college, and I didn't like song lyrics that didn't hold up as kind of stories if you were to just happen to read them and didn't hear the music. And the series of 'boogie' songs that were coming out lyrically were especially stupid to me, even though I loved and still love disco music more than any music that ever existed. So I really wanted to write a disco song, but I wanted it lyrically to be almost in a different genre than what the standard was. So we kept thinking of other ways that we could use the word 'boogie' other than just to dance."
  • Earth, Wind & Fire came very close to passing on this song. Willis explains: "When Jon and I took that to Maurice, he didn't take it for Earth, Wind & Fire. He was producing another group that was called Curtis The Brothers, and Earth, Wind & Fire cut the track, so it's the exact track that you're hearing on the Earth, Wind & Fire record, but someone else was singing it. And Jon and I were beside ourselves, because Earth, Wind & Fire were so cool, and this other group was an unknown group who did an OK job, but we knew what Maurice White was going to sound like singing the lead. So we spent quite a few nerve wracking weeks as we would beg him to keep the song for himself. And then finally he did. And then it was out in like two weeks, and that was it." (Read more in our full Allee Willis interview.)
  • This appeared in the movies Roller Boogie, Madagascar and Happy Feet. It's also used in Caddyshack where it plays at the club dinner.
  • An instrumental version won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance.
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Comments: 4

I love this song! The happy feet version was okay but this one is so much better. This song is so deep and true in it's own way. These are the kind of songs I love- even if you don't hear a lot of it.Arnetia - Philadelphia, Pa
Ugh, there aren't many songs by Earth, Wind & Fire on this site...Matthew - Milford, Ma
The lyrics are deep,the beat slamming and the Emotions and EWF the perfect combination.
I LOVE this tune.
Doug - Oakland, Ca
This was on Happy Feet! I hated the scene when Gloria sang this with all my heart! I HATE IT!Krista - Elyria, Oh