This is the most famous song from The Wiz, a contemporary adaptation of the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The book is public domain, but the famous 1939 film is not, so producers of The Wiz needed completely different music. This song takes the place of "We're Off to See the Wizard" in scenes where Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion are pumping themselves up for their journey down the Yellow Brick Road. The song is about overcoming any obstacles they may face along the way and maintaining a positive attitude as they "ease on down the road."
This was written by Charlie Smalls, who composed the score and most of the songs from The Wiz. His work on the project earned him a Grammy Award for Best Cast Show Album and a Tony Award for Best Score.
On the soundtrack album from the original production of The Wiz, this is performed by the stars of the show: Stephanie Mills (Dorothy), Hinton Battle (Scarecrow), Tiger Haynes (Tin Man), and Ted Ross (Lion). (Mills would later have success as a disco singer, with a #6 hit in 1979, "Never Knew Love Like This Before.")
A different version by the group Consumer Rapport was released as a single, landing at #42 US. Consumer Rapport was a studio group assembled by producer Harold Wheeler featuring vocals by the session singers Frank Floyd and Janet Wright. The group released just one more single: "Everybody Join Hands."
In 1978, a movie version of The Wiz was released starring Diana Ross as Dorothy and Michael Jackson as the Scarecrow. Their duet rendition of this song was issued as a single that year and made #41 US. Another song from the film also charted: Jackson's version of "You Can't Win (Part 1)" made #81.
Quincy Jones was a producer on the soundtrack - it was the first time he worked with Michael Jackson. Jones would produce Jackson's next album, Off The Wall.
The flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal played "Ease On Down The Road" on The Muppet Show in 1980 when he was the guest star. In the bit, a village of rats is being overrun by children, so Rampal comes in as the Pied Piper and leads them away as he plays the song. This was a time when there were two celebrity flute players who showed up on variety shows: Rampal and James Galway. By this time, The Muppet Show was attracting big-name guests like Johnny Cash and Linda Ronstadt.