R.I.P. Earth, Wind & Fire Saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk

He was 71

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Apr 26, 2022

Longstanding Earth, Wind & Fire saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk has died. He was 71.

The news was confirmed today by vocalist Philip Bailey, who posted a tribute to his late bandmate on Instagram. Woolfolk passed away on Sunday (April 24) and while no exact cause of death has been given, he had been "ill [for] six years," according to Bailey.

"I met him in high school, and we quickly became friends and bandmates," the bandleader wrote. "He has transitioned on to the forever, from this land of the dying to the land of the living."

He added: "Great memories. Great talent. Funny. Competitive. Quick witted. And always styling. Booski… I'll see you on the other side, my friend."

Bailey tapped the Texas-born, Colorado-raised horn player to join Earth, Wind & Fire in 1973 after the departure of the group's original saxophonist/flautist Ronnie Laws. Woolfolk was studying in New York City under the jazz great Joe Henderson at the time and, upon Bailey's invitation, decided to focus on music full-time rather than the career in banking that he had been considering.

The first Earth, Wind & Fire album the saxophonist appeared on was 1973's Head to the Sky — their first to go platinum. In the late '70s, Woolfolk also began playing on other artists' albums, including records by Deniece Williams and Valerie Carter.

Though Earth, Wind & Fire went on hiatus following 1983's Electric Universe, Woolfolk was at the ready when they reunited in 1987. He continued to play with the band until making his official leave in 1993, ahead of continuing to perform and work with other artists like Phil Collins on his 1996 album Dance into the Light, even joining Collins on the road.

See Bailey's Instagram post below.
In 2016, Earth, Wind & Fire co-founding vocalist Maurice White died at 74.

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