Earth, Wind & Fire Saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk Passes Away at 71

Image: Rob Verhorst/Redferns/Getty Images

Andrew Woolfolk, an accomplished saxophonist who helped define the signature sound of Earth, Wind, and Fire has passed away at age 71.

Phillip Bailey, the current lead singer of the band, confirmed on Instagram that Woolfolk passed after a six-year illness.

The caption of the post read the following:

“I met him in High School, and we quickly became friends and band mates,” his post read. “Andrew Paul Woolfolk was his name. We lost him today, after being ill for over 6 years. He has transitioned on to the forever, from this Land of the dying to the Land of the Living. Great memories. Great Talent. Funny. Competitive. Quick witted. And always styling. Booski…  I’ll see you on the other side, my friend,” his post continued.

Born in Texas but raised in Denver, Colorado, Woolfolk joined the band in 1972 and became a part of the core “original nine” that would go on to transform the landscape of modern music.

Woolfolk played saxophone, flute, and percussion for the legendary R&B/funk band during the height of their success. His eloquent, soaring saxophone solo can be heard on some of the band’s classic songs such as  “September,” “Shining Star,” “Reasons,” and many more.

Woolfolk would continue playing the group on and off until 1993.

Outside of Earth Wind, and Fire, Woolfolk with a diverse group of musicians including Deniece Williams, Phil Collins, Stanley Turrentine, Twennynine, and Level 42. 

In 2000, Woolfolk was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame along with his fellow original Earth, Wind & Fire members and into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017.

In the Denverite, Bailey paid tribute to his friend and former bandmate in an official statement.

“It is with bittersweet regret that I say goodnight to our dear childhood friend and music-making brother, Andrew Paul Woolfolk. Bitter because for 6 years he battled the effects of a debilitating stroke. Sweet because he has finished his fight and is no longer suffering. I have so many wonderful memories of he and I as young friends in Denver. We went from high school to college. From playing in small clubs to being members of Earth, Wind & Fire together on big stages touring all over the world,” his statement read.

“We were family. As a sax player, Andrew was unconventional,” his statement continued. “He was always charting his own path, even in light of the great legends that came before us. Listen to his solo on Spasmodic Movements from Open Our Eyes, or on Africano from our album That’s the Way of the World. He was courageous like that, and lived his life the same. My deepest condolences to his brother Daryl, his entire family, bandmates, and friends. We will see him again, but until then, he will be sorely missed. Rest in peace, my brother. “

We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Andrew Woolfolk.

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