In The Groove with Raphael Saadiq

As a teen, Saadiq considered Earth, Wind & Fire to be his musical superheroes. Years later, studio sessions with a founding member of the band would become a true story.

Derrel Todd

Click the audio player to listen. CultureShift airs weekdays at 12 p.m. 

Raphael Saadiq’s entire neighborhood was talking about the Earth, Wind & Fire concert.

Saadiq was just 14-years-old at the time and dealing with the disappointment of missing the band’s 1975 tour stop near his hometown of Oakland, California. 

That didn’t stop him from spinning their “Gratitude” record at home, looking over the details of the LP jacket and daydreaming about his favorite band.

“If Marvel had a music group, Earth, Wind & Fire would be my Marvel superheroes,” says Saadiq. “I would play the album in the hallway of my mom’s house like I was at the concert.”

Everything would work out for the talented multi-instrumentalist in the end from his time in Tony! Toni! Tone! to becoming a Grammy Award-winning producer and carving out his own solo career anchored by his signature retro sound (his 5th studio album is due out later this year).

Years later, a boyhood dream would come true as Saadiq would talk extensively with one of his “superheroes” — Earth, Wind & Fire founder Maurice White — during studio sessions as White struggled with Parkinson’s (he would pass away from the disease in 2016).

“When I got a chance to sit with Maurice, I would play his album — I would play certain songs to see what his response would be,” remembers Saadiq. “He would just start smiling, laughing about it a little bit.”

White said one of his early influences was one of Oakland’s biggest musical exports — Sly & the Family Stone.

Listen to the full interview above & hear all of Raphael Saadiq’s musical picks. Saadiq will perform on Sunday, July 22 as the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD). Tickets available here.

In The Groove is WDET’s award-winning series that brings to life the music that matters the most to influential figures from all walks of life. Past guests have included street artist Shepard Fairey, MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer, “Broad City” actor and comedian Ilana Glazer and more.


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper
    Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host of "In the Groove" on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. Hooper has covered stories for the New York Times, NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.