Charles Stepney

Charles Stepney

born on 26/3/1931 in Chicago, IL, United States

died on 17/5/1976 in Chicago, IL, United States

Charles Stepney

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
Charles Stepney

Charles Stepney (March 26, 1931[1][2][3]May 17, 1976[2][4]) was a producer, arranger, songwriter and musician famous for his Orchestral Psychedelic soul sound with Chicago's Cadet/Chess records in the 1960s/1970s and afterwards with Earth, Wind & Fire.

Production history

Charles and Marshall Chess (son of Chess Records co-founder Leonard Chess) in the mid 60s created the band Rotary Connection for the new experimental Cadet Concept label and between 1967 and 1971 produced six innovative studio albums for Rotary Connection (receiving a Grammy nomination in 1968[5]):

  • Rotary Connection (album) (1967)
  • Aladdin (1968)
  • Peace (1968)
  • Songs (1969)
  • Dinner Music (1970)
  • Hey Love (1971) (as the New Rotary Connection)

Between the creation of the Rotary Connection albums, Charles also produced, arranged & co-wrote with Rotary Connection singer Minnie Ripertons 1970 debut album Come to My Garden.

Commenting on Minnie at the time he said that she"has a soprano range of about four octaves, a whole lot of soul, she's good-looking and she's got the experience of Rotary behind her."[6]

During this time Charles wrote, produced and conducted a Classical Jazz Symphony in 5 parts entitled Cohesion. Cohesion was performed in Minneapolis, MN by the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra, the Ramsey Lewis Trio and Minnie Riperton. It was his first opportunity to Conduct live before an audience.[5]

Stepney is also credited as a musician/producer on the following albums:[7]

  • The Soulful Strings Paint It, Black (1966) & Groovin' with the Soulful Strings (1967)
  • Terry Callier Occasional Rain (1972), What Color Is Love (1973) & I Just Can't Help Myself (1974)
  • Ramsey Lewis Maiden Voyage (Cadet, 1968), Mother Nature's Son (Cadet, 1968), The Piano Player (Cadet, 1969), Sun Goddess (Columbia, 1974), Don't It Feel Good (Columbia, 1975) & Salongo (Columbia, 1976)
  • Phil Upchurch Upchurch (Cadet, 1969), The Way I Feel (Cadet, 1970)
  • The Dells There Is (album) (1968), Love is Blue (1969) Like It Is, Like It Was (1971), & Freedom Means (1971)
  • The Emotions Flowers(1976)

In the mid 1970s Charles teamed up again with Maurice White and produced a number of Ramsey Lewis Trio albums in which Maurice drummed.

Before he died he co-produced with Maurice the platinum selling Earth, Wind & Fire albums Open Our Eyes (1974), That's the Way of the World, Gratitude both released in 1975 and Spirit released in 1976.

His favorite book was The Schillinger System of Musical Composition by Joseph Schillinger.[8]


The song Spirit was intended to uplift Stepney's spirit, and to show all the gratitude that Earth, Wind & Fire had towards him. Sadly, Stepney never got to hear the song. Maurice White spoke to Stepney on the afternoon of May 17, 1976, but later that day, Earth, Wind & Fire keyboardist Larry Dunn received a phone call informing him that Charles Stepney had died of a heart attack. The song Spirit then became a tribute to Stepney's life.


Artists such as Ramsey Lewis, Stevie Wonder, Chaka Khan, 4hero, Jean-Paul 'Bluey' Maunick, Zero 7, Elton John, Gilles Peterson & Terry Callier have been influenced by Stepney.[5][9]


Stepney is survived by his wife Rubie and his three daughters Eibur, Charlene and Chante.


As sideman

With Eddie Harris

  • Jazz for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" (Vee-Jay, 1961)
  • For Bird and Bags (Exodus, 1963)

With Ramsey Lewis

  • Back to the Roots (Cadet, 1971)
  • Sun Goddess (Columbia, 1974)

As arranger

With Ramsey Lewis

  • Maiden Voyage (Cadet, 1968)
  • Mother Nature's Son (Cadet, 1968)

With Minnie Ripperton

  • Come to My Garden (GRT, 1970)


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External links

  • A Biography of Charles Stepney
  • Charles Stepney at All Music Guide
This page was last modified 21.05.2014 03:52:37

This article uses material from the article Charles Stepney from the free encyclopedia Wikipedia and it is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.