Earth, Wind & Fire saxophonist and East High School graduate Andrew Paul Woolfolk II has died, a family member confirmed to Denverite on Wednesday. He was 71.
The news broke after Philip J. Bailey, one of the band’s lead singers and another East alum, posted a tribute to Woolfolk over Instagram earlier this week.
“I met him in High School, and we quickly became friends and band mates. Andrew Paul Woolfolk was his name,” Bailey wrote. “We lost him today, after being ill of 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.”
Woolfolk grew up in Denver, where he met Bailey when they were both students at East High School. It was Bailey who invited Woolfolk to join Earth, Wind & Fire in 1973. Woolfolk played saxophone, flute and percussion for the cross-genre band during its golden age, lending his musical talents to classic songs like “September.” He has also collaborated with musicians like Deniece Williams, Phil Collins, Stanley Turrentine, Twennynine and Level 42. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Colorado Music Hall of Fame in 2017.
Denverite’s colleagues at CPR reach out to Bailey for comment. He provided this written 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. We were family. As a sax player, Andrew was unconventional. 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. “
Earth, Wind & Fire recently began its spring tour, which is set to land in Denver on June 29.
This is a developing story. We will update it when we learn more.