Pharrell Williams is one of the most versatile artists on the planet, who has left a giant mark on hip-hop and beyond over the last 20 years. Whether it’s producing, songwriting, or performing — Pharrell can do it all, and his journey into the world of music all began with one song.
Williams’ journey began in seventh grade when he met future collaborator Chad Hugo during a musical summer camp. They bonded over their communal taste and later formed their production duo, The Neptunes, which later led to the pair forming N.E.R.D. and becoming one of the most integral groups of their generation.
While Pharrell credits A Tribe Called Quest with introducing him to hip-hop and opening his eyes to a bright new world which he’d soon throw himself into with both feet.
However, he’d already decided that his life was going to revolve around music even before this crucial juncture, and it was his parents’ taste that inspired him to pick up a microphone, even if he never previously considered a life as a rapper.
He opened up to The Guardian in 2010 about his earliest musical memory, which prompted Pharrell to open up about his love of Earth, Wind & Fire. After forming in 1969 by the mid-’70s, the collective had become an unstoppable force and were everywhere.
Pharrell was only young when they first made their way into his world, and he can’t remember a time when they weren’t soundtracking his existence. One track specifically from their 1975 double live album Gratitude stands out to Williams, who name-checked it as being “the first record that influenced my life”.
He explained: “I was raised on Earth, Wind and Fire. ‘Can’t Hide Love’ [from the LP Gratitude] was the first record that influenced my life. My mom and dad used to play this song a lot when I was a kid. That song changed me as a kid.
“I think that’s what made me a singer. In fact Earth, Wind and Fire are probably what made me, full stop – that’s baby-making music, man!”
Pharrell’s love of Earth, Wind and Fire has undoubtedly interpolated into his work. It almost landed him in trouble back in 2017 when people realised the clear comparisons between his Calvin Harris collaboration ‘Feels’ and their track, ‘This Groove’. However, Williams would be the first person to hold his hands up and admit that he owes bundles of his career to the masters of funk.