Larry Dunn was born on June 19, 1953, in Denver. He expressed a love of music from a young age, encouraged by his musician father and music-loving mother. At eleven, he formed his first musical group with Hilliard Wilson. This band would later expand to five members and become well-known in the local scene. In fact, at fifteen, Dunn was playing paid gigs seven nights a week at clubs, with his mother’s permission.
Dunn would cross paths with the original Earth, Wind & Fire when he was sixteen, a fortunate coincidence.
Dunn’s group, called Friends and Love, opened for the first iteration of Earth, Wind & Fire. Several members of Earth, Wind & Fire departed shortly thereafter, leaving Maurice and Verdine White as the sole remaining players. Despite the setback, Maurice decided to re-form the band with new talent.
In 1972, new Earth, Wind & Fire vocalist Philip Bailey happened upon Dunn playing at an L.A. club. Impressed with Dunn’s performance, he reached out to Maurice with the suggestion that they invite the nineteen-year-old to join. Dunn was quickly brought on board and soon added the funky keyboard, organ, clavinet and synthesizer playing that would become a staple of the band’s music.
The band’s new lineup would prove to be inspired, going on to transform R&B as we know it.
Dunn’s first album with Earth, Wind & Fire, Last Days and Time, received favorable reviews and placed well on both U.S. and U.K. charts. Dunn remained as keyboardist through several lineup changes, including the departures of saxophonist Ronnie Laws and rhythm guitarist Roland Bautista.
The formation of Maurice White’s production company, Kalimba Productions, opened more doors for band members.
Kalimba Productions signed several new artists, including The Emotions and Deniece Williams. Dunn performed as keyboardist on several of their albums and even produced The Emotions’ album Caldera. Dunn was a skilled producer and music director, also producing albums for Lenny White, Ramsey Lewis, Level 42 and Stanley Turrentine.
After leaving Earth, Wind & Fire in 1983, Dunn continued to make music.
Originally released in 1992 in Japan, Lover’s Silhouette is Dunn’s first and only solo album. It features several of Dunn’s contemporaries, including Al McKay, Ralph Johnson and Ronnie Laws.
Dunn has produced music through Source Productions, the production company he owns with his wife, Luisa, and Darroll S. Elliott. He’s also composed for films and commercials through this company.
In March 2000, Dunn and the other members of Earth, Wind & Fire joined the likes of Louis Armstrong and the Temptations as inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Dunn has accumulated an impressive number of awards. Among them are seven Grammy awards and thirteen nominations, along with four American Music Awards and twelve nominations. As a member of Earth, Wind & Fire, Dunn also received the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Signature Governor’s Award. Additionally, two songs on which Dunn collaborated, “Shining Star” and “That’s the Way of the World,” have been added to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Dunn also was honored with the BET Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002, the Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award from ASCAP in 2002, and induction into the NAACP Hall of Fame as a member of Earth, Wind & Fire in 1994. The band has sold more than 90 million albums worldwide, and earned over fifty Platinum and Gold albums.
Dunn’s impact on American music is undeniable, and his contributions still resonate with fans of all ages and continue to influence musicians around the world.