80s Music

Artist Profile: Steve Winwood

Steve Winwood was born as Stephen Laurence Winwood on May 1948. He is an English singer and musician who played different genres including blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, progressive rock, jazz, blues rock, and pop. Steve Winwood became a key member for different groups such as Traffic,The Spencer Davis Group, and Blind Faith. But he also had a solo career which proved to be successful because he managed to create several hit songs like Valerie, Roll with It, and Higher Love. In 2004, Steve Winwood was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the group Traffic. He was also named by the Rolling Stone magazine as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time in 2008. In this article, we are going to find out how Steve Winwood influenced the music industry with his talents.

Early Career

Steve Winwood was a member of the Birmingham rhythm and blues scene while he was attending Great Barr School. He played the Hammond C-3 organ, the guitar and he provided music for famous blues singers such as Wolf B.B King, Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Chuck Berry, Otis Spann, and Bo Diddley during their tours in the United Kingdom. During this time, Steve Winwood was living on Atlantic Road in the Great Barr which was close to the Birmingham music halls.

 

Stevie_Winwood (1970)
Stevie_Winwood (1970)

When he was fourteen years old, Steve Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group along with his older brother Muff. The band made their debut at the club called Eagle where they played every Monday night. In 1964, Spencer Davis Group signed a record deal with Island Records where they had their first number-one single called Keep On Running. The money that Winwood made from this success allowed him to buy his own Hammond B-3 organ and that’s where he started to co-write and record successful songs for the band namely I’m a Man and Gimme Some Lovin’. After this success, Steve Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in 1967.

Bands

After he left the band, Steve Winwood met Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi, and Chris Wood. They all jammed together at The Elbow Room which was a club in Aston, Birmingham. After realizing that they play well together, the formed the band Traffic. Jim Capaldi and Steve Winwood formed a songwriting partnership which resulted in most of Traffic’s songs including the popular ones such as The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys and Paper Sun. Throughout the band’s career, Winwood performed most of the lead vocals, guitars, and keyboards. While playing with Traffic, he was discovered by Jimi Hendrix who asked him to play the organ for his song Voodoo Chile for his album Electric Ladybird.

In 1969,Winwood decided to join forces with the iconic Eric Clapton and became a part of the supergroup group called Blind Faith together with Ric Grech and Ginger Baker. However, the band was short-lived because Eric Clapton decided to leave the band while Winwood, Grech, and Baker stayed together and form another band called Ginger Baker’s Air Force. They also decided to add Chris Wood from Traffic, Phil Seamen, Denny Laine, Graham Bond, and John Blood. Unfortunately, the project also became short-lived which led Steve Winwood to begin his work for his solo album. However, he ended up calling the help of Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi which resulted to Traffic’s comeback album called John Barleycorn Must Die which was released in 1970.

Solo Career

Winwood got tired of recording and touring that’s why he decided to leave Traffic and lay low from studio sessions for some years. But, he was pressured by his record label, Island Records to release a new material that’s why he returned to the music scene and released his self-titled debut album in 1977. After three years, he released his second album called Arc of a Diver which featured his first solo hit entitled While You See a Chance and Talking Back to the Night.

In 1986, Steve Winwood moved to New York City where he gathered the help of several stars to record his fourth album called Back in the High Life. The album became a hit and it gave him his first char-topper hit song entitled Higher Love which scored Winwood two Grammy Awards for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Record of the Year. Steve Winwood toured North America to further promote his album.

After he released three successful albums under Island Records, Winwood decided to leave the recording company and move to Virgin Records where he released his albums Roll with It and Refugees of the Heart. Roll with It and its title track dominated the top of the USA album and singles charts in the summer of 1988. He released another album under Virgin Records called Far from Home. This album was completely and officially credited to Traffic even if most of the instruments were performed by Winwood. The album didn’t produce any hit songs but it managed to broke the top 40 charts in the UK and USA.  In 1997, Steve Winwood released his seventh and final album under Virgin Records called Junction Seven. It didn’t produce any hit songs but it still manage to enter the UK top 40.

In April 2008, Steve Winwood released his ninth solo album entitled Nine Lives through Columbia Records. The album debut at the 12th spot on the Billboard 200 album chart. That same year, Winwood was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music. In 2013, he toured North America with Rod Stewart.

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