Steve Winwood is so talented, and gifted I might add, that in May of 2012 when he posted an incredible sounding video of himself singing “Can’t Find My Way Home” solo acoustic, sitting by a fireplace, a huge controversy arose in the industry and amongst fans if indeed Steve was singing live or if he was lip syncing a version that had been cut earlier and doctored up in a recording studio.
Many expert sound engineers and producers weighed in on a popular music industry blog (The Lefsetz Letter) exclaiming that this recording sounded so good that no way could it be live. Others countered and the fight went on and on for a week, until finally Steve himself sent an e-mail wondering what all the fuss was about, and that yes, indeed it was he live, with just two mics.
But how could this be? It sounds so perfect, the guitar playing, and especially that angelic voice, with perfectly round resonating tone. How it could be, comes down to one word—TALENT. And Steve Winwood oozes talent.
Check it out for yourselves:
Steve Winwood – “Can’t Find My Way Home” (Acoustic)
Of course, Steve is mostly known for that distinctive beautiful voice and his Hammond B3 Organ. But he is also an accomplished mandolin player and besides the acoustic guitar, is a very talented electric guitar player as well. He goes toe to toe with Eric Clapton on Blind Faith’s “Had To Cry Today,” and that’s no mean feat. I saw Blind Faith in 1969 at the Forum in Los Angeles and was mesmerized, watching and listening to the weaving of the two Fender Stratocaster guitars being wailed on by these two musical giants. Check it out. Here they are doing it again years later at one of Eric’s Crossroad Festivals. At around 5:04 they start trading licks – just phenomenal.
Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood – “Had to Cry Today”
If that wasn’t enough, here is a little known (BIG) fact that most people don’t realize. When Steve is playing the B3 organ and singing, he is also playing the bass notes on the pedals with his feet! Most musicians don’t learn the bass pedals because it’s too cumbersome for them—there are many pedals and the feet have a choreography all of their own while at the same time your fingers are doing completely separate actions, not to mention all the draw bars (tone bars) you need to know how to work–and again, Steve is singing on top of it all. Because most players eschew the pedals, you hardly ever see them in concert, just the organ with nothing underneath. For this reason most folks don’t even know that a Hammond B3 comes with bass pedals. Steve Winwood is doing it all.
Geez, he’d be pretty amazing if he just did all the stuff I’ve written about so far, but oh yeah, he’s also a great songwriter. He co-wrote “Gimme Some Lovin’” with Spencer Davis and his brother, Muff Winwood when he was only 15 years old! Steve is the lead vocal on the song and it’s what first shot him into the world of fame. I was in high school when the song came out and my band at the time was so blown away by it that we used to close our show with that song. I actually sang it, straining to hit those Winwood high notes—ha, ha. But it always brought the house down.
He also wrote “Dear Mr. Fantasy, “Paper Sun,” and co-wrote many other notables for Traffic, “Can’t Find My Way Home,” and “Had To Cry Today” for Blind Faith, “Higher Love,” “Back In The High Life Again,” “Roll With It,” and many more. Whew!!
Now he’s got a live record, Winwood Greatest Hits Live, which is his first-ever live release as a solo artist, offering fans a definitive musical portrait of his five-decade career. Which brings us back to the beginning, his solo performance by that fireplace, and just how good he is live.
I saw the beginning of this year’s tour here on Long Island. The place was packed with young and old alike, and pretty evenly split between guys and gals. Everyone knew they were seeing a legend. The most amazing thing about the show was when Winwood opened his mouth to sing—the voice was exactly the same as always, from the early days with The Spencer Davis Group, through Traffic and Blind Faith, and all of his solo career.How the heck is he still able to sing all those high notes, and in that high register period?!! Who knows, all I know is, if you closed your eyes you were transported back in time to all those wonderful songs. And, he still brings a lot of energy to his performance.
Steve Winwood is a unique artist with his own enchanting unique sound. His bio states that he “has the ability to fuse multiple genres into a singular, cohesive musical expression.” I couldn’t say it better myself. He is one of the most influential and important artists of our time, and one of my all-time faves!
Go see the show! Buy the new album! I guarantee you will hear and see, talent, talent, and yes… more talent!
Keep rockin’ kids!
© Paul Rappaport 2017