10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Winwood
Singer-songwriter Steve Winwood has had a remarkable career spanning more than 40 years as a solo artist and a member of Traffic, Blind Faith and the Spencer Davis Group. Since today, May 12, marks his 63rd birthday, here’s a list of 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Steve Winwood:
As corporate sponsorships controversially began to blend with music, movies and television in the ’80s, Winwood wrote ‘Don’t You Know What The Night Can Do’ for a Michelob commercial. The premiere of the ad conveniently coincided with the release of Winwood’s 1988 album ‘Roll With It,’ which also featured the song.
If you’re only familiar with Winwood from his synth-heavy ’80s hits like ‘Valerie’ and ‘While You See A Chance,’ it might seem odd to see him on the bill of a festival dominated by guitar players. But as Winwood proved on his recent tour with Clapton, he’s equally comfortable navigating the fretboard as he is behind a keyboard.
In addition to recording his own material, Steve Winwood has done plenty of session work over the years, including contributing organ to ‘Voodoo Chile’ by Jimi Hendrix, a track from the guitar hero’s ‘Electric Ladyland’ LP.
Winwood also contributed his signature organ riffs to selected tracks on ‘About Face,’ the second solo release from Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.
An interest in Dixieland swing and jazz drove young Winwood to learn how to play drums, guitar and piano. Music was in his family tree – his father Lawrence played a number of instruments including the clarinet and saxophone.
Steve’s love for rock and roll got him expelled from several of his early schools. While most youth of the time period would have been punished, Winwood’s father instead urged his son to follow his musical dreams.
Winwood paid his dues with impressive sideman gigs before making his own history. Alternating between B-3 and guitar, he backed up a slew of blues legends, including B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.
James Taylor can be heard adding background vocals to ‘Back in the High Life Again,’ and soul diva Chaka Khan also adds her pipes to Winwood’s comeback and signature hit ‘Higher Love’ from that same album, which re-invigorated Winwood’s career back in 1986.
While it is probably one of the best known song intros from the ’80s, the organ intro for ‘Chance,’ is devoid of any other instrumentation by mistake. Apparently, the other instruments from the track were all accidentally erased.
As we mentioned earlier, 1986′s ‘Back in the High Life’ cemented Winwood’s position as an ’80s chart superstar. Believe it or not, ‘Back in the High Life Again,’ the title track, almost didn’t make the record. A mandolin sitting in the corner of Winwood’s house led him to finish the song. It ultimately reached the Top 20 of the Billboard charts as one of five hit singles from the album, which eventually sold more than five million copies.