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:

  • 10

    If you’re going to buy Winwood a beer, make it a Michelob.

    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.

  • 9

    There’s a reason he was at Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival.

    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.

  • 8

    Because he’s a Voodoo Chile, slight return.

    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.

  • 7

    Which one is Pink?

    Winwood also contributed his signature organ riffs to selected tracks on ‘About Face,’ the second solo release from Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour.

  • 6

    Winwood, the drummer. (Jealous yet?)

    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.

  • 5

    Winwood’s musical leanings cost him in the classroom.

    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.

  • 4

    Steve’s early roots were planted in the solid belly of the blues.

    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.

  • 3

    Some famous friends helped him get ‘Back in the High Life Again’

    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.

  • 2

    That organ intro on ‘While You See a Chance’ was accidental.

    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.

  • 1

    The mandolin paved the way for Steve Winwood’s ’80s comeback.

    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.

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