Steve Winwood, a renowned composer, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, was born on 12 May 1948 in Handsworth, Birmingham, England.
His parents, Lillian and Lawrence, both had a rich appreciation for music. His father mastered the clarinet and tenor sax as well as several string instruments including the bass, fiddle, and mandolin and could be found performed at weddings and dances on weekends. Heavily influenced by Ray Charles, Steve continued his musical development at school, studying classical guitar and piano. He is also an accomplished guitarist, bassist, and percussionist.
He and his elder brother, Muff, were introduced to the sounds of Little Richard, Elvis, Lloyd Price, and other American R&B and Jazz musicians by their uncle. The two Winwood boys soon joined their father’s combo. Steve on guitar and piano and Muff on guitar. Steve was eventually expelled from school for playing rock music.
Steve and Muff joined the Spencer Davis Group in 1963. Steve was 15. With Steve on vocals, the band had several hits including “Gimme Some Lovin” and “I’m A Man.”
He left the Spencer Davis Group in April 1967 to form Traffic with Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. He also recorded with The Powerhouse (with Eric Clapton) during that time. Steve’s love of sound of the Hammond B-3 organ can be traced back to his days in Traffic and to their debut, Dear Mr. Fantasy.
In 1969, Steve left Traffic to form rock’s first supergroup with Eric Clapton, Rick Grech and Ginger Baker. Blind Faith recorded only one album and completed a tour of America before breaking up. Yet, songs like “Presence of the Lord” and “Can’t Find My Way Home” have become rock classics.
After Blind Faith’s demise, Steve reunited with Traffic. They went onto record such classic albums as John Barleycorn Must Die and The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys, amongst others. He stayed with them until they split up again in 1974. Steve also spent time in the band’s Ginger Baker’s Airforce and Go, before embarking on a successful solo career.
Since 1977, Winwood has released several solo albums and has made guest appearances on many others. Some of Steve’s best known solo songs are “Valerie,” “Freedom Overspill,” “Roll With It,” and “Higher Love.” His 1986 album, Back In The High Life, earned him Grammys for Best Vocal Performance and Record Of The Year.
Eric Clapton and Steve were reunited during the 1983 ARMS (Action Research Into Multiple Sclerosis) Tour. In May 2007, Eric was Steve’s guest at a charity concert in the English Countryside. That July, Steve joined Eric on stage at the second Crossroads Guitar Festival where they performed several Blind Faith songs. Highlights from the day-long festival are available on DVD. On 25, 26 and 28 February 2008, three shows billed as “Winwood / Clapton” took place at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The DVD and CD documenting the Madison Square Garden shows was released in May 2009. The two reunited for a short North American tour in June 2009.
Steve was a guest musician on Eric’s 2005 release, Back Home. Steve’s most recent CD, Nine Lives (2008), features Eric Clapton on the track “Dirty City.”
Eric became an admirer of Steve’s talent while Eric was in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers and Steve was a member of the Spencer Davis Group. Since the Spencer Davis Group had its roots in the R&B camp, they often shared the same bill. Eric occasionally sat in with the group.
Steve recalls being stunned by his first sight of the much-discussed Eric Clapton on stage: “There’s no doubt that he was definitely something special from that first moment I saw him. Very special. He had a finesse and artistry on display that no one else at that time, and since, could match. He had an energy. And I remember being struck by the fact that he wasn’t particularly a technician. I later found, from working with him, that he is not a great student of the theory of music. But, his knowledge of other people’s music was always fantastic. We talked that first night a little, as young musicians do, asking about other players. He was a great instinctive musicologist; his knowledge of other people’s music, especially black R&B, at that time, was enormous.”
Official Website: www.stevewinwood.com