Stephen Lawrence “Steve” Winwood (born 12 May 1948) is an English musician whose genres include rock, blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, blues rock, pop rock, and jazz. Though primarily a vocalist and keyboardist, Winwood also plays bass guitar, drums, guitar, mandolin, violin, and other strings.
Winwood was a key member of The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith and Go. He also had a successful solo career with hits including “While You See a Chance”, “Valerie”, “Back in the High Life Again” and two US Billboard Hot 100 number ones: “Higher Love” and “Roll with It”. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Traffic in 2004.
In 2005, Winwood was honoured as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards for his “enduring influence on generations of music makers.” In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked Winwood #33 in its 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. Winwood has won two Grammy Awards. He was nominated twice for the Brit Award for Best British Male Artist: 1988 and 1989.
Stevie Winwood (1970)
While he was still a pupil at the Great Barr School, Winwood was a part of the Birmingham rhythm and blues scene, playing the Hammond B-3 organ and guitar, backing blues singers such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Eddie Boyd, Otis Spann, Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley on their United Kingdom tours, the custom at that time being for US singers to travel solo and be backed by pickup bands. At this time, Winwood was living on Atlantic Road in Great Barr, close to the Birmingham music halls where he played. Winwood modelled his singing after Ray Charles.
Winwood joined the Spencer Davis Group at age 14, along with his older brother, Muff, who later had success as a record producer. Steve’s distinctive high tenor singing voice and vocal style drew comparisons to Ray Charles. At the end of 1965 the group had their first number one single with “Keep On Running” and the money from this success allowed Winwood to buy his own Hammond B-3 organ.
During this time Winwood joined forces with guitarist Eric Clapton as part of the one-off group Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse. Songs were recorded for the Elektra label, but only three tracks made the compilation album, What’s Shakin’. Winwood co-wrote and recorded the hits “Gimme Some Lovin'” and “I’m a Man” before leaving the Spencer Davis Group. Winwood met drummer Jim Capaldi, guitarist Dave Mason, and multi-instrumentalist Chris Wood when they jammed together at The Elbow Room, a club in Aston, Birmingham. After Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in April 1967, the quartet formed Traffic. Soon thereafter, they rented a cottage near the rural village of Aston Tirrold, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire) to write and rehearse new music. The period at the cottage proved important in the band’s development.[how?]
Early in Traffic’s formation, Winwood and Capaldi formed a songwriting partnership, with Winwood writing music to match Capaldi’s lyrics. This partnership was the source of most of Traffic’s material, including popular songs such as “Paper Sun” and “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys”, and outlived the band, producing several songs for Winwood and Capaldi’s solo albums. Over the band’s history, Winwood performed the majority of their lead vocals, keyboard instruments, and guitars. He also frequently played bass and percussion up to and including the recording sessions for their fourth album.