Steve Winwood

Stephen Lawrence "Steve" or "Stevie" Winwood (born 12 May 1948 in Handsworth, Birmingham) is an English singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. In addition to his solo career, he was a member of the bands the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith, and Go.


While still a pupil at Great Barr School (which actor Martin Shaw also attended), 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 'pick-up' bands). At this time Steve was living in Erdington close to all the Birmingham music halls he used to play.

At the age of 15 Winwood became a member of the Spencer Davis Group with his older brother 'Muff' (who later had much success as a record producer). Steve co-wrote and recorded Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm a Man before leaving to form Traffic with Chris Wood, Jim Capaldi and Dave Mason. During this time, Winwood joined forces with guitarist Eric Clapton as part of the one-off group Eric Clapton's Powerhouse. Songs were recorded for the Elektra label but only three tracks were released on the compilation album, What's Shakin'.

During the late-1960s, Winwood and Mason became close friends of Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix first heard All Along the Watchtower at a party he was invited to by Mason; they recorded the Hendrix version later that night in a London recording studio. Winwood actually only appeared on one track of Electric Ladyland, "Voodoo Chile". In 1969, Winwood once again gave a powerful organ performance on Joe Cocker's With a Little Help from My Friends and later played keyboards on albums as diverse as Toots & The Maytals' Reggae Got Soul and Howlin' Wolf's The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions. He formed Blind Faith in 1969 with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Ric Grech. The band was short-lived, due to Clapton's greater interest in Blind Faith's opening act Delaney & Bonnie & Friends: Clapton left the band after the tour had ended. However, Baker, Winwood and Grech stayed together to form Ginger Baker's Air Force. The lineup consisted of basically 3/4 of Blind Faith (sans Clapton, replaced by Denny Laine), 2/3 of Traffic (Winwood and Chris Wood, minus Jim Capaldi), plus musicians who interacted with Baker in his early days, including Phil Seamen, Harold McNair and Graham Bond. But this supergroup turned out to be just another short-lived project. Winwood soon went into the studio to begin work on a new solo album, tentatively titled Mad Shadows. However, Winwood ended up calling Chris Wood and Jim Capaldi in to help with session work, which instead prompted Traffic's comeback album John Barleycorn Must Die. Winwood has always said that the sound of John Barleycorn Must Die really reflects what he had intended Traffic to be.

In 1976, Winwood played guitar on the Fania All StarsDelicate and Jumpy record and performed as a guest with the band in their only UK appearance, with a memorable sell-out concert at London’s Lyceum Ballroom.

Constant artistic differences and personnel changes led to Traffic's final break-up and Winwood's release of his self-titled first solo album in 1977. This was followed by his 1980 hit Arc Of A Diver (lyrics by Vivian Stanshall), and Talking Back to the Night in 1982 (both albums recorded at his home in Gloucestershire with Winwood playing all instruments). He enlisted the help of a coterie of stars to record Back in the High Life (1986) in the US, and again he was rewarded with a hit album. All were released on Island Records. In 1986, he topped the Billboard Hot 100 with Higher Love. * In his hit song While You See a Chance, in a stanza where he sings "And that old grey wind is blowing and there’s nothing left worth knowing," Winwood accidentally overdubs "nothing left..." with "no one left..." The entire track was thrown together in a relatively quick fashion, and at one point Winwood accidentally deleted the drum track introduction in preparation for vocals. (see Punching in) The keyboard introduction that he composed on the spot to replace it is now iconic.

At the peak of his commercial success, Winwood moved to Virgin Records and released Roll With It and Refugees Of The Heart. The album Roll With It and the title track hit #1 on the album and singles charts in the summer of 1988. He recorded another album with Jim Capaldi released under the Traffic name, Far From Home, then resumed his solo career with his final Virgin album Junction Seven.

In 1994, Capaldi and Winwood reunited Traffic for a new album, Far From Home, and one-off tour, including a performance at Woodstock II Festival. The same year, Winwood appears on A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield CD, recording Mayfield's It's Alright.

In 1995 and 1996, Winwood released Reach for the Light (Theme from Balto).

In 1997, Winwood released a new album, Junction Seven, toured the U.S.A. and sang with James Taylor at the VH-1 Honors.

In 1998, Winwood joined Tito Puente, Arturo Sandoval, Ed Calle and other musicians to form the band Latin Crossings for a European tour, after which they split up without making any recording.

In 2003, Winwood released a new studio album, About Time co-produced by Johnson Somerset and engineered by George Shilling, on his new record label, Wincraft Music. 2004 saw his 1982 song Valerie used by DJ Eric Prydz, in a song called Call on Me. It spent five weeks at number 1 on the UK singles chart. Winwood heard an early version of Prydz's remix and liked it so much, he not only gave permission to use the song, he re-recorded the samples for Prydz to use. In 2005, the Soundstage Performances DVD was released, featuring his recent work from the album About Time along with his classic hits including Higher Love and Back in the High Life. Winwood also performs hits from his days with Traffic (inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004) as well as current recordings that represent a tapestry of tastes woven after 40 years in music.

In 2005, he accepted an invitation from 2008 Grammy Award winner Ashley Cleveland to appear on her album Men and Angels Say. This album of rock, blues and country arrangements of well known hymns includes I Need Thee Every Hour which features a vocal duet and organ performance. Winwood is a fellow lover of hymns and readily accepted Ashley's invitation to appear on Men and Angels Say after the two led worship together at the Nashville church they both attend. She introduced the album with words that could help explain Steve Winwood's interest in Christian music: "This record is a love letter to my children, to my mother, to everyone who ever taught me a hymn, to the Presbyterian Church and my Scotch-English roots, to all those who love hymns and (perhaps particularly) to those who have dismissed them as antiquated and irrelevant in modern worship. I have such a deep desire to keep the hymns alive in the church." Additionally, Christina Aguilera features Winwood on one of her songs from her 2006 record Back to Basics, called Makes Me Wanna Pray.

In July 2007, Winwood shared the stage with Eric Clapton, in Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival. Among the songs they played together were Presence of the Lord and Can't Find My Way Home from their Blind Faith days. Winwood played several guitar leads in a 6 song set. The two old friends and bandmates continued their collaboration with a sold-out three night stand at Madison Square Garden in February 2008. On 19 February 2008 Winwood and Clapton released a collaborative EP through iTunes titled Dirty City.

Steve is now slated to tour with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers during Petty's summer 2008 tour. He also has two concerts with his own band - Jose Neto (guitar), Richard Bailey (drums), Paul Booth (sax, flute and organ), Karl van den Bosch (percussion) - at the Blender Theatre, New York 4 May and Berklee College of Music 8 May. He will also be receiving an Honorary Doctorate there 10 May.

A new studio album, Nine Lives, was released 29 April 2008 on Columbia Records. On 6 May 2008, Steve made a guest appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman," with a blistering rendition of "Dirty City," indeed giving the song a downright dirty sound. The next day, he sang it again on "The View", and followed up with a skat-sounding version of "Higher Love", with a little help from Whoopi Goldberg. The album opened at #12 on the Billboard 200 album chart , his highest US debut ever.

Recently discussed on Red Bar Radio by David Angelo.



With Traffic


  • Winwood (1972) UA Records, Inc. An excellent double LP compilation of his work to this time. Features work with SD Group, Powerhouse, Traffic & Blind Faith.
  • They Call it an Accident (soundtrack) (1982)
  • Chronicles (1987) #26 US: Gold, #12 UK
  • The Finer Things (box set) (1995)
  • Keep on Running (1996)
  • 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Steve Winwood (1999)
  • Classic Steve Winwood (2001)
  • Best of Steve Winwood (2002)


Year Title Chart positions Album
U.S. Hot 100 U.S. Mainstream Rock U.S. AC UK Singles
1966 "Keep On Running" (with The Spencer Davis Group) #76 - - #1 Non-Album Single
"Somebody Help Me" (with The Spencer Davis Group) #47 - - #1
"When I Come Home" (with The Spencer Davis Group) - - - #12
"Gimme Some Lovin'" (with The Spencer Davis Group) #7 - - #2
1967 "I'm a Man" (with The Spencer Davis Group) #10 - - #9
"Paper Sun" (with Traffic) #94 - - #5
"Hole in My Shoe" (with Traffic) - - - #2
"Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush" (with Traffic) - - - #8
"Dear Mr. Fantasy" (with Traffic) - - - - Mr. Fantasy
1968 "No Face, No Name, No Number" (with Traffic) - - - #40
"Medicated Goo" (with Traffic) - - - - Last Exit
1970 "Empty Pages" (with Traffic) #74 - - - John Barleycorn Must Die
1971 "Gimme Some Lovin' (Part One, Live)" (with Traffic) #68 - - - Welcome to the Canteen
"Rock & Roll Stew (Part One)" (with Traffic) #93 - - - The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys
1977 "Hold On" - - - - Steve Winwood
"Time Is Running Out"/"Penultimate Zone" - - - -
1981 "Arc of a Diver" #48 #11 - - Arc of a Diver
"While You See a Chance" #7 #2 - #45
1982 "Still in the Game" #47 #8 - - Talking Back to the Night
"Valerie" #70 #13 - #51
"Talking Back to the Night" - - - -
"Your Silence is Your Song" - - - - They Call it an Accident
1986 "Higher Love" #1 (1 week) #1 #7 #13 Back in the High Life
"Freedom Overspill" #20 #4 - #69
"Split Decision" - #3 - -
"Take It as It Comes" - #33 - -
"Back in the High Life Again" #13 #19 #1 #53
1987 "The Finer Things" #8 #5 #1 -
"Valerie" (re-mix) #9 #13 #2 #19 Chronicles
1988 "Talking Back to the Night" #57 #17 - -
"Roll with It" #1 (4 weeks) #1 #1 #53 Roll with It
"Put on Your Dancing Shoes" - #25 - -
"Don't You Know What the Night Can Do?" #6 #1 #2 #89
"Holding on" #11 #1 #1 -
1989 "Hearts on Fire" #53 #22 #22 -
1990 "One and Only Man" #18 #1 #9 #87 Refugees of the Heart
1991 "Another Deal Goes Down" - #10 - -
1994 "Here Comes a Man" (with Traffic) - #10 - - Far from Home
2003 "Different Light" - - - - About Time
2008 "Dirty City" (with Eric Clapton) - - - - Nine Lives

Session work


Steve Winwood was nominated for the American Music Awards of 1989 in the Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist category.


External links

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