Steve Winwood

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Steve Winwood
Stevie Winwood (1970).jpg
Winwood in 1970
Background information
Birth nameStephen Lawrence Winwood
Born (1948-05-12) 12 May 1948 (age 73)
Handsworth, Birmingham, England
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • Vocals
  • keyboards
  • guitar
Years active1961–present
Associated acts

Stephen Lawrence Winwood (born 12 May 1948) is an English singer, songwriter, and musician whose genres include blue-eyed soul, rhythm and blues, blues rock, and pop rock. Though primarily a vocalist and keyboard player, Winwood plays other instruments proficiently, including drums, mandolin, guitars, bass, and saxophone.


Winwood was a key member of several major acts of the 1960s and 1970s, including the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith. Beginning in the 1980s, his solo career took off and he had a number of hit singles, including "While You See a Chance" (1980) from the album Arc of a Diver and "Valerie" (1982) from Talking Back to the Night . His 1986 album Back in the High Life marked his career zenith, with hit singles including "Back in the High Life Again", "The Finer Things", and the US Billboard Hot 100 number one hit "Higher Love". He found the top of the Hot 100 again with "Roll with It" (1988) from the album of the same name, and "Holding On" also charting highly the same year. While his hit singles ceased at the end of the 1980s, he continued to release new albums through 2008, when Nine Lives , his latest album, was released. Since then, while he has not released any new albums, he still continues to tour alongside other classic rock acts, most recently in 2020 with Steely Dan.

He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Traffic in 2004. [1] In 2005, Winwood was honoured as a BMI Icon at the annual BMI London Awards for his "enduring influence on generations of music makers". [2] In 2008, Rolling Stone ranked Winwood No. 33 in its 100 Greatest Singers of All Time. [3] Winwood has won two Grammy Awards. He was nominated twice for a Brit Award for Best British Male Artist: 1988 and 1989. [4] [5] In 2011, he received the Ivor Novello Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors for Outstanding Song Collection. [6]

Early life

Winwood was born on 12 May 1948 [7] in Handsworth, Birmingham. [8] His father Lawrence, a foundryman by trade, was a semi-professional musician, playing mainly the saxophone and clarinet. The 4-year-old began playing piano while interested in swing and Dixieland jazz, and soon started playing drums and guitar. He was also a choirboy at St. John's Church of England, Perry Barr. The family moved from Handsworth to Kingstanding (Atlantic Road) Birmingham, [9] where Winwood attended the Great Barr School, one of the first comprehensive schools. He also attended the Birmingham and Midland Institute of Music to develop his skills as a pianist, but did not complete his course. [10]

At 8 years old, he first performed with his father and elder brother Muff in the Ron Atkinson Band. [11] Muff later recalled that when Steve began playing regularly with them in licensed pubs and clubs, the piano had to be turned with its back to the audience to try and hide him, because he was so obviously underage. [12]


Early years

Winwood on organ with Spencer Davis Group (Amsterdam, 1966) SpencerDavisGroup1966RonKroon2.jpg
Winwood on organ with Spencer Davis Group (Amsterdam, 1966)

While still a pupil at Great Barr School, Winwood was a part of the Birmingham blues rock scene, playing the Hammond C-3 organ and guitar, backing blues and rock legends such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, and Bo Diddley on their United Kingdom tours, [13] the custom at that time being for US singers to travel solo and be backed by pick-up 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. [9]

The Spencer Davis Group

At age 14, Winwood (then known as "Stevie" Winwood) joined the Spencer Davis Group [14] along with older brother Muff, who later had success as a record producer, after Davis saw them performing as the Muffy Wood Jazz Band at a Birmingham pub called the Golden Eagle. [15] The group made their debut at the Eagle and subsequently had a Monday-night residency there. [16] Winwood's distinctive high tenor singing voice and vocal style drew comparisons to Ray Charles. [17]

In 1964, they signed their first recording contract with Island Records. Producer and founder Chris Blackwell later said of Winwood, "He was really the cornerstone of Island Records. He's a musical genius and because he was with Island all the other talent really wanted to be with Island." [18] The group's first record, a single, was released 10 days after Winwood's 16th birthday. [19] The group had their first number one single at the end of 1965, with "Keep on Running"; [20] the money from this success allowed Winwood to buy his own Hammond organ. [9] Winwood co-wrote and recorded the chart-topping hits "Gimme Some Lovin'" and "I'm a Man" before leaving the Spencer Davis Group in 1967. [21]

Eric Clapton and Powerhouse

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 1966 compilation album, What's Shakin' .

Traffic, Blind Faith, and Ginger Baker's Air Force

Winwood with Traffic Steve Winwood with Traffic.jpg
Winwood with Traffic

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. [22] After Winwood left the Spencer Davis Group in April 1967, the quartet formed Traffic. [23] Soon thereafter, they rented a cottage near the rural village of Aston Tirrold, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), to write and rehearse new music. [22] This allowed them to escape the city and develop their music. [24]

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. [25] While still in Traffic, Winwood was brought in by Jimi Hendrix to play organ for "Voodoo Chile" on the Electric Ladyland album. [26] [27]

Winwood formed the supergroup Blind Faith in 1969 with Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech. [28] The band was short-lived, owing to Clapton's greater interest in Blind Faith's opening act Delaney & Bonnie & Friends; Clapton left the band at the tour's end. However, Baker, Winwood, and Grech stayed together to form Ginger Baker's Air Force. The line-up consisted of 3/4 of Blind Faith (without Clapton, who was replaced by Denny Laine), half of Traffic (Winwood and Chris Wood, minus Capaldi and Mason), plus musicians who interacted with Baker in his early days, including Phil Seamen, Harold McNair, John Blood, and Graham Bond. [29]

However, this project also turned out to be short-lived. Winwood soon went into the studio to begin work on a new solo album, tentatively titled Mad Shadows. However, Winwood ended up calling in Wood and Capaldi to help with session work, which prompted Traffic's comeback album John Barleycorn Must Die in 1970. [29]

In 1972, Winwood recorded the part of Captain Walker in the highly successful orchestral version of The Who's Tommy. He recorded a 1973 album with Remi Kabaka, Aiye-Keta, for Antilles Records, and in 1976 provided vocals and keyboards on Go, a concept album by Japanese composer Stomu Yamashita. [30] In 1976, Winwood also played guitar on the Fania All Stars' Delicate and Jumpy record and performed as a guest with the band in their only UK appearance, a sold-out concert at the Lyceum Theatre, London. [31] [32]

Solo career

Weariness with the grind of touring and recording prompted Winwood to leave Traffic and retire to sessioning for some years. [33] Under pressure from Island Records, he resurfaced with his self-titled first solo album in 1977. This was followed by his 1980 hit Arc of a Diver (which included his first solo hit, "While You See a Chance") and Talking Back to the Night in 1982.[ citation needed ]

Both albums were recorded at his home in Gloucestershire with Winwood playing all instruments. He continued to do sessions during this period, and in 1983 he co-produced and played on Jim Capaldi's top 40 hit "That's Love" and co-wrote the Will Powers top 20 hit "Kissing with Confidence".[ citation needed ]

In 1986, he moved to New York. There he enlisted the help of a coterie of stars to record Back in the High Life in the US, and the album was a hit. He topped the Billboard Hot 100 with "Higher Love," and earned two Grammy Awards: for Record of the Year and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

Winwood embarked on an extensive tour of North America in support of the album. [34]

All these albums were released on Island Records. However, 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 No. 1 on the USA album and singles charts in the summer of 1988. Another album with Virgin, Far from Home , was officially credited to Traffic, but nearly all the instruments were played by Winwood. Despite lacking a significant hit, it broke the top 40 in both the UK and USA. [35] [36]

His final Virgin album Junction Seven also broke the UK top 40. [37]

A new studio album, Nine Lives , was released 29 April 2008 by Wincraft Music through Columbia Records. [38] [39] The album opened at No. 12 on the Billboard 200 album chart, [40] his highest US debut ever.

In 2008, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Berklee College of Music to add to his honorary degree from Aston University, Birmingham. On 28 March 2012 Winwood was one of Roger Daltrey's special guest stars for "An Evening with Roger Daltrey and Friends" gig, in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust at the Royal Albert Hall. [41]

In 2013, Winwood toured North America with Rod Stewart as part of the "Live the Life" tour. In 2014, Winwood toured North America with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. [42]

In January 2020, a North American summer tour was announced with Steely Dan. [43]

On 17 February 2020, Winwood participated in "A Tribute to Ginger Baker", which took place at Eventim Apollo Hammersmith in London. Other participants were Ron Wood, Roger Waters, and Eric Clapton. The concert was held in honour of Ginger Baker, his former band member in Blind Faith, who had died the previous year. [44]

Group work

Winwood in Knoxville, Tennessee (2005) Steve Winwood scottfisher.JPG
Winwood in Knoxville, Tennessee (2005)

In 1994, Capaldi and Winwood reunited Traffic for a new album, Far From Home, and a tour, including a performance at Woodstock '94 Festival. That same year, Winwood appeared on the A Tribute To Curtis Mayfield CD, recording Mayfield's "It's All Right". [45]

In 1995, Winwood released "Reach for the Light" for the animated film Balto . In 1997, Winwood released a new album, Junction Seven , toured the US, and sang with Chaka Khan at the VH-1 Honors. [46]

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 without making any recordings. Winwood also appeared in the film Blues Brothers 2000 , as a member of the Louisiana Gator Boys, appearing on stage with Isaac Hayes, Eric Clapton, and KoKo Taylor at the battle of the bands competition. [47]

In 2003, Winwood released a new studio album, About Time , on his new record label, Wincraft Music. In 2004, Eric Prydz sampled Winwood's 1982 song "Valerie" for the song "Call on Me". After hearing an early version, Winwood not only gave permission to use his song, he re-recorded the samples for Prydz to use. The remix spent five weeks at No. 1 on the UK singles chart. [48]

In 2005, his Soundstage Performances DVD was released, featuring the recent About Time album, with solo hits including "Back in the High Life", and he also performed hits from his early days with Traffic. That same year, he appeared on Grammy Award winner Ashley Cleveland's album Men and Angels Say, a mix of rock, blues, and country arrangements of well-known hymns, including "I Need Thee Every Hour", which featured a vocal duet and organ performance. On her 2006 record Back to Basics , Christina Aguilera featured Winwood (using the piano and organ instrumentation from the John Barleycorn Must Die track "Glad") on her song "Makes Me Wanna Pray". [49]

The Steve Winwood Band in 2009 on tour Steve Winwood Band.jpg
The Steve Winwood Band in 2009 on tour

In May 2007, Winwood performed in support of the Countryside Alliance, an organisation opposed to the Hunting Act 2004, in a concert at Highclere Castle, joining fellow rock artists Bryan Ferry, Eric Clapton, Steve Harley, and Kenney Jones. [50]

In July 2007, Winwood performed with Clapton in the latter's Crossroads Guitar Festival. Among the songs they played were "Presence of the Lord" and "Can't Find My Way Home" from their Blind Faith days, with Winwood playing several guitar leads during a six-song set. The two continued their collaboration with three sold-out nights at Madison Square Garden in New York City in February 2008. [51]

On 19 February 2008, Winwood and Clapton released a collaborative EP through iTunes titled Dirty City . Clapton and Winwood released a CD and DVD of their Madison Square Garden shows and then toured together in the summer of 2009. [52]

Personal life

Between 1978 and 1986, Winwood was married to Nicole Weir (d. 2005), who had contributed background vocals to some of his early solo work. The two married at Cheltenham Register Office. [53]

Winwood's primary residence is a 300-year-old manor house in the Cotswolds, England, where he also has a recording studio. Winwood also has a home in Nashville, Tennessee, with his wife, Eugenia Crafton, a Trenton, Tennessee, native whom he married in 1987. They have four children. [54] [55] [56] Both were patrons of the Cheltenham Festivals of music and literature between 2007 and 2015.

Winwood's eldest daughter, Mary Clare, married Ben Elliot, the Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party in 2011. [57] The couple have two sons. [58] Winwood's daughter Lilly Winwood is a singer; she was featured with him performing a duet of his song "Higher Love" in a Hershey commercial. [59] She was the opening act and sang backup on multiple songs during her father's 2018 Greatest Hits Live tour. [60]



Winwood at the Hangout Music Festival, May 2012 Steve Windwood toy2, Hangout Music Festival 2012.jpg
Winwood at the Hangout Music Festival, May 2012

Spencer Davis Group


see Traffic discography

Blind Faith

Ginger Baker's Air Force

Third World


Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood

Session work

Related Research Articles

Traffic (band) English rock band

Traffic were an English rock band, formed in Birmingham, in April 1967 by Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, Chris Wood and Dave Mason. They began as a psychedelic rock group and diversified their sound through the use of instruments such as keyboards like the Mellotron and harpsichord, sitar, and various reed instruments, and by incorporating jazz and improvisational techniques in their music.

Blind Faith English rock supergroup

Blind Faith were an English supergroup featuring Steve Winwood, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Ric Grech. They were eagerly anticipated by the music press following on the success of each of the member's former bands, including Clapton and Baker's former group Cream and Winwood's former group Traffic, but they split after only a few months, producing only one album and a three-month long summer tour.

Jim Capaldi English musician and songwriter

Nicola James Capaldi was an English singer-songwriter and drummer. His musical career spanned more than four decades. He co-founded the psychedelic rock band Traffic in 1967 with Steve Winwood with whom he co-wrote the majority of the band's material. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a part of Traffic's original line-up.

Dave Mason British recording artist; singer-songwriter and guitarist from Worcester

David Thomas Mason is an English singer-songwriter and guitarist from Worcester, who first found fame with the rock band Traffic. Over the course of his career, Mason has played and recorded with many notable pop and rock musicians, including Paul McCartney, George Harrison, the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Michael Jackson, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Steve Winwood, Fleetwood Mac, Delaney & Bonnie, Leon Russell, and Cass Elliot. One of Mason's best known songs is "Feelin' Alright", recorded by Traffic in 1968 and later by many other performers, including Joe Cocker, whose version of the song was a hit in 1969. For Traffic, he also wrote "Hole in My Shoe", a psychedelic pop song that became a hit in its own right. "We Just Disagree", Mason's 1977 solo U.S. hit, written by Jim Krueger, has become a staple of U.S. classic hits and adult contemporary radio playlists.

James Miller was an American record producer and musician. While he produced albums for dozens of different bands and artists, he is most closely associated for his work with several key musical acts of the 1960s and 1970s. He rose to prominence working with the various bands of vocalist Steve Winwood. His best acclaimed work was his late 1960s-early 1970s work with the Rolling Stones for whom he produced a string of singles and albums that rank among the most critically and financially successful works of the band's career: Beggars Banquet (1968), Let It Bleed (1969), Sticky Fingers (1971), Exile on Main St. (1972) and Goats Head Soup (1973). In the late 1970s, he began working with Motörhead and continued to produce until his death in 1994.

<i>The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys</i> 1971 studio album by Traffic

The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys is the fifth studio album by English rock band Traffic, released in 1971. It was their first studio album to feature percussionist Rebop Kwaku Baah, and the only studio appearance of drummer Jim Gordon and bassist Ric Grech. Grech had previously worked with Traffic singer/multi-instrumentalist Steve Winwood in the short-lived supergroup Blind Faith while Gordon had played with another former Blind Faith member, Eric Clapton, in the similarly short-lived Derek and the Dominos. Drums on the track 'Rainmaker' are played by Only Ones drummer Mike Kellie.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy" is a rock song by Traffic from their 1967 album, Mr. Fantasy. Jim Capaldi contributed the lyrics, while Steve Winwood and Chris Wood composed the music.

Chris Wood (rock musician) British rock musician; member of the English rock band Traffic

Christopher Gordon Blandford Wood was a British rock musician, most known as a founding member of the British rock band Traffic, along with Steve Winwood, Jim Capaldi, and Dave Mason.

<i>Eric Claptons Rainbow Concert</i> 1973 live album by Eric Clapton

Eric Clapton's Rainbow Concert is a live album by Eric Clapton, recorded at the Rainbow Theatre in London on 13 January 1973 and released in September that year. The concerts, two on the same evening, were organised by Pete Townshend of the Who and marked a comeback by Clapton after two years of inactivity, broken only by his performance at the Concert for Bangladesh in August 1971. Along with Townshend, the musicians supporting Clapton include Steve Winwood, Ronnie Wood and Jim Capaldi. In the year following the two shows at the Rainbow, Clapton recovered from his heroin addiction and recorded 461 Ocean Boulevard (1974).

Muff Winwood Musical artist

Mervyn "Muff" Winwood is a British songwriter and record producer, and the older brother of Steve Winwood. Both were formerly members of the Spencer Davis Group in the 1960s, in which Muff Winwood played bass guitar. Following his departure from the group he became an A&R man and record producer.

The Spencer Davis Group British band

The Spencer Davis Group were a British rock band formed in Birmingham in 1963, by Spencer Davis (guitar), brothers Steve Winwood and Muff Winwood, and Pete York (drums). Their best known songs include the UK number ones "Somebody Help Me" and "Keep on Running", "I'm a Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin'", which reached #2 in the UK and #7 in the US.

Spencer Davis Welsh musician

Spencer Davis was a Welsh singer and musician. He founded The Spencer Davis Group, a band that had several hits in the 1960s including "Keep On Running", "Gimme Some Lovin'", and "I'm a Man", all sung by Steve Winwood. Davis subsequently enjoyed success as an A&R executive with Island Records.

Rebop Kwaku Baah Ghanaian musician

Anthony "Rebop" Kwaku Baah was a Ghanaian percussionist who worked with the 1970s rock groups Traffic and Can.

Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse was a British blues rock studio group formed in 1966. They recorded three songs, which were released on the Elektra Records sampler album What's Shakin' in 1966. A possible fourth song remained unreleased.

<i>The Last Great Traffic Jam</i> 2005 live album by Traffic

The Last Great Traffic Jam is a live album and DVD from the English rock band Traffic. The album was recorded on the 1994 reunion tour supporting Far from Home.

Ric Grech British musician

Richard Roman Grechko, better known as Ric Grech, was a British rock musician and multi-instrumentalist. He is best known for playing bass guitar and violin with Family as well as in the supergroups Blind Faith and Traffic. He also played with ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker's Air Force.

<i>Live from Madison Square Garden</i> (Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood album) 2009 live album by Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood

Live from Madison Square Garden is a double CD and DVD live album by Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood, which was released on 19 May 2009 by Duck / Reprise Records. The album is made up of recordings from Clapton and Winwood's performances at Madison Square Garden in February 2008. It is Clapton's ninth live album and Winwood's first live album as a solo artist.

"Roamin' Thru' the Gloamin' with 40,000 Headmen", written by Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, was first recorded by Traffic in 1967 or 1968. It was initially released as B-side to the "No Face, No Name and No Number" single in 1968 and also appears on their second album Traffic. Blood, Sweat & Tears also recorded it on their 1970 album, Blood, Sweat & Tears 3.

<i>Winwood</i> (album) 1971 compilation album by Steve Winwood

Winwood is the first compilation album of music featuring Steve Winwood. This two-record set was issued in 1971 by United Artists Records and features music which Winwood performed with The Spencer Davis Group, Powerhouse, Traffic and Blind Faith. UA Records issued this album after Winwood's band Traffic left UA when their home label Island Records set up their own American operation. Issued without Winwood's authorization as catalogue number UAS-9950, it was taken off the market after legal action by Winwood and Island Records. It was then reissued with minor changes as catalogue number UAS-9964. Currently out of print, it was issued on CD by Universal Music of Japan for the Japanese market.

<i>Revolutions – The Very Best of Steve Winwood</i> 2010 compilation album by Steve Winwood

Revolutions – The Very Best of Steve Winwood is the sixth compilation album by Steve Winwood. The album includes music from Winwood's solo career, as well as groups with which he has performed, including the Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, and Blind Faith. The CD was released as a box set and a single disc. As of October 2014, the box set is out of print, while the single disc is still available. The songs "The Finer Things" and "Roll With It" are exclusive to the single disc version and cannot be found on the box set.


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