Steve Winwood: Eyes To A Brighter Sky

I just keep learning about music all the time. I'm very lucky and blessed that I get to play music and do something I like for a living. It never ceases to amaze me how much there is to music.

-Steve Winwood

Photo of Blind Faith

"Something I've strived to do since the early Traffic days is combine different elements of music – rock, folk, jazz – to try and create something that's different. That's something I've always tried to do, and still try for to this day," says Winwood. "In many respects, I'm a rock musician but I'm not sure the music I play is rock. The intention is to share one's musical mind but whether I always achieve that or not I'm not sure [laughs."

Winwood & Clapton :: 02.25.08 :: MSG by Gene Shaw
Winwood recently reunited with Eric Clapton in a series of shows that revisited their Blind Faith material for the first time in a serious way since the early '70s. Given the band's abrupt, fractious end, for many fans that project always seemed like unfinished business.

"It was. I think Blind Faith came unstuck a bit when we played live. We came under a lot of pressure from executives to modify the music when we played live, and that was our undoing in many ways because it led to a lot of dissatisfaction," observes Winwood. "I think we did manage to get on the record what was our initial idea for the band. Luckily, the record sort of stands up for what we wanted to achieve."

"For Eric and I, the question was raised early on when we were planning these shows about whether this would or would not be a Blind Faith reunion. It was decided that it wouldn't be," continues Winwood. "It was a re-collaboration between Eric and myself that would allow us to touch on music from throughout both of our careers and not just limited to Blind Faith."

A number of his compositions like "Low Spark" and "Dear Mr. Fantasy" have become part of the fabric of the jam band world, taking on new lives in the hands of other musicians.

"I'm quite happy for other bands to cover my material," says Winwood. "It's interesting to hear other people play my songs. For instance, when we did Jim Capaldi's tribute concert a couple years ago there were lots of guests on tunes Jim and I had written together. Through other people's interpretations of them I actually learned quite a bit. And the other day we did the [David] Letterman show and they've got a great band that was playing versions of my songs. I listened to how they approached them and then later perhaps I may use a little bit of what they do in my approach to these songs."

Steve Winwood
Winwood holds an electric guitar on the cover of Nine Lives, a reminder of his six-string prowess. Though much more recognized as a keyboardist, his affinity for guitar, and sometimes blinding skill with one, goes back to the very beginning of his musical life.

"The last album, About Time [2003], was the first time I didn't play guitar at all. So, on this one I felt it was okay to have the guitar, though I'm still playing quite a bit of organ," Winwood says. "It doesn't always work in my favor that I'm both a guitarist and a keyboardist. People don't know what to think of me as. One thing I love about the [Hammond] B-3 is it enables me to play the bass on it at the same time, which gives me a bit more control over the sound of the band."

This summer will find Winwood on the road with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers starting May 30 in Grand Rapids, MI. Plans are already in place for the two bands to intermingle during this tour, so we can begin speculating on what "I'm A Man" might sound like with Petty belting out the machismo or how "Forty Thousand Headmen" would change with Mike Campbell guesting on guitar or even how "Runnin' Down A Dream" could pick up speed with Winwood chapping the Heartbreakers asses on guitar or organ. Happy thoughts all.

"We got the offer from Tom to open for him, and it will be interesting to see how his audience reacts to what I'm doing. I know it's a slightly different demographic so we'll see what happens with that," laughs Winwood.

On a brave new morning, smiling at the sky
Every shadow of the past whispers goodbye
There is hope, if you can see

Here's a slice of vintage Winwood with Traffic doing "Dear Mr. Fantasy" live in Santa Monica in 1972:

And here's he is with Eric Clapton and Derek Trucks doing "Can't Find My Way Home" at the 2007 Crossroads Festival:

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[Published on: 5/15/08]

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RothburyWithCheese starstarstarstarstar Thu 5/15/2008 08:24PM
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Brilliant article. Steve Winwood is truly one of the great musicians in rock history. Maybe the most underrated....

Marcsmall Thu 5/15/2008 09:13PM
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Winwood is amazing, and like you said, he really is one of the most underated musician of all time. he's been involved in so many projects and solo efforts and has played with so many of the greats. He's playing here at the Mile High Music Festival this summer, and while much of the lineup is just okay, I am thinking about going pretty much just to see him. I haven't seen him play since seeing Traffic opening for the Dead back in the 90's

‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/16/2008 05:56AM
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the downside. the album is only 9 tracks.

the upside. its freaking fantastic, raging sea is so wonderful, but again, all of it is.. He did really good on this one!!!!!!!!!

AdkinsJ starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/16/2008 07:58AM
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Can't wait to hear the new album. About Time is amazing and it's evident that he has been influenced by his meanderings in the jam scene. The Bonnaroo where he played in a near typhoon had to have been an enlightening experience for him. The hardcores endured horizontal rain in order to see the great Steve Winwood. And sitting in with Cheese and then Panic - Glad and Low Spark! Brent sang Mr Fantasy and Gimme Some Lovin' for years, so Stevie has long been acknowledged by the jam scene. I wish that he'd do more festies and would do a headline tour. His catalog is so incredibly rich. I know that this is pure fantasy, but what about a Winwood with Panic tour, doing mostly Winwood classics? Sort of like when Jimmy Page and the Crowes cranked Zep tunes all summer. I dunno, maybe it doesn't have the same popular appeal, but you bet your ass I'd sign on.

Terrapin! Fri 5/16/2008 08:04AM
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Winwood is the man. Looking forward to seeing him this summer. There probably isn't an instrument this guy can't play. Such a talent.

Tpetty starstarstarstarstar Fri 5/16/2008 12:07PM
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I cannot wait to see Winwood play this summer with Tom Petty...theyre both going to rock the place.

hiddentreasure starstarstarstarstar Sat 5/17/2008 04:29PM
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Thank you Jambase! Lil' Stevie is truly the best. I love him, and I love you.

jjnor Sat 5/17/2008 05:58PM
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Fortunately, I have seen Mr. Winwood since tour 94. Actually got to hang out with him and his crew thanks to a great member of his crew. Thank you JT. Would love to see him anytime, anywhere.

LJNYC starstarstarstarstar Sun 5/18/2008 09:44AM
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"Nine Lives" ranks as one of Steve's best, he deserves all the accolades and praise, though he is very modest. Just saw his show at a small venue in New York - they played for a little over two hours (8 tracks from this CD as well as other Traffic, Blind Faith material - fab!!). He is always fantastic; I'm still existing on the euphoria of being privileged to score a ticket for one of his shows with Clapton here, best show I've ever seen, unforgettable experience!!! Some tend to forget what a remarkable and amazing guitarist he is, when they put the shows on DVD (rumored for the fall), many will be floored if they forgot or are new to his music. We get only an hour set on the tour with Petty from Steve & his band - definetly crossing my fingers once Steve later joins Petty on stage there will be some great interplay. Keep on running, Steve - you are the BEST, I'm so glad you came back to the roots of your music. Love ya - I'm buying selected back catalog and turning my friends kids on to you since your shows have such a wide array of attendees!!

robo2448 starstarstarstarstar Sun 5/18/2008 08:22PM
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ah good to see steve getting more attention. traffic is one of my favorite bands, and not to take anything away from capaldi, wood and the other rotating group of musicians that made up traffic, winwood was the heart and soul of that group. i can't wait to hear Nine Lives since i'm pretty unfamiliar with his solo work and this sounds like a good place to start.

FreeHawk starstarstarstarstar Wed 5/21/2008 05:29AM
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‹^› ‹(•¿•)› ‹^› {¬¿¬} starstarstarstarstar Wed 5/21/2008 09:24AM
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only 11 comments?? wtf?? This new release is as good as traffic IMO.

ashemule starstarstarstarstar Thu 5/22/2008 10:13AM
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after the MSG run with Clapton all I have to say is wow and when will they get back together for a full tour.

twain starstarstarstarstar Thu 5/22/2008 02:00PM
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guess there ain't enough bout stevie to bitch on...and he's to vintage for all the 12 yr old creeps that took over jambase to post a million negative comments. oh yhea stevie is da man! great article.

Weezer starstarstarstarstar Tue 5/27/2008 10:32AM
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Winwood is good at reinventing himself yet still keeping with his roots. Need to hear more of this latest offering. Chuckling about the "12-year-old creeps" comment. That's hilarious.

wagsinnorthernva Wed 5/28/2008 07:23AM
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Not enough younger folk know enough about Traffic or Steve Winwood. Just glad he continues to play and put out more music.

guitardave starstarstarstarstar Tue 6/3/2008 08:47PM
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Thats fine with me, more elbow room at the shows, perhaps.

tom1970 starstarstarstar Sun 6/8/2008 05:35AM
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Does anyone have the set list for his latest shows with Petty?