Advertisement

Steve Winwood and his comeback

By
JOHN SWENSON, UPI Pop Writer

LOS ANGELES -- Ten years ago Steve Winwood considered retirement after his first solo album bombed. Such thoughts must have been the furthest thing from his mind Tuesday night as he collected three of the five Grammy awards he was nominated for this year.

And Winwood loved it.

Advertisement

When he won the best pop vocal performance for a male, Windwood sauntered up to the podium with a smile on his face.

'Thank you very much,' he said. 'I'd like to say how much an award like that means to me. The more I'm involved in making records the more it seems to mean. So I would like to thank everyone who has written for me. And in particular' -- he whipped out a long list -- 'a few people. I'd like to thank everyone who worked on the album, musicians, everyone who did everthing.

'... And finally, I'd like to thank my wife.'

He also picked up a Grammy for best-engineered record and record of the year.

Winwood first came to public attention when his galvanic pop-R&B vocal on the 1965 hit 'Gimme Some Lovin'' launched the Spencer Davis group to stardom. Winwood, now 38, went on to record another hit with Davis, 'I'm a Man,' before striking out on his own.

Advertisement

At 18, Winwood joined forces with Eric Clapton to form the short-lived Powerhouse; the group's only recorded legacy are a few tracks on the Elektra records anthology 'What's Shakin'.'

After Powerhouse broke up, Clapton went on to form Cream and Winwood started Traffic, two of the most influential British groups of the late '60s. Traffic's 1967 debut, 'Mr. Fantasy,' and its 1968 followup, 'Traffic,' were critically acclaimed high points of the experimental rock music being made at the time.

In 1969 Winwood rejoined Clapton and Cream drummer Ginger Baker in Blind Faith, the first 'supergroup.' After making one album and touring, the band split up. Winwood worked briefly in Baker's Air Force before recording what began as a solo album but ended up as a Traffic reunion album, 'John Barleycorn Must Die.'

The group went on to make the 'Welcome to the Canteen' and 'The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys' albums before the rigors of touring and Winwood's bout with peritonitis took a toll on the final three Traffic albums, which sound tired in retrospect.

Winwood admitted to being tired by the end of the group's run. 'I'd been on the road for 12 or 13 years straight,' he said, 'and I wanted to get involved in different kinds of projects, obscure things.'

Advertisement

Winwood worked with various musicians including African bands, Japanese percussionist Stomu Yamashta and German synthesist Klaus Schulze before making his solo debut, 'Steve Winwood,' in 1977. The record was poorly received and Winwood refers to this period as the low point in his career.

'A lot of new things were coming out,' he recalled. 'Rock had kind of run out of gas and there were all these fads like disco music and punk rock. My record didn't fit into that period well.'

Then in 1980 Winwood's second solo album, 'Arc of a Diver,' became a substantial hit. 'It came at a pretty good time for me,' said Winwood. 'Because had that not been successful I'd have to think very carefully about what I was doing. I wouldn't have given up my musical career, but I would have thought about going into production rather than pursue a career as a recording artist myself.'

In 1982 Winwood released 'Talking Back to the Night,' which, like 'Arc,' featured Winwood playing all the instruments.

For last year's 'Back in the High Life,' Winwood recruited a band and came up with his most popular album yet, spiked by his first number one hit, 'Higher Love.'

Advertisement

'The album is a harder-edged recording than I've made in a while,' he said. 'It's almost like the Spencer Davis Group album of the 1980s.'

Latest Headlines