I think I was 15 or 16, at a friend's party, when I first heard this amazing voice come on the radio. It soared and dipped and wailed. I really couldn't make out the words but it didn't matter -- the raw emotion and energy it expressed kept me listening, rapt. I soon found out it belonged to a singer in a band called the Spencer Davis Group, a guy only a couple of years older than me named Stevie Winwood.
Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, we can enjoy a live performance by an 18-year-old Stevie from a Scandinavian TV show, belting out the vocals and hammering the Hammond to the song he co-wrote -- and one of the seminal songs of the 60s.
Somewhere around 1968, Winwood hooked up with Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood. Together they formed Traffic, one of the most influential and beloved bands of the psychedelic 60s. Mason (who I featured a few posts ago) and Winwood, like many towering talents, found they couldn't coexist forever. But they stayed together long enough to make a lasting musical mark.
There are dozens of great Traffic songs. I'm going to go with one of my early favourites, co-written by Winwood and Capaldi and expressed via Stevie's wistful, mournful lament - the haunting, No Face No Name No Number.
In his spare time while still with Traffic, and later, after they'd officially disbanded, Winwood became part of one of the early supergroups. With Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech, they formed Blind Faith.
Winwood later went on to a distinguished solo career but will likely be remembered best for his contributions to three of the greatest rock n' roll groups of all time. I'm happy to report that he's still got chops. For dessert, let's check out Stevie and Eric getting together again in 2007 for a fine version of Can't Find My Way Home.
Thanks to dac10012 and trichoone for posting the videos.